Melancholia (2011)… “The earth is evil. We don’t need to grieve for it”

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Melancholia

My rating: 8

IMDB rating: 7.1

IMDB link: Melancholia

Dearest reader,

Earlier this week, I wrote about the honesty that fascinated me in the movie St. Elmo’s Fire, today I want to continue on this theme by looking at the flipside of honesty as intensive living, by examining honesty as an autobiographical catharsis.

This film, together with Antichrist in 2009 and the Nymphomaniac Volumes in 2013, form part of Lars von Trier’s famous ‘depression trilogy’. Von Trier, is a master in defamiliarization (ostrannenie). Wikipedia describes defamiliarization as “the artistic technique of presenting to audiences common things in an unfamiliar or strange way, in order to enhance perception of the familiar”.

This is similar to Tarantino’s earlier work, as he also presents violence in such a way that it enhances viewers’ sense of the familiar, which seems to be a way of romanticizing violence, but rather is a step backward to gain perspective on violence.

By writing in a depression, about depression, is not only a way of coping with the depression it is also a way of gaining perspective on the depression through a cathartic process. In fact, it was Freud who said that all writers are psychologically impaired and that is why they write.

Von Trier never tries to hide the fact that this particular film is about melancholy, in its various representations. Justine lives by the melancholy, she worships it. When the planet is first truly visible to the human eye, she goes out into the nature and presents herself to it in such a way that it resembles the medieval and Renaissance paintings of virgins offering themselves to the gods.

By doing this there is not only a personification of the depression, the melancholy, it is more of a ‘godification’ or idolization. Justine is so crippled by this clearly hereditary depression, that she cannot even enjoy the wedding to the man she loves. The planet Melancholia, together with the stars that she mentions again and again (which is also symbols throughout the trilogy) seem to govern her sate of mind. As the planet approaches, her depressive state worsens and worsens.

Claire is another story altogether. Claire fears the melancholy. The fear consumes her. She is constantly afraid of being hit by the melancholy (Melancholia). She also fears for the life of her son, what his life would be like if melancholy (Melancholia) would hit him.

 The most interesting reaction to the melancholy, to me, comes from Claire’s husband, John. John is fascinated by Melancholia. Although he rejects the feelings of his wife and sister-in-law, he is fascinated by the thing itself. When he is eventually faced with melancholy himself, when he realizes that the planet is going to hit, he is not able to face that reality. He kills himself, again showing that in Von Trier’s films, it is the women that are represented as the strong and the courageous.

In the end it is Justine, who has offered herself to Melancholia again and again, that realizes the inevitability of melancholy (Melancholia) and its total destruction.

To me, this film ties the trilogy together, perfectly. Most of the symbols in Antichrist is re-emphasized, while preparing one for their occurrence in Nymphomaniac. While in the other two films depression is dealt with indirectly and metaphorically, this film faces it head-on. Your biggest mistake would be thinking that this film is merely a sci-fi film.

Want to read more on Melancholia? Try these…

Review: Melancholia (2011).

Melancholia.

Melancholia- Rejecting the Bourgeois, Criticizing Cynicism.

St. Elmo’s Fire (1985)… “I’m obsessed thank you very much”

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St Elmo's Fire

My rating: 7

IMDB rating: 6.3

IMDB link: St. Elmo’s Fire

Dearest reader,

Ohhh how I just love these 1980’s coming-of-age films. This film, together with the classic film The Breakfast Club, stars what we know today as the original members of the Brat Pack. These films, besides still being part of the popular culture, are regarded as some of the most influential films of their time.

But what is it that makes these films so popular? Is it the fact that the modern hipster culture is modelled after these ‘cool kids’ or is it because we still get versions of exactly these films, today, in both the cinematic and televised sphere?

What do I mean by this? A group of friends, that frequents a bar, struggles with jobs, lives in the ‘Big City’ and whose relationships, both sexual and otherwise, are quite intermingled? Why, of course, it is the premise for nearly every sitcom, romantic comedy and even book of the last century.

To name just a few examples, off the top of my head, would be the hugely successful Friends, the show-that-just-would-not-stop How I met your Mother, the feminist version Sex and the City and a few movies (like The Romantics).

