Film Feelings: We Need To Talk About Kevin

So. 1: Tilda Swinton did not need to be in Doctor Strange because she is a damn good actress. I’ve now seen her in Okja (dir. Bong Joon-Ho) and this. And this movie is how I know she’s amazing.

2: This movie leaves a person feeling disturbed. But ever since my first international cinema class, I learned that I love movies that do that to me. Cache (dir. Michael Haneke) is the first film we watched in that course, and I left feeling highly unsettled and not sure about how to articulate why. The movies in the course were not escapist. One didn’t leave feeling ready to take on the next moment of the day. As a film student, you felt energized by the sheer feat that existed on the screen. As a person, you felt exhausted and the world felt…different. Another example is Breaking the Waves (dir. Lars Von Trier). I know the body has physical reactions to emotions from my experience watching this movie. When the main character dies, my heart literally felt as if it was being grabbed from my chest. Those are my kind of movies. This movie was like that. My mom’s verdict: “That was good. It was a little weird too.”

3: The shots, the shots, the shots. The way the director, Lynne Ramsay, composed the frames made each second gorgeous. Beyond that and what really contributed to the film was how she built up tension through the length of time she spent on the character’s faces, mainly Eva (Tilda Swinton). She conveyed extremely well how lonely Eva was, even when she had her whole family together. An image that stood out for me was when she took Kevin to the doctor to check on whether or not he had autism. The doctor was speaking, and then the camera turned itself to Tilda. She was on the far right of the screen and there was doctor equipment that filled the remainder of the screen almost worked to keep her in the corner. The editing too. Ah. Flawless. It was easy to understand the timeline. Tilda’s switch of hairstyle did help with this, but the scenes themselves were sufficient. Granted, it probably would have been more confusing had her hairstyle remained the same the whole time.

4: Motifs and pay-offs. Overall, the film was very quiet. The music came in with lyrics that related to Eva’s situation. A song near the end sings about being an orphan, which fits her new life. The pay-offs for the storyline were always set up. The were set up through introduction of something or a shot. For example, Kevin buys the locks for his school. His mom, dad, and he all have a conversation about the locks. The audience later sees Kevin putting the locks on the door of his school- not selling them as he said he would. And then when Eva is rushing to the school, she looks for Kevin. He’s nowhere to be found and then she reaches the front of the line. From there, she can see Kevin’s locks on the door. She’s still. Another pay-off is her calls to Franklin. He’s not answering, and the audience can attribute it to how their relationship is rocky. Yet, by the time all of the events have transpired and Eva reaches her home and is calling for her family, its clear something is wrong. Its then obvious to the watcher than Franklin probably would not have let the whole day pass without returning his wife’s call. When Franklin and Celia are found outside, the audience expects it because of the previous set-up. Those were done so well. This movie just had an overall sense of meticulousness in its planning and execution.

5: In addition to Tilda Swinton’s performance, the rest of the actors were fabulous as well. Young, middle, and eldest Kevin’s all were believable. What exactly the movie is trying to say about people like Kevin or the whole situation present, I don’t know. Maybe it’s more about the family surrounding him? It’s one of those films that raises the question for you and lets you continue to think about it on your own.

Summer Film ’17 – Kira’s Reason: A Love Story

Film Movement: Dogme 95

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JVNpVbMU5HQ

Director: Ole Christian Madsen (but per Dogme 95, his name doesn’t appear in the actual credits)

The first Dogme 95 movie that I watched was Breaking the Waves by Lars Von Trier. Because of that movie, I thought that I looooved Dogme 95. I guess I just loved the movie instead.

For this film, I really did not like it. The found footage technique is my least favorite camera technique in film- maybe because it’s been popularized so much recently. It probably wasn’t as prevalent back then, so maybe this film really stood out. Anyway, the found footage style of filming took me around twenty minutes to get into.  Once I got over it, then I could pay attention to the story.

