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A lot of things about this production are quite curious in themselves. This is a stage adaptation of the much-loved book, which received a lot of praise during its first run at the National Theatre. With some of the original cast following its transfer to the West End, this is a production that doesn’t quite strike a chord with everybody in the room.
It tells the story of the autistic Christopher Boone, who finds his neighbour’s dog murdered by a fork. A garden fork. A tale of family separation and the difficulties that Christopher, played superbly by Luke Treadaway, faces on a daily basis. But more drastically when he decides to move to London, is what follows. With such an array of characters around him, not all quite delivering the strongest of performances, we get to know Christopher and his personality traits quite well. Family life isn’t great for Christopher, and with his A-Levels looming, which he is sitting early, it’s understandable why he seems a little all over the place, but it’s quite difficult to believe how some family members respond to his situation.
The design by Bunny Christie is absolutely superb. The building of a child’s train set is inspired, and there are numerous moments that instigate an involuntary gasp; the aesthetic of this production is by far the most pleasing aspect. The trouble is the way in which all of the astounding moments of walking on walls and lighting up London with figurines, actually make all of the realistic and banal moments far too realistic and banal: in these moments we start to miss the real four walls of a room, but we shouldn’t because the majority copes so well without.
The stage adaptation isn’t one to fall in love with, and it has Simon Stephens, whose reputation precedes himself, stamped all over it. Granted, that’s far from a bad thing; there are moments where his ideas suit the large scale production now being staged in a much larger venue than where it was born, but there is ample reason to have reservations about whether there was nobody else more suitable for the job. The switch from being staged in-the-round as it was initially, to now being in a traditional proscenium arch is one that may have had some hindrance. It’s quite easy to imagine why in the Cottesloe, this was a must-see, but it’s not quite living up to every expectation in its new home.
31 Shaftesbury Avenue, London W1D 7ES
Box Office: 0844 579 1971
See before 4th January 2014
Photo Credit: Tristram Kenton
This article was originally published on: http://whatspeenseen.co.uk/ and is reproduced with permission of the author and founder of the site, Adam Penny.
Beneath the high glass ceilinged exhibition hall of the South London Gallery, a dense mesh of red and black thread engulfs the room. The interweaving lines form a tunnel that draws the viewer into the space. Within the network, the threads are animated by the emergence and dissolution of large letters that are gradually deciphered to spell UNMATTERING and TIGER TIME. This site-specific installation by American artist Pae White is inspired by a period of insomnia and her consequent reflection on the transience of our existence. Such existential questions are alluded to by the simultaneously substantial and transient quality of this textile installation. However, it is White’s perceptive negotiation with architecture that is the most compelling feature of this exhibition.
Responding to the ‘relentless ethereality’ of the exhibition hall, White constructed the work to be simultaneously in conflict and sympathy with the space. Indeed, from certain angles, the threads coalesce to form a dense, angry mass of red, black and purple, clashing boldly against the serene white walls. Move slightly, and the illusion of substance collapses and the threads elegantly fall into geometric harmony, echoing the fine lines of the building, drawing our gaze upwards to contemplate the site itself as an extension of the artwork. The fluctuation between substance and nothingness is reinforced by the unusual word UNMATTERING written on a monumental scale down the length of one wall. TIGER TIME, White reveals, suggests the menacing quality of insomnia, ‘concealed’ and ‘lying in wait’.
With a vast and incredibly diverse career, White’s work shares one common theme: a specific and often unpredictable response to place. Previous works have been sited in a decommissioned French synagogue; a disused Venetian warehouse transformed into an elaborate birdcage with hidden impersonators mimicking birdsong, and a sound installation of German bells programmed to play love songs throughout Dusseldorf. More recently, White’s work has involved increasingly large-scale public art commissions: her signature thread installations in LAX airport; an outdoor exercise park for dogs, and future plans to re-design London tube stations with enormous Kelvin light-boxes to provide a ‘wash of optimism’ for seasonally-affected Londoners. In each piece, White displays an unusual ease in relinquishing control of her art and letting the site influence its outcome; the reflective surfaces of an installation that depended on her native Californian sunshine were transformed in the dim January light of a Berlin gallery.
This flexibility and willingness to collaborate is apparent in ‘Too Much Night, Again’. White is openly grateful for the collective effort required to assemble the vast textile installation. In total, the work involved 48km of yarn, 4,725 eye screws, 8 people, 2 weeks and 18 pizza boxes. This joint effort is testified by the presence of the 18 pizza boxes piled at the end of the installation, alongside White’s ancient running shirt; a ritual aspect of her studio time. This unique signature style is seen in other pieces: her marital initials were embroidered into custom bus seat covers, ‘just for kicks’. And in the corner of a vast metallic stage curtain, White scanned her thumbprint, rather than the standard artist’s signature.
