Monday, 24 March 2014

The Wicker Man (1973) Film Review

Fig 1: The Wicker Man (1973) Poster
The film 'The Wicker Man'  is an incredibly suspense-filled cult classic; with a plot pumped full with misdirection, screenplay that keeps the audience shivering on the edge of their seats and a completely estranged visual experience that fools delightfully with a viewer's preconceptions of religion.

"Anthony Shaffer penned the screenplay which, for sheer imagination and near-terror, has seldom been equalled." (Variety Staff 2008)

The screenplay of 'The Wicker Man' is both parts mysterious and disturbing. Its use of old Pagan traditions, beliefs and mannerisms give it a strange feel from the very start which only grows stronger as Sergeant Howie, from the Scottish mainland police force, investigates the disappearance of the young girl, Rowan Morrison. The film, as noted in the quotation above, is extremely imaginative as it makes superb use of all aspects of Pagan belief to frighten an audience unfamiliar with them, it blends these beliefs so seamlessly into a familiar modern environment which confuses and astonishes audiences when it becomes suddenly clear what is taking place on the island. 

Fig 2: Maypole Scene in 'The Wicker Man'

"Edward Woodward is pitch-perfect as Sergeant Howie. He makes a character who, to be honest, is not extremely likeable into a sympathetic figure. We root for him in spite of his flaws because Woodward is so genuine, so thoroughly convinced that he is a righteous man in a community of depravity." (Gonzalez 2008)

The strong characterisation of Sergeant Howie is such a vital role to 'The Wicker Man' that without it, the film as whole cannot function. While 'The Wicker Man' makes good use of its many characters , It is Sergeant Howie who acts as a conduit between the audience and the film's focus, his voicing of opinions and observations act as vocalisations of audience opinion during the many events, but his winding path in investigating the disappearance of Rowan gives very little straightforward movement in the tale and is the main tool of misdirection in the plot, deceiving the audience all the way up to its horrifying conclusion.

Fig 3: The Burning Wicker Man scene in 'The Wicker Man'
"hardly anything surpasses that clifftop finale for freakish terror" (Quinn 2007)

The finale of the 'The Wicker Man' has be immortalised as one of the greatest filmic twists of all time, the sudden change from daring escape to elaborately planned trap is almost unforeseen to audiences during the events leading up to it.It is only upon re-examination of moments through out the film that a much more sinister plot can be revealed. The entire film is rife with symbolic elements of it conclusion, hinting ever so subtly at Sergeant Howie's approaching demise. An example of these would be the use of rabbit imagery, from the finding of a rabbit carcass in Rowan's supposed grave to the beheading of the rabbit headdress during the mayday ritual, the rabbit can be interpreted as a representation of Howie himself, an innocent animal being killed by the predators around it. Another example would be the constant temptation and torment of Howie by the villagers; Willow's constant on screen sexual allure, the pursuit around the village, their constant carelessness about Rowan, etc. When re-examined with the ending in mind, each of these, and many more, instances are engineered circumstances and are organised to test Sergeant Howie's resilience, fortitude and belief as a Christian to their limits, so the village knows they have the perfect human sacrifice for the mayday festival and their gods. This feeling, evoked by the films end, grows more powerful even after it is viewed. It casts the film in a extremely sinister light and moves it away from suspense thriller it seems to be altogether and instead moves into the realm of absolute horror, this echoing fright shadows each character's every word, their every action becomes malicious and deceitful as the perfectly engineered, elaborately organised plot moves Sergeant Howie ever closer to his sickening demise, like a lamb to the slaughter.

List of Illustrations

Fig 1: 'The Wicker Man' poster [Poster] At: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/thumb/a/ae/TheWickerMan_UKrelease_Poster.jpg/220px-TheWickerMan_UKrelease_Poster.jpg

Fig 2: Maypole scene in 'The Wicker Man' (1973) Directed by Robin Hardy. [Film Still] United Kingdom: British Lion Films. At: http://optimumscreenings.co.uk/press/wickerman/WM-014.jpg

Fig 3: The Burning Wicker Man scene in 'The Wicker Man' (1973) Directed by Robin Hardy. [Film Still] United Kingdom: British Lion Films. At: http://ferdyonfilms.com/Wicker%201.jpg

Bibliography

Gonzalez Jr, Felix (2007) At: http://www.dvdreview.com/reviews/pages/2556.shtml [Online Review] (Accessed 24/03/2014)

Quinn, Anthony (2007) At: http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/films/reviews/the-wicker-man-15-462732.html [Online Review] (Accessed 24/03/2014)

Variety Staff (2008) At: http://variety.com/1972/film/reviews/the-wicker-man-1200422895/ [Online Review] (Accessed 24/03/2014)

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Memento (2000) Film Review

Fig 1: 'Memento' (2000) poster
The film 'Memento' (2000) is a complicated narrative that has no steady point in time and constantly flicks backwards in time, with each new scene ending on an identical series of events to the start of the last. This narrative style can be extremely confusing for any audience that falls behind the story's progression but 'Memento' use this style in a rhythmic and entrancing way that keeps the audiences viewing experience fresh and interesting until the final twist.