Here’s the story:

The wife of the film has just been released from a mental hospital. However, it is clear that she is still very, very depressed. She is not able to effectively face large groups of people without wanting to cry or feeling anxious about it. She also suspects her husband of cheating on her while she was away (which does end up being correct, despite his initial denial). For a while, it seems as if husband cares quite a bit for his wife. He seems patient, and when he says, “I love you”, it comes across as believable. During one of her episodes, the wife ends up cheating on the husband with a random man from a bar. In the morning, she even calls him to come and pick her up from the location that she is in. He does, but this represents a spiraling of their relationship.  He hits her, for the first time that we see on screen. He also rapes her and admits that he cheated on her with her sister. Yet, they continue to try and be together. However, the sweet element from earlier is now removed thanks to the violence. The film ends with the wife having planned a business party for her husband and his colleagues. The party seemed to be going well, but no one wanted to dance with the wife. When the husband’s boss does dance with her, it is to tell her that she should leave the party before she spoils it. She does and goes to write a letter to her husband letting him know that she is leaving him. He comes back during the writing of the letter, and after listening to her read it to him, he kicks her out of the room and throws her belongings out into the hall. She calls her father to come and pick her up. Apparently, while she does that, her husband also calls the sister to come with the children. Both of them show up- but when the sister arrives, she sees that husband and wife have reconciled and she cries. The father consoles  her, and the film ends.

I can recognize that there is a message to this film, maybe about how difficult it is for the wife to leave her abusive husband, especially in her current depressive state. Also, it explores how the wife’s depression really effects each aspect of her life and tends to make her unreliable to those around her. She can’t deal with other people and also deal with herself. Despite recognizing a message, I couldn’t stand how abusive the husband was. It was obvious when he was about to explode for the first time and hit her. There was just too much of it. It was actually one of my male professors who pointed out to me how much violence there is against women in films. It makes you wonder. So, anyway, the film also seemed to attempt to humanize the husband, but I despised that considering everything he had done beforehand, especially the rape.

What I did like about the film was the relationship between the wife and her father. It was very sweet, and it was clear that the father cares about her deeply as his daughter. Also, the actress is fantastic. Her facial expressions usually look quite reserved when she is trying to smile, and the audience gets the feeling that it would be a long journey for her smile to be able to reach her eyes.

I watched this on FilmStruck as part of their Dogme 95 collection. Before it, there was an introduction to what that movement was, and it also talked about how sometimes, the manifesto did not always benefit the films. They came to the conclusion that this film is one that did happen to execute it correctly. I disagree. I hated it so much haha. I guess it’s just not my type of film.

But Breaking the Waves will always have my heart.

RT score: 67%.

 

Summer Film ’17: The Best Intentions (1992)

Directed by: Bille August

Written by: Ingmar Bergman

Watched on: FilmStruck, part of the Palm D’or winners series

Summary: HENRIK and ANNA are from two separate class positions. Anna is a wealthy girl, and Henrik is studying to be a pastor and has seen much misery in his life. He is currently engaged to a woman, but it does not seem that he loves her as much as he should. He promises her that they will get married, but even she does not seem to believe this anymore. Henrik is friends with Anna’s brother, Ernst, and he comes to visit them at their home. There is a spark between Henrik and Anna. They enter into a relationship. Anna, however, is unaware that Henrik has another person in his life. This is until Anna declares that Henrik and her are engaged. Henrik has to go quickly, and that is when Anna knows that there is someone else in his life.

Henrik and Anna reconcile, and all seems to be well. However, Anna’s mother is wholly disapproving of the relationship. She believes it is a match not to be made. Instead of petty trifles however, one reason that Anna’s mother does not believe that Henrik and Anna are a good match for one another is that Henrik is still living with and engaged to a woman. Anna does not know this. Henrik is sent away by her mother, and Anna does not wish to see him either.

However, after Frida (Henrik’s other woman) asks Anna to take him back, she eventually does. They enter into a whirlwind relationship and do get married, after having a few squabbles about how and where. They move up north, and Henrik takes on a position as a pastor of a small chapel. All is well until it is not.


 

There is more to the story/summary, but I would rather just say my response to the movie now.

It can be found on FilmStruck or purchased on iTunes or other services.

First off, it’s wonderful that Ingmar Bergman wrote this story about his parent’s courtship. This film won the award for Cannes’ Palm D’or, and one reason is probably because when you write things that you know, they ring with more truth.