‘Too Much Night, Again’ is an impressive installation, and well worth visiting for its immersive, experiential viewing experience. However, I can’t help but feel that White’s artwork is paradoxically more successful outside the art gallery. Her work is most vibrant and exciting in its engagement with the public, often with a practical concern: ‘sculptures often do something for people.’ All of her projects are built around her persistent questioning: ‘how does art engage with the world?’ The textile installation at South London Gallery draws our attention to the ‘relentless ethereality’ of the site, though it also highlights the limits of the exhibition space, raising the question: is art more effective in public spaces than confined in art galleries?
‘Too Much Night, Again’ Exhibition Dates: 13 March - 12 May 2013 Admission free
Tuesday - Sunday 11-6pm Closed Mondays
Current exhibitions: Eoghan Ryan: Oh wicked flesh! 5 March - 12 May 2013
On Sunday evening I meandered along Bristol’s harbourside – by now shrouded in dark and cold – and headed over to the venue-on-a-boat that is Thekla, to watch Julia Stone. The Australian singer had come to our little city in the South West on her international tour. And no amount of fragile beauty and striking timbres on her two solo albums – The Memory Machine (2011) and By The Horns (2012) – prepared me for what she showed us in tonight’s live setting.
Incredible. Her voice is simply incredible. It has a real strength that recordings do not do justice to. But, at the same time, it is so delicate and distinctive that you fear it will break, were it not for the conviction of her lyrics and performance style. Unlike many artists, she has the power to open with a very still and reflective song; The Shit That They’re Feeding You is a commentary on the all-too-common discrepancies between what a lover says, and a lover does.
Popular numbers were And The Boys and For You, both tracks she created with her brother, Angus. And her cover of You’re The One That I Want – which appears on an advert for Sky TV – was well received. The entire set was perfectly balanced and reflective of a girl who really has been there; who is unafraid to tell us that her heart has been stomped on. And to counter any tragedy was her sharp wit. Julia Stone is irresistibly funny. She charmed us into laughter when she described being rejected (the subject of Here For The night) and we fell in love when she was able to end a rant against an unfaithful ex (the stunning By The Horns) with a brief ‘What a w***a’.
It was appropriate that Stone was relaxing with a post-gig cigarette as she waved us off the boat. I left with my head full of tales of love that I can relate to, and with a feeling of having seen true magic between a group of brilliant and very clever musicians. And I feel lucky that she came to a small boat in Bristol, of all places.
Rosie Pentreath is a writer, performer, composer and artist, working and freelancing for BBC Music Magazine and Homes and Antiques Magazine, living between Bristol and London.
The Tate sees Pre-Raphaelitism to incorporate ‘rebellion, beauty, scientific precision and imaginative grandeur’, and as such curates its exhibition with these clear set of bookmarks. Rebellion indeed is a key aspect to the movement; William Holman Hunt, John Everett Millais and Dante Gabriel Rossetti founded the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood whilst studying at the Royal Academy of Arts and thus rejected a tradition to which they were expected to conform. Though these young artists were forging their own pathway, rebelling, they were focussed on purity and the natural form. As such their work emanates beauty, passion and a sheer dedication to art. It ceases to be ‘rebellion’- riotous, aggressive or confrontational- and instead it becomes exactly what it strived to be: art for art’s sake. In the presence of their work, I found it difficult to believe that art could be anything else.
In my mind one of the greatest aims of art is to capture an emotion and preserve it, trap it in amber, and make it last. Whether that something is a single person’s beauty, the piety of a generation, the distress of a minority or the stillness of an ocean. Thus, what is perhaps more prevailing as an argument is not what we define art, but what we define beautiful. The Pre-Raphaelites had their own obsession with beauty: they wanted to return art to its ‘painterly and spiritual purity’ prior to Raphael, an artist they saw as an embodiment of the Renaissance. Gone were highly stylised physical forms, in their place Rossetti et al revisited a medieval fantasy world of chivalry, vivid colour and natural simplicity, all with a strong literary subject matter. It is indeed a beautiful world that you step into. The languid sexuality of the Pre-Raphaelite women is desultory, yet totally mesmerizing. Their beauty is beguiling in its colour and focus; they are surrounded by the accoutrement of the medieval woman- looms, garlands, pianos, flora and fauna.
These paintings, in real life (pardon the paradox), are utterly captivating. The Tate has a particular way of creating an exhibition which allows its viewer to pass through a movement with a high level of art historicism, the curatorial blurbs are both edifying and clear, yet also with a sky high level of aesthetic pleasure. People amble round the large, blood red rooms peering at the captions, nodding wisely at the wall text, but mainly just staring at the arresting physical beauty of these paintings.
‘Lilith’, Adam’s first wife immortalised by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, was one such painting that rendered me one of the staring masses. She stares lazily out of her painting, her face framed by floral garlands, both bored and fascinated by her own beauty. The viewers become voyeurs of a literary, botanic world that they cannot possess. Many of the paintings are in the form of a triptych, or series which furthers their purpose as a vehicle of storytelling. It is easy to see why these paintings provoked accompanying poetry by their creators, as a means of expressing their vision whole-heartedly through image and word. This new vision may seem dreamy and nostalgic, but the Brotherhood behind it stirred controversy by abandoning academic convention and embracing sexual yearning, artistic introspection and spiritual purity.
