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How far would you go to get your answers?

Posted : 6 years, 2 months ago on 3 September 2012 04:53 (A review of Prometheus)

''War, poverty, cruelty, unnecessary violence. I understand human emotions, although I do not feel them myself.''

A team of explorers discover a clue to the origins of mankind on Earth, leading them on a journey to the darkest corners of the universe. There, they must fight a terrifying battle to save the future of the human race.

Michael Fassbender: David

After many years the masterful film visionary Ridley Scott has returned to where some of his original talents for capturing storytelling, inspiration and escapism originally lay: Science fiction.
Upon seeing his latest work I was impressed at the detail, the pace, the sheer audacity he displays in his end result. It's mesmerising and upon a personal note it makes a striking impression not just with it's immense cast and dazzling effects but with the most important aspects: The art and storytelling entwined in this particular medium.

It hits home from the addictive cast, one of my favourites from legendary new comer Micheal Fassbender to energetic chameleonic Guy Pearce injecting the film with pure professional believability and talent.
Prometheus is a science fiction piece. It is also a philosophical study capturing the fragility of human nature and our physical existence.
The film whispered to me that Weyland offer, ''If you'll indulge me, I'd like to change the world.''
We are insects becoming Godly within a rather large spherical universe where discovery and understanding collide at every moment. Nothing seems to be certain but changing... What I am definitely certain of, when it comes to Prometheus is that the film stimulates us as well as entertains the audience. It gives us something deeper for our minds to feed upon. Gives us questions to play around with and then smacks us with a few answers.

''T.E. Lawrence, eponymously of Arabia
but very much an Englishman,
favoured pinching a burning match between his fingers
to put it out.

When asked by his colleague William Potter
to reveal his trick,
how is it he effectively extinguished the flame
without hurting himself whatsoever,
Lawrence just smiled and said,

"The trick, Potter, is not minding it hurts."

The fire that danced at the end
of that match was a gift from the Titan Prometheus,
a gift that he stole from the gods.
And Prometheus was caught,
and brought to justice for his theft.
The gods, well, you might say they overreacted a little.
The poor man was tied to a rock,
as an eagle ripped through his belly and ate his liver over and over,
day after day, ad infinitum.
All because he gave us fire.
Our first true piece of technology, fire...''

At times the nostalgia elevates back to the days when Ridley was giving us Alien. It almost feels like being back home with Ripley with the female heroine Noomi Rapace playing Elizabeth Shaw. She makes the role faceted.
So we have a historical, prequel feel to proceedings while we are taken somewhere new and exciting which explores our origins. It is an imaginative game in the fashion of HG Wells, ''What if?'', regarding where we came from or where we are going.
Our creator: Was it an accident? Would they regard us as inferior? Would an extraterrestrial presence be hostile or peaceful? The truth is both possibilities are quite obviously correct.
The other interesting study and insight is with artifical intelligence and the robotic android David played by Micheal Fassbender. What would our creation think or feel or do if put in the same situation as us? Would our creation be disappointed to find out the limitations and flaws contained in its creator. Of course it would. How this being would react to such discoveries and revelations seems to faintly echo the days of Blade Runner.
You can almost hear, ''Revel in your time...'' and when we come to the ageing Wayland played by Pearce we have the stabs at mortality and our quest to either accept it or overcome it. Is death avoidable? Are we talking about the physical or metaphysical? Or is it something which remains unknowable until we arrive at the destination? My answer is the journey is what matters. If you spend all your time wondering about the destination how can you enjoy the journey?

Prometheus is a very enjoyable, thought provoking film. However you take it or experience it, whether the action or effects or horror elements are your cup of tea. Whether you value the storytelling or being transported to another time and place which in ways mirrors our own World, whether you enjoy asking questions and not being able to answer every single one. Despite all this to contemplate if you want a piece of deeper stimulation at a pace which isn't in a hurry, where the end is a beginning of sorts, Prometheus is worth the ride and is waiting for you.
Ridley Scott returns from his historical pieces and gives us his science fiction taste of a brave new world. The best is surely to come.