I chose the picture of the father from the film because I enjoyed him the most as a character. He was caring for his daughter, and when he passed away, his wife and Anna were both very distraught. It is actually one of my favorite scenes when the mother is having racking sobs over the loss of her husband.  Up until then, she’s been more reserved with her emotions towards others. There are parts where it is very easy to feel for her as a person. She reaches out to Anna in her own way, but Anna is usually distant from her. Understandably so in parts.

But- even though I appreciate the existence of this movie and the color palette of it, I did not really like it.

This story would have resonated with me more that there not been that element of cheating. It resulted in me being more interested in Frida’s aftermath story. How she was to deal with the loss of someone she cared about, was engaged to. How she could face the person he cheated with and pass him off. Her monologue was great and that too rang very true. So, yeah, for most of the film, I cared about Frida, and she was not even on the screen for that much time.

I did not empathize with Henrik. He was a jerk, really. He got to act however he pleased and still managed to win in various instances throughout the film. I really did not enjoy him.

I did not enjoy Anna that much either. However, I appreciated how strong she was as a person.

Both actors were fabulous though. Each actor in this movie brought their A-game to the role that they were playing. They all really complemented the pace of the movie. Even though I wasn’t enjoying it, I still wanted to watch it and see where it went.

So, yes, maybe if the cheating did not bother me, I could have really been invested in Henrik and Anna as a relationship and a story, but it did bother me, and so I could not.

I felt similar to Anna’s mother and to Henrik’s aunt/mother. They both did not believe that Henrik and Anna should be together. With Henrik’s temper, I thought the same thing. He was controlling and hot-headed.

There are scenes that I really enjoyed however.

  1. The scene with Papa and Henrik, talking about the inevitable.
  2. The scene where Mama breaks down in Anna’s arms.
  3. The scene with Papa and Mama going to sleep together “good night, my dear.”
  4. The sequences where Anna wants to send Petrus away, Petrus hears her, and tries to kill Dag. That was all so interesting.
  5. The ending Christmas scene where its apparent that Mama still has grief over the loss of her husband and admits that there were times that she felt like crying.
  6. And as well, the scene between Anna and Frida.

And all of these scenes belie how I don’t care too much about Anna and Henrik as a couple.

However, there is something about this movie that makes me feel as if I would return to it someday. In the meantime though, I’d prefer to watch romance movies that don’t begin with cheating.

Despite that, technically, this movie is great. I love the pacing. I love the colors. I loved how much of the time Henrik was centered on screen with no one else in frame (which goes with him claiming to be a loner in the final scenes). I liked the musical motif. And I really liked the dad. If I had a favorite character, it would be him. Also- even though I care not about Henrik&Anna, I did appreciate how August/Bergman chose to represent the flaws of both characters and the flaws in the relationship. It was nice that it wasn’t just romanticized.

Rotten Tomatoes gave it 100%.

Spring 2017: Pelo Malo

Pelo Malo

dir. Mariana Rondón 

So, my school subscribed to this online streaming service called Kanopy. They did it last year, and like all of the other free services they give us, I’ve hardly taken advantage of it. But when I do- I’m never disappointed. The films on Kanopy are so good, and I don’t think some of them would get seen without being curated on the website.

It took me 3+ weeks to finally finishing Pelo Malo, but I’ve been telling a lot of my friends about it in the meantime.

Pelo Malo is a story following a young half Afro-Venezuelan boy who wishes he had straight hair. He has a head full of curly hair, which his mother hates when he tries to straighten as it believes her to think that he is gay. If he is gay, he does not yet know it, but he is aware of his mother’s hatred for him and preference for his younger brother.

Pelo Malo is multifaceted, and the mother’s hatred really can’t be attributed to one thing. It could be for his hair, his darker complexion, and also for his perceived sexual orientation.

I really, really enjoyed this film. It’s really important for what it has to say and even just for calling out the notion that there is such a thing as “bad hair”.

It’s very quiet and understated, which are the films that I really love. It lets you sit with the characters, and it’s the kind of movie that made me wonder what the actors are up to now. It’s because you get invested in the story.

It was such a good watch, and I’ve spent the past 3+ weeks waiting to go back and finish the last 30 minutes.

4/4