Rebellious, but enchanting.
by Garth Twa
Lightening rents the black sky. A castle – maybe monastery – sits high and forbidding on a distant hill. Eddies swirl in angry, bloated streams; foundlings are dangled. Crows screech from turrets; gargoyles loom with hollow mouths.
The Monk, the new film by Dominik Moll (Lemming; Harry, He’s Here To Help) has all the tropes of a sturdy diabolic horror film: thrashings of Hammer gothic, buckets of Roger Corman Grand Guignol and also – as a bonus, because it’s French – nods to Bosch, Breugel, Dreyer’s Passion of Joan of Arc and Jodorowsky’s daylight surrealism.
Brother Ambrosio (Vincent Cassel), an orphan left on the steps of a monastery in Spain is a charismatic spewer of brimstone. The faithful come from miles to hear him preach and young maidens swoon at his vigor. He is a superstar for Jesus, with all the swagger that makes a celebrity irresistible, though for a man who’s taken the oath of the Capuchin order it’s perilously dangerous (and makes him guilty of at least two deadly sins and perhaps three commandments).
But evil is lurking, as we’re told repeatedly.
When a mysterious acolyte appears in a mask that hides his fire-ravaged face, things, of course, are not what they seem. So when a nun with quivering knees and a face out of a Van Eyck painting gets nothing from Brother Ambrosio but pompous and merciless penance, the trip wires of vengeance, temptation and hubris are laid.
Based on a book of ‘sulphurous reputation,’ as Moll puts it, The Monk was originally published in 1796, written in ten weeks by a 19-year-old named Matthew Gregory Lewis for – allegedly – the entertainment of his mother (a lewd novel about incest and matricide—Happy Mother’s Day!). It was shocking at the time. So blasphemous and immoral that even Coleridge (a bit louche himself) remarked, ‘if a parent saw The Monk in the hands of a son or daughter, he might reasonably turn pale.’ The Marquis de Sade was a fan and the surrealists embraced it: André Breton wrote, ‘It is infused throughout with the presence of the marvelous’.Antonin Artaud wanted to turn it into a film starring himself and Luis Bunuel actually did adapt it into a screenplay, filmed in 1972 by Ado Kyrou.
A fine pedigree of salaciousness then, but what could make a matron reach for the smelling salts in 1796 seems comparatively chaste to us now, a generation that has lived through The Exorcist, Deep Throat and Irreversible.
It is a beautifully toned piece of work and wonderfully unsubtle: Moll uses self-consciously old-fashioned effects, like iris transitions and double exposures (cue hellfire, cut to hellfire – actual hellfire) and almost parodic montage (after two young suitors meet, he cuts to a bee rabidly pollinating a lurid flower; I suppose seeing a train going into a tunnel would have been anachronistic). It is also easily one of Cassel’s most complex and brilliantly constructed performances. When Brother Ambrosio gets a whiff of female delights, Cassel is stupefied yet driven like a puppy in rut: holy, mad, confounded, all at the same time—‘very quickly he gave a name to the acting style I directed him to do,’ Moll says, ‘German-Japanese minimalism!’ That Cassel succeeds in making a recitation of the sixth psalm more erotic than the Penthouse Letters column is remarkable.
But the film is all foreplay. Or it’s all the right foreplay but for the wrong movie. Or the right movie but with the wrong foreplay.
What it isn’t is what it teases it will be.
It is not a gothic horror, or one of those sinister popery films with sly monks and naughty nuns, movies like Ken Russell’s nutloaf The Devils or Jerzy Kawalerowicz breathtaking 1961 film Mother Joan and the Angels, both of which The Monk echoes (because basically they’re the same film, with different degrees of artistry and sanity). What it is is the kind of film that France does best, an intimate character study of complex emotions, duty, passion, sensuality (there’s a reason repressed countries make better horror movies). Sure, there’s falling masonry, bells tolling whenever anyone says something ponderous and some crawling around inside graves by moonlight, but after a while we wonder, is the devil coming or what? All it boils down to is lust really, and as such probably not a good idea for a monk. Sure, it gets a little complicated (quite a bit more complicated), but it’s still just lust; the monster unleashed is only too human.
The devil is – as Mel Gibson, that sage of theological cinematism, knew – a woman. That’s also how Von Trier provoked us in Antichrist – male fear and hysteria over the mystery of women’s sexuality, womanliness as chaos, something to be feared, something certainly anathema to the Holy Roman See. But it is just one man’s downfall, not mankind’s. Hardly apocalyptic, and it hardly seems worth all the fuss.
by Garth Twa
This Must Be the Place opens in a classic gambit from the strip club, a slow reveal, a burlesque tease: slowly, luxuriously, we see varnished nails, crimson lipstick, and an extreme close-up of eyeliner being applied on a powdered, furrowed face. The eye is tired, blank, drained of vivacity or interest.
