Film Reviews by None

Welcome to None's film reviews page. None has written 4 reviews and rated 37 films.

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Unrelated

Promising debut

(Edit) 14/07/2013

Joanna Hogg's first film makes her someone to watch out for. The naturalistic fly on wall quality of the dialogue takes you into the world of an upper middle class extended family holiday group - 3 adults and 4 teenagers through the eyes of a 40 something guest, Anna, who is an old schoolfriend of Verena, the mother of three of the teenagers. Anna finds it hard to reconnect with Verena - she has come without her husband, and we see early on that this was a last minute decision of hers and that there is some problem with her marriage. She gets drawn towards the young and slightly makes a fool of herself by getting sexually attracted to the eldest teenage boy (Tom Hiddleston). The visual aspect is stunning: the setting is Tuscany near Siena, but the the stunning holiday brochure quality landscapes and evocative skies have electrical pylons, supermarket car parks, traffic islands and flyovers, the stylish interiors have the unpacked belongings heaped on unmade beds. The holiday realism extends to showing all the tensions between the characters including a horrendous off-screen father-son row which all the others have to listen to.

It is possible to be put off by the level of social class portrayed - the teenagers are spoilt and conceited, the adults (aside from Anna) have all the smugness of privilege - but their unpleasant aspects are not glossed over and there is enough universality in the whole family holiday experience (good and bad) to allow the viewer some identification. One other problem is that the fly on the wall quality of the sound extends to how it is recorded, and the dialogue indoors when everyone is talking at once, is difficult to hear at times. this may be part of Hogg's technique - she doesn't like to signpost or have clunky expositional dialogue. The viewer is left to do the work of gradually piecing things together.

I took out this film after I had seen Archipelago, Hogg's brilliant second film. The later film is better but recognisably the same voicing honing her craft and mining similar material. Hogg's influences are in the European art film auteur tradition but her vision is pervaded by the peculiarity of Englishness. Understated subtle & penetrating - the kind of film that gets richer on further viewing.

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The Island

Engaging

(Edit) 18/09/2012

It plays out like a fable: the holy fool, sometimes comic, with miraculous powers, who subverts & teases the conventional behaviour and devotions of his "superiors". All this framed in a neat story of guilt and redemption that goes back to a terrible event in World War II. Brilliant performances. The way the camera can linger on inanimate objects is reminiscent of Tarkovsky, and when you see Russian monks it's hard not to think of Andrei Rublev. But here the narrative style generally is much tighter: the plot rules. Which is probably wise - this director has his own less demanding style. Pyotr Mamonov is rightly praised for his stunning performance. It leaves me wanting to see more by this director Pavel Linguine (most commonly listed under the name Pavel Lungin).

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Reconstruction

Deconstruction

(Edit) 18/08/2012

"Remember, though, that this is a film - it is a construction". Well duh! This clunky superfluous reminder suits the film perfectly. Sometimes these clever reality warp films work, and sometimes (as here) they don't. Why? Firstly, the intense love needs to be better realised (e.g. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind). Here the main character is unsympathetically self-absorbed and treats his girlfriend like a doormat; worse, his encounters with the mystery femme fatale have the profundity of a lager ad.

Secondly, the reality warp needs to create tension and direction (e.g. Memento, with which this film claims to be compared). In Reconstruction the love object's partner is a novelist who is writing, and thus er "Constructing" (ding! ding!) the events of the film. Unfortunately this undermines the reality of the characters. A film can warp reality as much as it likes provided we can still believe in the characters, and care for their predicaments.

The acting is first class and many familiar faces (Krister Henriksson: Wallander)and others from The Killing remind this viewer how badly it compares with the brilliant stuff currently gushing out of Sweden, Norway and Denmark.

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Silence

Heart of Darkness meets The Wicker Man

(Edit) 14/08/2012

Two Catholic missionaries arrive by night on a deserted shore in seventeenth century Japan. They hope to be priests to the local clandestine Christian community, who are banned by the authorities, and have no priests or any contact with the Church. The film uses this situation to probe endurance, loyalty and apostasy. Father Rodrigues, one of these two missionaries, arrives with an untested judgmental attitude; he immediately treats with contempt a Japanese Christian who renounced Christianity while under torture, but seeks acceptance and forgiveness from him. Rodrigues also asks after the previous missionary, Father Ferreira, who has disappeared; but no one admits to any knowledge of his fate. This perhaps is one aspect of the “silence” referred to in the title. In the course of scenes of terrible cruelty, Rodrigues’ rigid viewpoint is undone, to the point of a totally unexpected outcome.

The director, Masahiro Shinoda, doesn’t valorise Christianity: it is presented in his film as an alternative belief system - one no more or less valid than Buddhism - that brings the misfortune of illegality and state persecution on its adherents. In the prologue we are told that Catholic missionary activity was a reaction to the Protestant Reformation in Europe, and that western culture simultaneously brought Christianity and the gun to Japan. The film is adapted from the novel by Shusaka Endo who was himself a Japanese Catholic; it would be interesting to compare the film’s take on Catholicism with that of the novel. Yet think of Graham Green – Catholic writers are well able to present their religion as a problematic burden they can’t shake off. Another neutrality is more unsettling: the cruelty of the regime is presented as the immutable situation that gives the film its significance. How much torture can someone endure without submitting to the token gesture of renunciation (stepping on a Christian symbol)? Or, to complicate this further, can a person stand firm in resistance while others are being tortured? There is a particularly harrowing and moving husband and wife scene involving this. This is the point in the film where human weakness tips into virtue. At the same time there is a deep understanding of the parallels between this persecution and a fundamental doctrine of Christianity. The Passion of the historical Jesus, a similar mistreatment by a ruthless state, has been interpreted by most forms of Christian belief as the necessary act of sacrifice that reconciled God and humanity.

In places the film is talky, but the debates between a rationalistic educated Japanese magistrate and Father Rodrigues are necessary; they dig into the issues that the film is probing. Are the missionaries just trouble makers, bringing danger to simple Japanese peasants? Is truth universal, or should one accept that different cultures need different religion? Is the form of Christianity, as it evolved in this isolated community, true Christianity anyway? The one thing that never seems called into question is how a civilised culture can sanction such terrible cruelty. The cinematography (notably in the coastal scenes) is superb: the terrible might of waves pounding and sweeping on rocks gives a sense of humanity’s helplessness in the face of merciless nature. This helplessness is the overwhelming mood of the film: we reach a point where resistance is undone, like it or not; and we have no idea whether redemption is possible, or even what it means. Heart of Darkness meets The Wicker Man might be a bit misleading as a catchy title, but the trials of Father Rodrigues and the questioning of Christian values put me in mind of both.

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