But why do I like this movie? There is something so honest about movies from the 1980’s. Yes, they get married too young, cannot hold a job, sleep with each others girlfriends, but they never pretend to be anything other than that.

In the end they portray something that movies (Rom-coms in particular) today fail to grasp, that life is most probably not a Nicholas Sparks movie and that although it is your friends that hurt you the most, they also love you the most. Yes, love certainly does win in this film, but it is not the all-consuming love of finding ‘the one’, it is the familiar love that comes with finding your people, your friends, your family.

Although the term ‘Brat Pack’ had some career-ending consequences for some of its actors, I will always admire them for the brutal honesty with which they faced love, friendship and growing up in these films… That, and the fact that Rob Lowe is the spitting image of a young Ian Somerhalder.

Want to read more on St. Elmo’s Fire? Try these…

NYTimes: St Elmo’s Fire

Looking back at Joel Schumacher’s St Elmo’s Fire

LATimes: St Elmo’s Fire

The Romantics (2010)… “but the problem is greatness makes me sick.”

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The Romantics

My rating: 7

IMDB rating: 5.1

IMDB link: The Romantics

Dearest reader,

A very dear friend recommended this movie to me and I absolutely love her for it. Exactly as the case was with the brilliant film, Third Person, this film was definitely not a favourite among the critics. And this got me thinking, what is it about a certain movie at a certain time that just resonates to you more than it does to someone else?

The first thing I looked at was, using metacritic.com (because it showed 20 different reviews of the movie), the demographic of the critics. From the 20 reviewers, only four are female, that is 20% for a film dealing with the friendship between two woman and their subsequent relationships.

Am I being too much of a feminist about this? Perhaps, but given that this film is based on a novel, and starring some of Hollywood’s favourites it is quite interesting to see the negativity surrounding this film.

Next, I think it is important for me to tell you why I liked this film and why I feel some resonance towards it:

There is a wild, untamed, raw proneness to the emotional that is always awake within the creative mind. It feeds of instability, unpredictability and in some cases sorrow and hopelessness. When mixing two of these minds an explosive, once-in-a-lifetime, passionate and dependant love is eased into existence and it will take a lifetime to eradicate it.

But what often happens is that the creative mind is afraid of its own strength, its own capacity to love and its own ability to be consumed by that which inspires him and he then rather reaches for the usual, the stable, the predictable to create a kind of life that he could bear but that would not consume him.

To me, this state is fully comprehensible. Being from the ‘creative’ industry, I see this as often as I have experienced it myself. Tom chooses Lila out of fear, fear for his own creative self. That does not mean he does not love her; he loves her stability, her ability to have complete control over her emotions and her homeyness.

Unfortunately, he will never be able to love her with the same passion that he loves Laura. Laura inspires him, challenges him and his love for her burns him alive. At one point he says how he would wake up terrified, not knowing how to please her more and more everyday. She also realises this predicament when she says that it is most probably their greatness that makes him sick.

What I like most about this movie, though, is its ending. It is an open end, with no real resolution other than Tom letting go of his emotions in the rain. Does this mean he chooses emotions i.e. Laura? Or is he merely letting go of that last sense of the self? The ambiguity is quite heartbreaking as the viewer now has to self-examine.

I think that loving a film, or any form of literature, is dependant on you, the viewer’s state of mind. Your willingness to receive whatever it is the movie wants to convey, plays another significant role on your enjoyment of the film. It is therefore extremely important to never, ever take a critics’ word for granted, but to make your own assessment.

Want to read more on The Romantics? Try these…

New York Times: The Romantics

Cinemablend: The Romantics

Popmatters: The Romantics

NYDailyNews: The Romantics

Revolutionary Road (2008)… “I saw a whole other future. I can’t stop seeing it.”

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Revolutionary Road

My rating: 8

IMDB rating: 7.4

IMDB link: Revolutionary Road

Dearest reader,

Someone once said that it is expectations that kills love. We expect certain things from one another and when those expectations are not fulfilled, it is the disappointment that drives us apart. The crazy thing is that we do not always tell those we love, the things we expect from them, we expect it and in turn feel disappointed without ever disclosing to our loved ones the reasons. To me, this is exactly what this movie is about.