Pop to medium close-up and we gasp: Sean Penn in a zombie bouffant. Cheyenne (think Siouxsie—Sorrentino did) is the aging husk of obsolete rock star—mostly Robert Smith of The Cure (if Robert Smith of The Cure had suffered a brain parasite), with a touch of the dotage and affectless wheeze of Ozzy Osbourne, and just a smidgeon of late-career Anna Magnani.
Cheyenne is not at home in his body, in this time, in this world. He shuffles through his mansion without purpose, from kitchen to living room; restless, unable to sit, yet exhausted, he stands awkwardly staring at Jamie Oliver on TV. He can barely muster the labor it takes to blow a lock of matte hair out of his face. He hasn’t performed in decades, quitting the business after a young fan killed himself and he realized the pointlessness of goth pop in the face of real tragedy. Sunk in a life that he can’t bring into focus he lumbers through Dublin with shopping trolley like a walker so he won’t fall over. He shops in a soulless grocery market (the music piped in is the same as that used in the mental ward in One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest) but lacks the will or attention span to see it through. ‘I feel numb, burn with a weak heart,’ sings David Byrne in the 1983 Talking Heads’ song This Must Be the Place, ‘guess I must be having fun.’ He meets a teenage friend in a mall and is approached by a fan who puts a camera up into his face and flashes; Cheyenne barely reacts. ‘There’s something not quite right here,’ he says, an inkling that there might be more here, some embers still glowing in his heroin-toasted brain.
‘The way I go about making a film is to determine the character of the protagonist,’ director Paolo Sorrentino says, ‘once all the aspects of his character have been established a story comes out of them, but not before. It’s rare for me to start from the story and invent the characters.’ This Must Be The Place is, even more than any of his previous films, a character study. Sorrentino continues, ‘I find this is a healthy way to work. Usually when you’re imprisoned by a plot you end up with characters that are slaves to that plot and often you find yourself with quite sketchy characters because they have to obey the laws and rules of the story. I’m less interested in telling a story full of coups de theatre and more interested in showing a man’s nature.’
Sorrentino has forged a brilliant, singular niche chronicling spiritually dispossessed men aging gracelessly; a maestro of male menopause.
His films detail the crises when dreams become ridiculous adolescent fantasies and when accomplishments are totaled and don’t really amount to much; or, as a character says in Consequences of Love (2004), ‘The show’s over. Get used to it.’ In that film Titta (Toni Servillo) is a taciturn man of little trust and no friends, living in a Swiss hotel, a life as antiseptic as Cheyenne’s Irish Elba, without humor or engagement. Happy—or not unhappy; anhedonic, really—he periodically takes large shipments of Mafia cash to a bank. But his hermetic life is cracked open when he lets a barmaid into his affections. All ends badly, of course, reinforcing the idea that love is only transformative in the sense that ruins everything. Sorrentio’s first film, One Man Up (2001), is a double helix of failure featuring two men named Antonio Pisapia: one is a star football player (Andrea Renzi) whose injury cripples his future, the other (Servillo) is a pop crooner and housewife heartthrob (and also a cokehead and asshole) who gets caught with an underage girl. In The Family Friend (2006)—Geremia (Giacomo Rizzo) is an ugly man and penurious loan shark who lives in a shithole with his bedridden mother and wears a potato poultice wrapped around his head. He insinuates himself into a local family, and particularly onto the daughter who is about to be married. Geremia is a toad wanting to be kissed by a princess, but he stays a toad, and she wipes off her hand. And finally, in Il Divo (2008), Toni Servillo plays Giulio Andreotti, seven times prime minister of Italy, going through his ups and many downs—the operatic corruption, Mafia links, and the humiliation of a trial that leaves him a broken man, cleaved with regrets; an inglorious end to an infamous career. But in all this despair the films are so much fun. They might all center on characters in dwindling free-fall, but they’re energetically and witty filmed, captivating and inventive.
Penn’s performance here is performance art. Few actors can push a character to such an extreme that, like a soap bubble, it could burst at any moment. One hesitation, one wink to the audience, and it would collapse. Marlon Brando could do it. Peter O’Toole can do it. Al Pacino can do it. It’s courageous and breathtaking.
Penn’s normal physical power is gone—Cheyenne has a fragile rigidity, like a chicken bone left in the desert in a high wind, his voice slow and tenuous, as though his body is lacking energy, or his soul lacking the will, to speak louder than a high-pitched asthmatic whine. But he is magnetic, his presence as irresistible as the gravity of a black hole. If he is floating and purposeless as a dead piece of space junk, his phlegmatic wife of 35 years, Jane (Frances McDormand) is earthbound and sure-footed: she grounds him, humors him, and without reservation loves him. ‘It’s a relationship in which the vague abstractedness of the man is compensated for by the unrelenting solidity of the woman who makes it possible for life to progress without traumas and useless dramas,’ Sorrentino says, ‘ I stole little bits from my relationship with my wife.’