''How far would you go to get your answers?''

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A story of love and moving art... Perfect.

Posted : 6 years, 9 months ago on 17 February 2012 06:51 (A review of The Artist)

''What I mean is it's either him AND me or neither of us!''

Hollywood, 1927: As silent movie star George Valentin wonders if the arrival of talking pictures will cause him to fade into oblivion, he sparks with Peppy Miller, a young dancer set for a big break.

Jean Dujardin: George Valentin
Bérénice Bejo: Peppy Miller

The Artist transports audiences back in time to the silent era of film. Director and writer Michel Hazanavicius effortlessly captures beauty with the rawest simplest way possible: By characters you can love and storytelling which flirts with our hearts.

The cast is phenomenal... Especially the two main leads: Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo... And Uggie the dog. He deserves an award and recognition, a talent to be reckoned with, where every movement and action has its own meaning. We fall in love and can relate to the characters struggles, the highs and lows of our career and the fickle nature of the people whom surround us. It shows us one person can make a difference when love is involved.

The cinematography is creative and fresh... Reflections serve as symbolic majesty. Dreams serve as visions for the future.
This is truly art... Moving art which transports us back in time and injects freshness into an otherwise predictable world of cinema. A reminder of a golden age where expressions melt our hearts and mean something, where the eyes of characters and the smiles they exchange make us feel so much. They are believable and alive. What could remind you or awaken something long forgotten inside you? The Artist is truly that inspirational reminder. A reminder of creativity, love and change.
Any artists or writers whom have the luxury to watch The Artist will love the variety and poignant minimalism which reflects your own journey. We see our own lives and our own hopes and fears come alive.
Sometimes the film cleverly makes you want to reach out and tell the characters what to do when they struggle to make the right choice or when they fail to recognise how much someone can mean to you.
Whether the dog is saving his master or the clever twist where it is not the man saving the woman: It is her saving him. They keep each other safe and that in itself is beautiful. It touches your heart in ways that are so hard to describe.

All I can say is don't judge a book by its cover: The Artist deserves to be experienced and not to be missed. On a personal level it is a piece of inspiration and it allows us to travel back in time with many aspects still relevant to our modern era.
The Artist is certainly a change and a breath of fresh air in our effect laden film industry, where audiences are so zombified, they forget the most important thing: The story. That is all you need... And romance and emotion. The Artist makes you fall in love with not just silent film all over again... It makes you fall in love with life all over again. A universal love letter coming alive in our hearts, before our eyes, and in our souls.

This is where film and art originated and we need to remember how important that is. The Artist helps us remember that. Beautiful.


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Spread the word...

Posted : 7 years ago on 30 October 2011 01:19 (A review of Contagion)

''It's figuring us out faster than we're figuring it out.''

A thriller centered on the threat posed by a deadly disease and an international team of doctors contracted by the CDC to deal with the outbreak.

Gwyneth Paltrow: Beth Emhoff

Steven Soderbergh always captures detail and rapture within his works, whether concerning Che or Traffic or Erin Brockovich, he manages to successfully draw in audiences with a penchant for immersing us in intelligent storylines and using sound and visuals to keep us gripped in a spidery web of tension. His latest effort Contagion is another example of finesse and professionalism in film with a large range at his disposal. Soderbergh knows nothing spreads fear so indifferently and thus is more relevant; A deadly virus spreading on a global scale with researchers and scientists in a race against time to stop it.

The winning factors of Contagion range from a convincing cast, a tense soundtrack and a mechanical, mesmerising cold beat that haunts us, toys with us. Then we have a story which is so close to the truth it has that cringe factor thus forcing us to think twice about touching anything, using public transport, going near the sick, and even makes us fear for our loved ones health.
We have a worldy, unfaithful wife played by Gwyneth Paltrow, a number of doctors played by Kate Winslet, Lawrence Fishburne, Marion Cotillard and we have a seemingly prophetic yet meddlesome journalist played by Jude Law and a greiving father who loses his wife and son played with emotional valor by Matt Damon.