It seems that starting out April and Frank expected a certain kind of life from one another. While April wanted to live by the truth, Frank was not really bothered by the fact that his life was continuing in a very monotonous manner. Because of their children they moved to the suburbs, and there they continued being the normal, everyday suburban family.

For April this was simply unbearable. Most of us are brought up believing that we are special, unique and falling into that ‘normality’ can literally be a death sentence. But (luckily) not all people are the same, for some monotonous provides safety, stability and peace of mind, as it seem to do with Frank.

By this, I am not implying that he was not excited by the Paris-plan, what I am trying to say is that deep down, he was satisfied with the ‘normality’ of his suburban life (working in the city, having a form of outlet in the shape of his extramarital affairs). The excitement he felt over Paris, to me, is rather an excitement over his wife’s changed state of mind at her prospects of moving to Paris.

But there is also a certain amount of entrapment in the relationship itself. Although April feels trapped in her ‘normal’ life and Frank is trapped by his wife’s deteriorating state of mind, they are both trapped by the relationship. Now, having realised their differences and their disappointments because of their expectations which were not met, they are trapped in the ruins of their marriage by a love that is no more.

The other very interesting ting to me about this film, is the actors. There is a kind of intertextual brilliance to using Leonardo Di Caprio and Kate Winslet, the darling couple from Titanic. It begs the question, what if they (Jack and Rose) had been placed in 1950 America, against a melodramatic background, would their love have survived? Would they have been happy? At one point April says… You’re just some boy I met at a party, another reference to this perhaps?

But what would be the point of such an intertextual reference? I think that the director is making a comment on the state of love, or the condition of love or maybe even the modern conception of love as portrayed by the visual media. We often think that if only Jack had survived they would have lived happily ever after, but we never think about the larger implication of marriage, the influence of external circumstances and the predicaments that comes with child rearing. Therefore I think that using these two actors as a way of commenting on the perception of ‘love conquers all’ is quite a strike of brilliance.

An amazing movie that questions love, marriage and expectations within a relationship, starring two brilliant actors.

Want to read more on Revolutionary Road? Try these…

Roger Ebert: Revolutionary Road 

The Guardian: Revolutionary Road

Rolling Stone: Revolutionary Road

 

Venus in Fur (2013)… “The Almighty Lord smote him, and put him in the hands of a woman”

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Venus in Fur

My rating: 9

IMDB rating: 7.2

IMDB link: Venus in Fur

Dearest reader,

If anyone ever tries to tell you that Roman Polanski is not a genius, you should leave the conversation immediately- out of principle!

With this film Polanski once again proves that he is the master of space. Earlier this year, I wrote about his film Carnage which is also an adaptation of a play, as Venus in Fur is. And in both these films, Polanski makes use of a single space. In Carnage he crams four people into an apartment and watch as the sparks fly, but with this film he plays the only two actors on a stage (both a physical and psychological stage) and watch as they blur the lines between fiction and reality as they perform.

For whom do they perform you may ask? Well, that is exactly what makes it so interesting. At first it seems that Vanda is acting for Thomas, later as Thomas becomes infatuated with her it seems as if he is performing for her, but all the while they are performing for us, the viewers.

But this is not merely just the act of assuming a role and being placed opposite another character. Under the cover of Victorian propriety, the play that Thomas has written (adapted) comments on gender roles, although he tries to deny it.

Subtly his own sexuality is questioned, throughout, as he subjects himself to Vanda- becoming her slave. Although Thomas constantly thinks he has the upper hand, Vanda proves him wrong by rewriting his play, by having him question his sexuality and by ultimately transforming him into a woman and by offering him at the phallic.

Vanda also undergoes a transformation. She transcends from actor to script writer to woman to ‘madame’ to ‘mistress’ to ‘goddess’. In the end she assumes an almost daemonic-like state, emphasising the fact that we are actually dealing with different parts of Thomas’ psyche or his consciousness. Vanda, and her transcendent identifications or personalities, are nothing more than Thomas’ anima.