This Must Be The Place is not a tragedy, even a fell-good tragedy like Sorrentino’s previous films. It’s a fairy tale, or myth, with an untested—and reluctant—hero yanked from complacency and ennui.
The force that bumps Cheyenne out of his inertia is a phone call from New York—his father is dying. So off he heads, contending with his fear his fear of flying, his fear of family, his fear of living, really. He kisses Jane goodbye, patting her on the shoulder like an old dog or unfamiliar child. Finally reaching America by boat, he is too late. At his father’s death bed he notices, perhaps for the first time, the holocaust tattoo on his arm. He is introduced to Mordecai Midler (Judd Hirsch)—who, besides being his father’s financial advisor, is also an rabid Nazi hunter (‘Those are our teeth!’)—and learns that his father had been obsessed with tracking down Aloise Lange, a Nazi who had been the camp guard when he was in Auschwitz.
‘Something’s not right here,’ Cheyenne says.
‘You even know about the holocaust?’ Mordecai snorts.
‘In a general sort of way.’
‘And your father. Did you know your father?’
‘In a general sort of way.’
Cheyenne broaches that, perhaps, he might continue his father’s search. Mordecai dismisses him, saying that Nazi hunting is ‘not for trendy boys like you.’ Besides, he says, Lange is only ‘small fish.’ Mordecai wants to hunt sharks. ‘Even Nazi hunters play by the rules of show business.’
It’s at this point I sat up, electrified, and thought: ‘What?’ This was not a movie about an aging musician being an aging musician, a Still Crazy, an Anvil!, a Spinal Tap (which would have been fine, especially with Penn). A befuddled ex-rock star as Nazi hunter? Delicious!
‘As a viewer I find the best films are those which don’t give me any clues at the beginning about what I’m going to see,’ Sorrentino says, ‘Usually my approach is that each film is the last film I’m going to make. And so when I adopt this approach I find it helpful not to waste the opportunity by sticking to one genre, but to dabble in all sorts of genres and stick to none of them.’ This is by far Sorrentino’s most clueless (in that way that makes the best films) movie, an exhilarating carnival funhouse.
This Must Be The Place is really a satire of the hero’s-journey film, less Odysseus than Candide. Instead of leaving a mundane existence for the fabulous, Cheyenne leaves the rarefied life of a pop recluse for the quotidian, but, seeing with new eyes, the ordinary becomes fantastic.
The film is as much from Sorrentino’s POV as it is Cheyenne’s: a cartoonish, even fetishistic, view of America that gives This Must Be The Place its hyperreal energy.
’I wanted to take on, shamelessly and recklessly, all the iconographic movie locations that have made me love this work since I was a boy,’ Sorrentino says, ‘New York, the American desert, the gas stations, the bars with the long counters, the remote horizons. American places are a dream and, when you find yourself in them, they don’t become real but continue to be a dream. I have this very strange feeling of being in a constantly suspended reality in the United States.’
This Must Be the Place is a love letter from an affectionate misanthrope, delighting in the ebullient self-delusion of America, the innocent overblown self-satisfaction, the unexamined eccentricity. Cheyenne’s trek through the heartland is not a dangerous one but instead a brilliant gallery of oddities and neutered archetypes, a shiny fairy tale of trailer park America (in actuality it’s a very dicey place for any freak—just look at the recent Republican debates). Sorrentino’s fluid camera is always moving, from one stunning idiosyncratic frame to the next, echoing both Edward Hopper and the Coen brothers: Cheyenne discusses tattoos with a well-inked homunculus in a bar (‘Do you like tattoos?’ the man asks. ‘I was just asking myself that,’ Cheyenne says, ‘I haven’t made up my mind’), meets another man in a gun shop (‘What sort of weapon are you interested in?’ Cheyenne thinks a minute. ‘One that hurts’ ‘I’ve got just the thing—you can kill not just with satisfaction, but with impunity.’), and even turns up at a David Byrne concert (who, incidentally, did all the music for the film with Will Oldham). In one of Sorrentino’s most thrillingly choreographed single-takes Byrne performs ‘This Must Be The Place,’ starting with a gravity defying go-go girl and ending on Cheyenne sobbing in the rear of the club, sublime tears of joy and desperate yearning. Cheyenne goes backstage. In the face of Byrne’s true art, true talent, he feels like a like fraud. ‘Why are we such good friends?’ he asks, ‘we have nothing in common.’ Byrne, Cheyennes realises, redefined the boundaries of art and music, while all he did was sing ‘depressed songs for depressed kids.’