The film has a very realistic, Western glow about it. It explores human nature, human desperation, emotions, attitudes, different personalites and anarchaic chaos let lose when people are given no other alternatives in the face of dying from the virus.
Contagion also shows us animal experimentation, the processes involved to contain such a deadly threat, possible innoculations, new vaccines, the hunt for a cure...
When we see biohazard teams and the bodies piling up 28 Weeks Later begins to come to mind or some of the scenes from V for Vendetta.
Contagion asks us questions and toys with us to makes us ask our own questions: Has this happened already? How would we deal with it? What can protect us from Nature?
The answer is a combination of our ability to react and predict what will happen and to give an appropriate response. Easier said than done.

Steven Soderbergh's Contagion is a race against time and an imagining of a global epedemic transpiring. A deadly indifferent virus which wipes out all regardless of age, race, or gender.
Cleverly the tension, the emotion is captured effortlessly when Matt Damon is checking his wife's camera. Seeing pictures of her, unlike at the Hospital where the realisation of her death is yet to sink in, we come to that point with the camera, and Matt just breaks down. We share his pain and Soderbergh capitalises and tugs on our heart strings with playful poignancy.
Contagion leaves us with a taunting finish concerning the origin of the virus. It makes us consider vegetarianism and to ponder where our food comes from and who is making it for us. Have you washed your hands? I can't stress how important hygiene is and after watching this you will take it more seriously, if you didn't before.

''The average person touches their face three to five times every waking minute. In between that we're touching door knobs, water fountains, and each other.''

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I smile, and I smile, and I smile...

Posted : 7 years, 1 month ago on 14 October 2011 01:07 (A review of Melancholia)

''It is a planet that has been hiding behind the sun, now it passes by us...''

Two sisters find their already strained relationship challenged as a mysterious new planet threatens to collide into the Earth.

Kirsten Dunst: Justine

When going to see a Lars Von Trier film you know you are in for something different, something unusual, something truly shocking. Ranging from the emotional Dancer in the Dark to a stylish Dogville and a terrifying Anti-Christ, his latest offering again doesn't disappoint the fans or newcomers. The latest offering being a drama and disaster film: Let us reflect on Melancholia and I will do my best to convey my thoughts on his latest work.

Very cleverly Melancholia begins with an artistic, slow motion montage which depicts the happenings in the film. This deposition results in a very symbolic offering, an offering of biblical proportions. Insects and animals, birds and horses, are falling and behaving in a crazed manner while Justin stands in a somewhat prophetic way with arms outstretched.
Ranging from raw emotion, to reflections on nature, on protecting animals and children (Claire holding her son while sinking into the earth of the golf course: Attempting to escape the inescapable), to the different stances regarding life differentiating the two sisters.
The film taunts us into wondering whether the world is ending or whether it is all a manifestation regarding the emotional state of Justine.
There is a chilling nihilistic strain and mist which drifts in from the dying proceedings. It almost feels as the film progresses we are pulled into a tomb-like atmosphere brought forth by the incoming planet Melancholia.

Kirsten Dunst who plays Justin gives the performance of her career. Perhaps her best to date as she fully absorbs herself into the troubled character.
The first half of the film fully concentrates itself on her wedding, it shows us her family, her boss, and very importantly her frame of mind.
Justine is a successful advertising copywriter who is getting married to Michael (Alexander Skarsgård). you would assume it would be the happiest day of her life. The wedding which is organized by her sister Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg) and brother-in-law John (Kiefer Sutherland) is a lavishly elegant and epic affair held at a very isolated and large Swedish chateau. After the opening montage we come to Justine and Michael’s limo which can’t turn a corner to get them where they need to be. An example of the film having small doses of comedy and variety for us to consume.
John Hurt hiding spoons and flirting with women called Betty, the Wedding planner played by Udo Kier refusing to look at the bride because she ruins the proceedings by going for baths and disappearing frequently, and her mother Gaby played by Charlotte Rampling setting the par for crazy in the family. The send-up of bourgeois self-satisfaction that is surely implicit in having John deny the possibility of apocalypse: ''Trust me, I’m a scientist.'': It all is very bizarre, and very amusing. It sucks the audience in because we become interested yet accustomed to the characters and their habits.