Vanda, who in the end appear to him, almost dream-like or as in a vision, to me, emphasise the fact that most of this is probably only happening inside of Thomas’ head. She is a manifestation of his own collective unconscious. And as he comes to terms with his own sexuality, he is transformed into a woman and Vanda gives him the collar- showing his subjection to the feminine, to his anima.

An amazing film, that is easy to enjoy without the deeper nuances. The actors are brilliant and the director, legendary.

Want to read more on Venus in Fur? Try these…

Venus in Fur: When Conversation Itself Was Erotic.

Venus in Fur: The Film.

Venus in Fur, Film. Review. The Limits of Masochism..

The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema (2006)… Cinema is the art of appearances, it tells us something about reality itself. It tells us something about how reality constitutes itself.

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The Pervert's Guide to Cinema

My rating: 7

IMDB rating: 7.8

IMDB link: The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema

Dearest reader,

Slavoj Zizek is the world’s leading mind on psychoanalysis in films, and this is his first documentary…

Living in the post-modern (or post-post-modern as some would say) world, we are accustomed to being able to look at different forms of literature through different ‘frames’ as it were. Marxism, feminism, new historicism… all these provide us with ways to not only categorize texts, but also to de-construct texts in such a way that we are able to reconstruct them to suit our needs.

One of these frames that emerged in the modern world, survived to the post-modern world and is probably the most influential ‘frame’ on post-modern literary critics is the field of psychoanalysis. Popularized by the theories of Freud, Jung and Lacan, to name a few, this field provides us with the means of contextualising literature in terms of the self, in terms of the psycho-analytical.

I often refer to voyeurism and the cinema as both the voyeur’s megaphone (in terms of the director) and the means by which voyeurs are created (in terms of the viewer). These voyeuristic outlooks are products of Freud’s study on scopophilia and Lacan’s mirror theory (in a very complicated way that I would one day like to investigate more fully).

I am going to go ahead and call this documentary the ‘bible’ of psychoanalytic studies in films. It starts with this excellent quote by Zizek, himself:

“Cinema is the ultimate pervert art. It doesn’t give you what you desire – it tells you how to desire.”

Zizek truly is one of the greatest minds of our time. If challenging yourself ideologically, especially with regard to film, is something you are interested in be sure to watch this amazing documentary on the art of cinema.

He discusses the following films, so I would really recommend watching them beforehand. Also, your knowledge of the Hitchcockian and Lynchian filmographies should be up to date.

 

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)… I’m pretty sure the answer is “I am Groot”.

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Guardians of the Galaxy

My rating: 7

IMDB rating: 8.7

IMDB link: Guardians of the Galaxy

Dearest reader,

What a surprisingly enjoyable film! Although I am an avid Marvel fan, I have never given much thought to these guardians. With what is probably the most bizarre ensemble of characters, this movie creates a world that at first seem ridiculously complicated, but in the end proves to be much more understandable than ,for example, Thor’s world (but that probably says more about me than the movies).

The humour in this movie is ridiculous! It is clever comedy that literally had me laughing out loud every minute or so. Chris Pratt, who have escaped my notice until now, kills it in this role as ‘Star-Lord’, a half-human, half-something-terribly-old. He literally seems born to play this role. Most of the other guardians also gets up to the challenge, although the character of Gamora is something of a bust for me. I am not sure how she is portrayed in the comics, but against the guardians she kind of just slips away.

The soundtrack of this film is of course amazing. Partly because music plays such a big part in this film, but also because it is Peter’s biggest connection to earth and his humanity. There is also a sort of, not only nostalgic element to the music, but also a ‘humanising’ element as it is intrinsically linked to Peter, almost taking the part of his ‘superpower’.

In true Marvel style, our hero has no real family or his connection to his true parents are very scarce. He also, in true Marvel fashion, finds a new family and/or love (the guardians/ Gamora) and finally finds a place where he belongs. In the movie there are already hints to a sequel, so I will look forward to what they have to offer next.

Want to read more on Guardians of the Galaxy? Try these…

Movie Review: Guardians of the Galaxy..

Guardians of Galaxy.

Movie Review: Guardians of the Galaxy (2014).

Guardians of the Galaxy (spoilers).