The film is full of surprises. Sorrentino takes time to use the camera to tell jokes, mise en scene jokes—a willing suspension of narrative necessity—with a glee only equalled by (again) the Coen brothers. Sorrentino is a playful master in love with the techniques and possibilities of his medium.
by Garth Twa
On the eve of the century, before all hell breaks loose, a new model of the mind is coalescing in Vienna. It is the early days of psychoanalysis, when the science was inchoate and a struggle is taking place—like in all nascent movements, from newly minted republics to artistic upheavals—to determine the face of it, to decide the politics of a new force that will change the world. ‘Do you think they know we’re on the way,’ Sigmund Freud says here, ‘bringing plagues?’
A Dangerous Method centers on an idealistic and impressionable Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender), and he is just getting a sense of himself. He is easily influenced by the eminence of Freud and easily knocked off track by the irrepressible (which, psychoanalytically speaking, is not necessarily a good thing) psychotherapist Otto Gross (Vincent Cassel). Jung begins to buckle under the prescribed methodologies of the two men (disapproving superego and lascivious id, respectively) and has an inkling that there may be another way, a science that will help people find a way out of mental illness, not just label it. He is also under the influence of Sabina Spielrein (Keira Knightly) a masochist and possibly nymphomaniac who arrives gnashing and gurning at his clinic in Switzerland, and who he treats, has unlawful carnal knowledge of, and sets on her way to becoming a leading psychoanalyst in her own right. Freud’s words are, Jung says, ‘carved in my heart: Whatever you do, give up any idea of trying to cure them.’
The fissure and split between Jung and Freud—the former exasperated by the latter’s insistence that all neuroses stem from sex on the brain, the latter impatient with the former’s ‘parapsychology and superstition’ and ‘self-aggrandizing shamanism’—plays in tandem with Jung’s troubled relationship with Sabina, and his overriding bourgeois guilt (and financial dependence on his wife). As Fassbender describes the characters, we’re seeing behind the iconic facades, seeing the ‘human beings with egos and the evident flaws under the archetypes.’ And he is excellent as Jung, stalwart and earnest. Keira Knightly is also very good, brave and uninhibited as she writhes her way through madness, and Viggo Mortensen is superb and contagiously having fun as Freud, mining the easy confidence and humor.
The screenplay by Christopher Hampton is elegant, and, as Cronenberg says of the production, ‘It was easy. We just shot the script.’ And that may be the problem.
It’s Cronenberg at his most un-Cronenberg. Gone is the visceral ick of his earlier films—hardly any blood, and just the barest smattering of corsets and spanking—and any suspense. The film is like well-wrought fin de siecle Habsburg cabinetry—sturdy, functional, slightly fusty—not a glorious mess like we know and love and expect. Normally with Cronenberg we’re deep into psychosis, subjectively, down in the dirty of our subconscious and nightmares. Here we’re in therapy.
The mise en scene is flat for the most part, the lighting is perfunctory. It felt like it could’ve been directed by anyone. As Viggo Mortensen quotes from a New York Times article regarding Freud (and applying it to Cronenberg with equal aptness) he’s the century’s ‘most effective disturber of complacency.’ That’s not the case here. Not, of course, that every Cronenberg movie needs a hot naked woman with a poison stinger in her armpit or gynaecological instruments for operating on mutant women or mugwump jizz or ‘insect politics.’ Or even the Dali dream of Spellbound, or the hypno-rings of Huston’s Freud; as Cronenberg explained, ‘I don’t come with an idea of putting a stamp on it in terms of visual style—the film tella you what ir wants. Style comes from what the movie’s about.’ This film was obviously reticent. It needed some of the Cronenberg personality in order to make it more than an efficiently shot script.
When Cronenberg was speaking about the labyrinthine nature of film funding, he said, ‘Things are strange out there.’ Although it nothing to do with the aesthetics of this film or any of his films, this struck me as what was un-Cronenberg about A Dangerous Method. The strangeness is out there; we’re looking in, from a distance. In the old days, with Cronenberg, things were strange in here.
By Sarah Blythe
A bustling back street Bethnal Green pub was the setting for the debut album launch of Sweet Sweet Lies – a refreshingly innovative, image conscious band from Brighton.
Having listened to a few of their tracks before the launch, I knew they were something special. Their records are musically diverse and exciting, a rarity considering the current appetite for mass produced music.
It is approaching 9.30pm. There is a definite buzz about the place as eager ears arrive, and the warm up acts, of which there were two, kick start the evening. Disappointingly, warmed up we were not, as the crowd were left more than a little chilly by their sub-par performances. However all was not lost, as at last, Sweet Sweet Lies took to the stage; and somehow, as if influenced by some magical phenomenon to which I was oblivious, the audience more than doubled in size. “This must be a good sign”, I thought to myself, and yes, yes, it was.
Front man Dominic stepped onto the stage oozing a rare masculine elegance, and as he commenced proceedings it became obvious he has a voice to match the persona; a voice that is unrivalled by many efforts on the scene of late, with a naturally melodic quality to it. This front man has a powerful voice full of promise, and one that doesn’t shirk away from a challenging range of genuinely beautiful harmonies.