Lars Von Trier is simply brilliant, though less flattering, a director of leading female actresses. His attention to the female face — and the rapture of suffering it can convey — is rivaled only by Carl Dreyer in The Passion of Joan of Arc.
Dunst, realizing the potential she showed in The Virgin Suicides and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, draws strength from on her own public and personal displays of depression to portray a woman who is both young and old, wise and immature, deadened and very much alive to the dark ways of the world. The dual nature of a troubled young woman. Restless and bereft who has become hopeless with the grasping of the breathless truth.
There is one extraordinary scene, where she is shown lying naked by a stream bathing in the obliterating force of the approaching Melancholia. She is bathing in the light, the sadness which is consuming her and the planet. This is surely a metaphor for her deep depression destroying her life and everything around her, as well as being a straight forward physical rendition.

Melancholia isn't just a film. It is a piece of art. Refreshing and pure. Unusual and rewarding. It appears in a time when people need to be reminded that film is still an art form. Lars Von Trier gives us yet again another reminder from his imaginatively daring mind.
Kirsten Dunst gives an award worthy performance and Charlotte Gainsbourg again shows her versatility as an actress after her crazed role in Anti-Christ. Lars Von Trier has us falling in love with his female leads yet again by directing them in ways which wouldn't be amiss amongst the renaissance painters of old. He makes them shine. Melancholia shines. A sad, depressing reminder that life is a temporary asphyxiation. That life is special yet short. That we will hold on to what we love for as long as we can. This is a journey into the many facets of the psyche and regarding existence itself.

''All I know is life on earth is evil. I know we’re alone.''

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I want to talk about loyalty...

Posted : 7 years, 1 month ago on 13 October 2011 01:44 (A review of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy)

''We are not so very different, you and I. We've both spent our lives looking for the weaknesses in one another.''

In the bleak days of the Cold War, espionage veteran George Smiley is forced from semi-retirement to uncover a Soviet agent within MI6's echelons.

Gary Oldman: George Smiley

Tinker. Tailor. Soldier. Spy. John le Carré's spy thriller comes alive on the screen, given the professional capacity and swift brush stroke required, from director Tomas Alfredson. The casting is a revelation resulting in acting worthy for recognition in any film festival or award ceremony. Who could portray the character George Smiley, echo and honour the original Alec Guiness performance, and completely morph himself into the character; Obviously it has to be only one: The chameleon and legendary Gary Oldman.

Imagine history coming alive on the big screen, a film which graces an age of espionage which relives and retreads the days of the cold war. Secrets, mysteries, and corruption within our own hierarchy that is MI6.
Colin Firth, Toby Jones, Ciarán Hinds, David Dencik all give electric turns as the puppeteers pulling strings. They make us wonder, who can we trust? If anyone.

The complexities of the story and the to-the-point dialogue shroud the audience in a meticulous cage of ambivalence. This is a very dark time. An uncertain time. Mark Strong shows how his character Jim Prideaux can fall victim to betrayal and how personal feelings can never triumph over doing your duty.
John le Carré's The Constant Gardner adaptation on the big screen screamed twists, turns and a web of deceit from a corrupt corporation and pharmaceutical short cuts. With Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy we see the same style of storytelling which keeps us hooked from start to finish because while we watch we do our best to keep a few steps ahead, and more often than not, fail miserably.