"Occasionally the film trips over its own complexity, but it's tense, devious and evokes Leonard's disorientation quite brilliantly." (Film4 2000)

The film's complex narration works both as a unique method for portraying and telling the story while also acting as a representative element of a Leonard's constant confusion and absolute disorientation to the world around him. This works very much to 'Memento's advantage as the story backtracks to its beginning, the many overlapping scenes throughout reveal an increasingly twisted plot and eventually shows Leonard's conscious decision to fool himself. This final, or initial, twist uses the main plot device, Leonard's inability to make memories, to completely change the audiences perception and interpretation of established events and the even the plot itself, with us thinking that "Teddy" is John G, Leonard's target, for almost all of the feature.

Fig 2: Death of "Teddy" from 'Memento' (2000)
"Memento is one of those jigsaw puzzles whose pieces snap together more tightly with each viewing. Fueling it all is a performance by Guy Pearce that's as indelible as the tattoo ink covering his body. He's a mural of vengeance." (Nashawaty 2011)

The complex characterisation of Leonard, the film's protagonist, is both confusing and morally questionable. The character's motives are completely clear from the very beginning, with the subsequent death of "Teddy" in the first scene. His desire for revenge is the very basis for this character as he follows this drive on the hunt for his wife's supposed 'killer'. A fact which itself turns out to be false, with Leonard's subconscious lying to him and concealing the truth of his situation and past within a story he tells again and again. These defining features of Leonard's character for the duration of the film can be seen as ironic, as he makes a point of telling others how memories can be twisted and unreliable but he, himself places complete faith in his own memories. The story he constantly tells, the story of Sammy Jankis, is his own mind taking a third person perspective on the events proceeding his wife's rape and supposed murder and the way in which this story lingers around Leonard shows an unconscious attachment to the events and his guilt surrounding it proves to be an unconscious acknowledgement of his involvement in his wife's overdose.

Fig 3: Sammy Jankis from 'Memento' (2000)
"More than an enigmatic, jittery, occasionally funny treatise on vengeance's fruitlessness, "Memento" never abandons an emotional quandary: How can a man unable to feel time expect to heal? Leonard loses himself, as we all do, in habit and repetition." (Rogers 2010)

It becomes painfully obvious by the very end of the feature that Leonard is lost within his own concept of time and the world around him. He judges the inconsistencies and uncertainties of reality, criticsing the people around him and their dependency on what he himself has lost. This proves to be true until quite a way into the film, when the audience begins to see the twisted plot unravel in front of them; with Leonard's manipulation by Natalie, a drug dealer's girlfriend, and then his own manipulation of his memories. He exploits his own memories by essentially using his only routine and loop hole, his trust in himself; he intentionally manipulates himself to please a now instinctual feeling of revenge. This is revealed nowhere better than when "Teddy" confronts Leonard with the truth his reality and his eternal and routine hunt for the ever elusive "John G".

List of Illustrations

Fig 1: 'Memento' (2000) poster [Poster] At: http://www.impawards.com/2001/memento.html

Fig 2: Death of "Teddy" from 'Memento' (2000) Directed by Christopher Nolan. [Film Still] America: Newmarket Films and Team Todd. At: http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-MnxorwrCLJU/UZtL3NZ8d4I/AAAAAAAAAmE/X0989iE4ko0/s1600/memento+still+5.jpg

Fig 3: Sammy Jankis from 'Memento' (2000) Directed by Christopher Nolan. [Film Still] America: Newmarket Films and Team Todd. At: http://taylorholmes.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/memento09.jpg

Bibliography

Film4 (2000) At: http://www.film4.com/reviews/2000/memento [Online Review] (Accessed: 11/03/2014)

Nashawaty, Chris (2011) At: http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,20466686,00.html [Online Review] (Accessed: 11/03/2014)

Rogers, Nick (2010) At: http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/memento/ [Online Review] (Accessed: 11/03/2014)

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Fantastic Voyage - Narrative Frame 1

My first initial idea for a narrative frame around the reproductive cycle of moss, my chosen subject for this project, is a science fiction approach. The narrative will be based with a automated spaceship that terraforms suitable planets into recreations of earth. The ship begins the terraforming process and also begins to breed and cultivates every living organism from earth onboard through artificial means and then transplants these organisms onto the planet's newly terraformed surface. My animation will focused around the moss production chambers and will feature the complete process from after the haploid spores are released and begin to grow. I will detail both the male and female cycles, showing only the male's growth cycle as both are quite similar but will show the fertilisation and spore ejection process as well.