After just a few songs it becomes starkly apparent that as individuals they are all accomplished musicians in their own right, producing some exciting and varied material. Strong drums and shrill horns lift the tempo and inject a welcome jazz like quality.
It is too difficult to select one stand out song – there are many that make the grade. ‘No-one will love you (like I do’) is the lead single, integrating a contemporary waltz and a hint of folk to accompany lyrics that are untraditionally romantic. Another contender is ‘Overrated Girlfriend’- it is fresh, upbeat and light heartedly misogynistic; a definite crowd pleaser. ‘Capital of Iceland’ also feels rather special with its distinctive, gritty tone; a melodic and lyrical success.
Sweet Sweet Lies are clearly story tellers at heart, and revel in their theatrically inspired set. I would even identify them as a demure musical offspring of the Tiger Lillies, as their shared passions for Brechtian theatricality and quirky melodies are clearly visible.
I find it interesting that the band is promoted as being “driven by melody and narrative rather than radio playlists and passing fads”. It is their honest melody and narrative that will inevitably guide them to the radio playlists, but they need to find that fire in the belly, that obsession about getting picked up by national radio pretty sharpish as they are already a well-constructed package, ready for distribution. In fact, play their album, and you will be forgiven for thinking you are listening to any of the national radio stations out there. Sweet Sweet Lies have the potential to become front runners, and I for one hope they do. A passing fad, they certainly are not.
Sweet Sweet Lies debut album ‘The Hare, The Hound & The Tortoise’ is out now Click Here to buy it!
by Megan Sullivan
“There’s a reason why we never went back to the moon” – lack of government funds? A budget not quite big enough to handle a lunar landing? Environmental climate worries? Lack of resources even? All of the above are perfectly plausible and valid reasons; however none of the above have quite the right amount of action, or level of thrill needed to make a Hollywood blockbuster. Audiences crave a whole lot more than just your average, bland and acceptable reasons – they need explanations which defy rationalism and logic by tenfold and carry with them conspiracies and ideas which linger with them, provoking a less than settled night’s
sleep. Welcome the latest lunar landing conspiracy film… Apollo 18.
Rather than me really starting this review with “the movie was diabolical and now I have no faith in the film industry” (which is a lie because if anything it was OK); I ought to start with something I liked about it, right? Right.
Well, the camera work and quality of it was superb, a really beautiful use of vintage looking film and clever editing, making the film look somewhat believable.
Fortunately for this “documentary”, I personally like vintage style film footage an awful lot, so for that I’m going to mark it up by about three points. But now those three points have been deducted. And another ten. For being such a poor film. Don’t get me wrong, it was alright for the first ten minutes until it suddenly became one massive drag and I just had it on in the background whilst I Facebooked and Tweeted… about how awful this film is.
I’ll give you a basic synopsis of what it’s all about – basically three men have been sent back to the moon and they’ve been filming it. So they’re on the moon, and they find a rock which gets into one of their bloodstreams. The rock is of course infectious, and they have to pull it out using some large tweezers (ewwwwww). It’s dull, and doesn’t really make much sense (okay so my description of the film was hardly the makings of anything great, but come on, it’s an infectious rock we’re dealing with here!)
Credit where credit is due however, as the film company behind Apollo 18 instigated a very clever publicity and marketing stunt, where they tried to sell the film as leaked NASA footage of an ACTUAL moon landing. A brave move, and something which worked for a short time…until NASA found out.
The film takes a long time to really get started, and doesn’t hook the audience whatsoever, instead lingering in the room like a bad smell. After about fifty minutes I was seriously contemplating just switching it off as it wasn’t going anywhere, instead running around in constant circles.
I turned it off after about seventy minutes, which is seventy minutes more than I should’ve watched.
In a brief summary now, the whole thing was reminiscent of the Blair Witch Project, so much so that it could’ve been represented as the sci-fi version of it. Of course, Apollo 18 is nowhere near as good as Blair Witch Project, but it was cute of them for trying. By all means, if you enjoy tedious, mundane and wearisome films, then check it out; but if not I’d just leave it, maybe put a bit of Star Trek on even? However you wish to fulfil your science fiction needs, do not do it with this film.
by Lydia Hughes
There’s been much dismay over the Hollywood re-make of the Swedish, subtitled movie that was released only 2 years ago. Directed by David Fincher, it doesn’t over-scream Hollywood; it has much more of a European feel to it, for reasons other than it being set in Scandinavia. And whilst, for some, it may seem unnecessarily too soon to re-do, I can only recommend viewing it before you judge in haste. Just in considering it as a standalone movie, in its own right, it is superb.
If you’re unaware of author Stieg Larsson’s Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – the first book of his trilogy, Millennium – or you didn’t get a chance to see the 2009 movie, this film noir is about a man called Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig), an investigative journalist, who has been hired by an old Swedish industrialist to uncover the mystery of his niece’s disappearance 40 years prior. As part of the investigation Blomkvist hires an atypical investigator – although one of the best in the field – Lisbeth Salander,to help in his hunt for a ‘killer of women.’