There is a sequence, a sort of dream-like montage which in my mind sums up the cold war and the level of confusion. We have a Lenin dressed Santa Claus, (a paradoxical stab at communism meeting consumerism) and all the MI6 staff are singing the Soviet anthem. We see John Hurt, one of the top men, bewildered at times from paranoia. George Smiley emotionally detached and cocooned, even to the point he is aware of an affair regarding his wife and a colleague. The thing about George Smiley, he knows when to act and he knows in this time how to wait. The montage shows the agony of such waiting. A chilling portrait of the cold war period and also a reflection regarding the psyche of our protagonist. The duality is present in the characters as well as the environments they inhabit.
The younger actors hold their ground amongst the other titans: Benedict Cumberbatch and Tom Hardy show they can act and deliver as well as anyone. They have the energy and charisma required.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is one of the film masterpieces to come out this year filmed with dizzying precision and care. It is a rendering and journey into a world of secrets, espionage, betrayal, murder, and stasis. Those who have the patience required and the intellectual appreciation for such a journey will devour this adaptation and be bewitched by an Oscar worthy performance from Gary Oldman who completely transforms into the enigmatic George Smiley.
This film is definitely one for repeated viewings because it has so much to offer, so much for audiences to process, and so many twists and turns that looking away could result in missing a detail which made all the difference to your understanding.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy shows how derisively hot the cold war could be and it deserves your attention on the premise that you will learn as well as be entertained by such a complex story with electrifying performances.

''Things aren't always what they seem.''

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Tell him the other truth. Our kind of truth.

Posted : 7 years, 4 months ago on 2 July 2011 05:09 (A review of Jud Süß)

''The stars are neither friendly or hostile. But it stands written they will obey the one who attempts.''

In this historical costume melodrama, a conniving, ambitious Jewish businessman, Suess Oppenheimer, snares a post as treasurer to the Duke of Wurttemburg by showering the corrupt duke with treasure and promises of even greater riches.

Ferdinand Marian: Joseph Süß Oppenheimer

I continue to hold a penchant for reviewing highly controversial films, and what could be more controversial than Veit Harlan's period piece Jud Süß released during the year 1940 in National Socialist Germany; Capturing a certain story about a Duke and a Jewish advisor from 1733. It is a propaganda educational piece which features the fundamental strains against the Jewish race by telling History from a National Socialist perspective. Veit Harlan has actually made a film which is at quite a high quality in terms of cinematography, music, sound and acting. Perhaps not quite as well known as expressionist pieces by Fritz Lang from the weimar period but it certainly gives a considerable amount of film makers a run for their money.
Jud Süß was said to have been sent to SS guards and Police by Henrich Himmler, head of the SS. It was used for learning purposes regarding Jews. While Dr Goebbels, minister for propaganda, whom commissioned the piece, viewed the premiere with Veit Harlan. Goebbels was extremely pleased with the film.

The story is adapted and partially based on a 1827 novella by Wilhelm Hauff. It concerns the real life figure Joseph Süß Oppenheimer, a financial advisor for Karl Alexander, Duke of Württemberg. Obviously the film has its artistic license and alters the facts to suit the means. It is to show the enemy in its material form and to give the supposed threat a face using a story and a reshaping of history.
A German audience attending a viewing of the piece in 1940 would have recognized the several basic Nazi stereotypes regarding how Jews and Jewish culture are portrayed: There is the early scene in which Oppenheimer is shown to possess a fortune in jewels and jewelry. In another, he tells an innocent German girl that his home is "the world" (reflecting the Nazi stereotype of the Jews as rootless wanderers in contrast to the Germans' love of their German homeland). Several dialogues exchanged between Jewish characters perpetuate the Nazi line that Jews are inherently hostile to non-Jews. There is also Oppenheimer's role as a purveyor of women for the Duke, and his relentless pursuit of an "Aryan" woman for sexual purposes, even after she resists his first attempt to seduce her.
You will notice the broad cartoonish stereotypes of the Jewish characters and the preternaturally noble characters of their German counterparts.
Notice that several of the German characters, Faber in particular, are unfailingly rude to Oppenheimer from the moment he arrives in Wurttemberg simply because he is Jewish — and before he gives them any reason to do so. They will probably also note that it is the Duke's vanity, greed, and weak moral character that makes it possible for Oppenheimer to do everything that he is seen doing in the film. The Duke also seems to be as much to blame as Oppenheimer — at least in translation.

