Saturday, September 22, 2018

Three Films Make A Post: Past Passion. Past Terror. Past Murder.

A Little Trip to Heaven (2005): At first, Baltasar Kormákur’s deeply Icelandic (for a film set in the US, at least) movie seems to be a bit of a Fargo-alike, but the longer it runs, the more it becomes clear this has somewhat different sensibilities. It is a bit less concerned with futility than the Coen Brothers film, and even allows Forest Whitaker’s character to take a half successful redemptive action and end up in a curious sort of heaven as his reward. That’s despite the film being just as clear about the darkness in the hearts of men, particularly those who think they are much brighter than they actually are. It just seems to have a bit more compassion with its characters than the Coens sometimes show.

Apart from Whitaker (who is always great even if he flaunts as dubious an accent as he does here), the film also contains fine work by Julia Stiles and a particularly good performance by Jeremy Renner.

Out of Thin Air (2017): Staying in Iceland (though this is a British film), this documentary by Dylan Howitt about two suspected murders in the country and the people the police apparently tortured into believing to have committed them, without any physical evidence (like corpses) whatsoever coming up, seems to me an exemplary piece of true crime filmmaking that tells its tale calmly, not feeling the need to construct or spout outrage because the facts of what happened, and what the audience can suspect happened really don’t need to be made more dramatic than they actually were. It’s not as if the film pretends to have no position on the case, mind you, it is just intelligent enough to assume it doesn’t have to speechify at its audience about its thoughts.

There’s also a quiet, philosophical undercurrent to the endeavour, suggesting a construction of selfhood through human memory that’s all too fragile, leaving self and truth as things always in doubt.

Jane Eyre (2011): Give me the Brontë sisters and their sense of the Gothic and the dramatic over Jane Austen’s ever so ironic tales of the marriage market any day. So it’s no surprise that I enjoyed Cary Joji Fukunaga’s version of Charlotte’s Jane Eyre quite a bit, particular as it is based on a Moira Buffini script that uses the proto-feminist elements of the novel in excellent ways, drawing Jane as a woman not quite fitting into her time because she as a matter of course takes the promises of humanist philosophy as belonging to her as a woman too. And all that with dialogue often very close to the book. I wish the film had done something about the madwoman in the attic, but honestly, I wouldn’t know how to go about that without rewriting half of the book either.

Fukunaga’s direction makes excellent use of bleak but exciting (to me, at least) landscape, period interiors that are claustrophobic or pretty depending on what’s appropriate, never trying to pop the film up too much nor letting get things too BBC stuffy.

Mia Wasikowska – whom I’ve still have to see in anything amounting to a weak performance – is expectedly wonderful, fully realizing the fragilities, the immense strength, the mix of wisdom won through pain and the naivety of the not terribly worldly Jane. Michael Fassbender is fine, too, though the film does focus quite a bit more on Jane – and rightly so.

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