Androgynous Lisbeth Salander, played by Rooney Mara, is the girl with the dragon tattoo. Having experienced a rough life so far, and deemed psychologically unsound, hers is by far the most interesting of characters. Fragile, yet fiery, dependent, yet heroic, her character’s antithesis is one that draws intrigue. She is almost robotic in nature, but beneath the surface you can’t help but sympathise with this child-like woman, yearning to be loved. Somewhat defiantly, maybe, it is possible to identify with Salander, seeing part of yourself in her, regardless of whether you are male or female. Despite various antitheses that cause you to question the character’s stability, Salander takes more of a leading role in the plot than Blomkvist; in terms of input, dedication and risk-taking for the sake of the cause. This may come as a surprise given that Mara is relatively unknown in the film industry compared to her Bond-famous co-star, Craig. But it works.
It is certainly possible to speak of Fincher’s re-make as lurid, for the shock and outrage it induces, sometimes forcing you to avert your eyes from the screen – particularly in its sexually violent explicitness. But, having said that, redemption is celebrated throughout (often with an eye for an eye-type comeuppance). In the use of pure gumption, fighting for rights, and martyrdom for the sake of loyalty and purpose, we see a glimpse Hollywood after all.
Certainly one of the best films I have seen this season, and one that I highly recommend.
by Jessica Howard
The definition of art is one that has been debated for centuries, yet never truly defined. Most will agree that art should move us; it should stimulate us emotionally and intellectually; or at the very least it should be aesthetically pleasing. It is accepted that;
“…art refer[s] to intentional, conscious actions on the part of the artists or creator. These may be to bring about political change, to comment on an aspect of society, to convey a specific emotion or mood, to address personal psychology, to illustrate another discipline, to (with commercial arts) sell a product, or simply as a form of communication.”
With such a broad definition, it is possible that almost anything can be viewed as art. Maybe there can be no clear-cut definition, because if the basis of art is to affect oneself, then art becomes something personal; and what may be deemed as art by one person may seem meaningless to the next.
But can films be considered art? If a film has the power to touch us, to make us think and deeply consider a message or story, then surely films can be considered art as much as any other medium could be. But can A Serbian Film be considered art, or is it just gore for the sake of gore, thrown into the sub-genre of ‘torture porn’ along with films like Hostel or A Human Centipede?
Released in 2010, it didn’t start making waves throughout the film community until 2011 when it was met with both loathing and admiration by critics and banned twice in this country. A Serbian Film whipped up a storm of controversy for its twisted and detailed scenes of torture and sexual depravity, but Writer and Director Srdjan Spasojevic and co-writer Aleksandar Radivojevic who have spent their whole lives in Serbia, have made it clear that this film is a metaphor for the political situation within the country over the past twenty years. Under the regime of Communist President Milosevic who ruled from 1989 until 1997, violence became a part of everyday life and oppression was everywhere, with media being censored and free speech being all but wiped out. Milosevic was arrested in 1999 for war crimes and crimes against humanity and died in prison in 2006. Despite the fact that Serbia is now a democratic country, it is still struggling to completely break free from the influences of the Milosevic regime.
Whilst there are many instances within the film where parallels can be seen between the violence depicted and the message the writers want to convey, a lot of the brutality seems completely unnecessary and an unimaginative way of getting the message across. In an interview, Aleksandar Radivojevic said that:
“We think that some of our own emotions that were caused by our inspirations are very strong and must be shown in strong means and extreme metaphors. We feel extremely violated and we want to put that into pictures.”
The oppressive regime of the state is skilfully represented in the beginning of the film. When main character Milos arrives for his first day of shooting, he is immediately confronted with men dressed as police holding video cameras; everywhere he turns there is one of these nameless uniformed figures pointing a camera at him, and the viewer does get the unnerving sense of being constantly watched, judged and ultimately oppressed.
A serious mistrust of authoritarian figures is evident throughout the film. At one point, one of the characters asks, “Who can you trust if not a child psychologist working for security?” As the film progresses we can’t help but relate to this character as a symbolic representation of the Serbian government, and we soon learn the answer to that question: no-one. As the film develops, we can’t help but empathize with Milos and feel the hopelessness of one who truly has no choice.
In contrast, the second half of the film lacked what the first half strongly represented. The thought-provoking and powerfully symbolic depictions of a dehumanized nation were gone, and whilst the brutality does indeed shake you to the core, by the end you feel desensitized to it. This was definitely a case of ‘less is more’ and by the end of the film I was unfortunately in agreement with previous critics; this is quite simply torture porn. If you have a strong stomach I recommend you watch this film; for if you want a film with a thought-provoking and cleverly conveyed message that plays strongly on one’s emotions and adheres to nearly all of the qualities that a piece of art should as outlined in the opening, I can’t think of many other films that will deliver as much as A Serbian Film. This film is indeed a work of art.
Well, the first half of the film at least.