It is a shame the film is so notorious and controversial because it actually results in being a high quality rendition in terms of execution, music, story and even acting. That is to say Ferdinand Marian, playing the lead antagonist Joseph Süß Oppenheimer, gives such a performance that it is truly captivating to watch and shows his ability and versatility as an actor.
Kristina Söderbaum as Dorthea Sturm, the ill-fated heroine of the piece, also dazzles the screen with her beauty and strength.
The film cannot help but raise unintentional laughs when it comes to Werner Krauss playing multiple roles, one being Rabbi Loew, whom actually could have easily served as the inspiration for the Emperor in Star Wars and the other being Levy Oppenheimer's helper(A scheming satanic type with scary eyes).
The Jews are depicted as being materialistic, dirty, animalistic, deceptive and to a degree satanic, benign and evil. Everything that is shown in the film will certainly be considered strange or alien to behold by many today. Perhaps some element or strain of truth ultimately shines through all the hate and confusion; Anyone who has has ever read Mein Kamph will instantly recognize many elements in this film stated against the Jews, essentially classed as sworn blood enemies of National Socialist Germany. Jud Süß is a warning and reminder that if you let one Jew in, you let them all in and that all their personal interests and planning results in draining the land of milk and honey, of women and materials, of power and control. The meaning: All wealth and power is made for the glory and seizure of Israel. So the film shows all Jews as untrustworthy and completely without empathy or goodness.
We see a foreign entity (The Jews) entering Wurttemburg after the ban is lifted by the devious Oppenheimer, we see a number of examples which show gambling and materialism, the herding of young German girls by Oppenheimer for the Duke's appetites, and the contrasts between Jewish rituals and German traditions.
They simply cannot be compared. Or so the film would have us believe.
We even get to see Oppenheimer and his lackey completely demolish half a house belonging to a blacksmith. Why? Because the house was in the way of the road which Oppenhimer was put in charge of maintaining. The blacksmith is later hanged for hitting the coach of Oppenheimer as he passes. It is a crazy addition to the story but it shows an example of Oppenheimer's malice and his cruel nature in the film.

Jud Süß is the epic propaganda piece, and box office hit of 1940 which was enjoyed by millions in Germany, Austria and Europe, but of course mostly for benign and anti-semitic reasons.
It is revisionism and the clever warping of history to help fuel and fire hatred towards an entire race of people.
There is a battle throughout the film between the soul of a country, the personal ambitions and cunning of Oppenheimer and a Duke seduced by his every word and promise.
Disregarding any political or doctrine attached, the story and film, are successfully executed. It would seem to me this would have been the definitive classic for the Germans, in the future days of the Reich, if they had been victorious in the War to show the evil of the Jews throughout history, in a mirrored way that Casablanca in 1942 tells the evil of the Nazis; It was an example classic for the Allies a few years later which is still renowned and celebrated by film lovers today. This was said to have offended many Germans at the time... In the same way this piece Jud Süß would offend any politically correct thinking individual, with its discrimination and Aryan values.
I would say on a fundamental set of levels; The racial implications of purity and alien forces threatening to pollute the land... The film offends or is appreciated depending upon personal morals, ideals or your chosen set of ethics. As the offensive pattern will be towards the effort that the makers and storytelling takes to paint a villainous picture of the Jewish race, in a very black and white way. The stereotypical simplicity of showing good and evil. So Jud Süß asks anyone watching those important questions: What is right or wrong? What is decent or indecent? Offensive or paramount? Your answers will revolve around your personal preferences and feelings towards the piece.

Jud Süß is an important work for viewing because it allows the viewer to grasp clever propaganda techniques via film-making and storytelling, to delve into the mind-set regarding the early 1940s era within Germany(Including other parts of Europe) and also to grasp the National Socialist stance towards their eternal enemy; The Jew. It is certainly an enthralling propaganda period piece with many subliminal questions and answers attached, with that affirmed imagery of defiance, drama, tragedy and death.

''I already see the milk and honey flowing for Israel. Should I not already cross the Jordan through the will of the Lord? Isn't that his will?''

''You're interpreting His words as it suits you.''

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Subjects Wanted!

Posted : 7 years, 4 months ago on 29 June 2011 07:21 (A review of The Experiment)

''The experiment succeeds or fails with you! If you don't do your job right... The experiment makes no sense and we can stop it right now.''

A makeshift prison is set up in a research lab, complete with cells, bars and surveillance cameras. For two weeks 20 male participants are hired to play prisoners and guards. The 'prisoners' are locked up and have to follow seemingly mild rules, and the 'guards' are told simply to retain order without using physical violence. Everybody is free to quit at any time, thereby forfeiting payment. In the beginning the mood between both groups is insecure and rather emphatic. But soon quarrels arise and the wardens employ ever more drastic sanctions to confirm their authority.

Moritz Bleibtreu: Tarek Fahd - Häftling Nr. 77 / Prisoner #77

Das Experiment is a 2001 German film based upon Mario Giordano's novel Black Box and a real life experiment which took place in 1971 at the infamous Stanford Prison.
Directed by the highly skilled Oliver Hirschbiegel (The man behind Der Untergang) we see a rather disturbing yet gripping psychological thriller come alive on the big screen.

So the story begins with Tarek Fahd(played wonderfully by Moritz Bleibtreu), a frustrated taxi-driver, contemplating participating in a bizarre test which was advertised in the paper. 4000 marks for a 14 day experiment involving a conditioned prison. Simple right? Not quite.
Without further ado, Tarek decides to become involved with the test and meets the other candidates while also meeting the doctors running the experiment.
Each man is divided into guards and prisoners. While the guards must maintain order at any cost without resorting to violence, the prisoners are given numbers and put in cells, in groups of three to each cell available. The guards call the prisoners not by names but by their designated number.
The experiment starts off without too much of a problem but things soon get complicated when the guards begin to panic about keeping control and abuse and humiliate all the inmates. Tarek, now called 77 is blamed for causing dissent amongst the prisoners... Circumstances begin to unravel fast as order soon becomes a chaotic mess. Survival and escape soon become priorities for those subjected to the cruelty of the guards.

Das Experiment is a thorough study of the human psyche, in every regard the film captures the disturbing things that even the most seemingly civilized human being is capable of doing when utterly convinced he is merely following the rules. He will do anything and everything, immoral or cruel, when able to justify and convince himself he is just following orders. Cleverly, it shows how primitive and tyrannical this thing we call humanity can be when pluming and exploring the depths of greed, anger and manipulation. The guards tend to do the things they do out of desperation, frustration and a determination to complete the project and be paid the 4000 marks regardless of what is right or wrong or moral. The only thing on their minds is that failure is unthinkable. This is why the experiment spirals out of control. Even the doctors become captured and hurt as the game takes a bizarre twist...
Tarek is put inside a confined black box, and the prisoners mouths are taped up, while one of the Wardens(The Elvis impersonator) is attempting to sexually abuse the red headed Dr Grimm. It is certainly one of those films which will have you glued to the screen for the entire duration because it is full of shocks and surprises. Whether it's the power struggle between Warden Berus(A powerful, crazed performance from Justus von Dohnányi) and Tarek/77, or the thrilling conclusion which will have your heart in your mouth, it has to be said Das Experiment is one of those films which makes audiences ponder and think about the moral implications and actions we take when put in groups. The moves we make, the stances we take and the pathological routes that we follow based on fundamentally irrational thoughts and emotions. It asks us to think about reason and rationality otherwise without these it warns, it could be our ultimate undoing. As we find out from the crazy proceedings we see here.

It must also be said that the music created by Alexander van Bubenheim heightens the tension and moods that the visuals provide, elevating the whole affair with electrifying bursts of immense excitement. Cinematography by Rainer Klausmann is top notch and a large amount of shots, segments and sequences heighten the feeling of claustrophobia, depression and terror. The film makes us feel as well as think which is important. Oliver Hirschbiegel conducts his cast and crew with poignancy and effectiveness which affirmly seals his place as a skilled director in my mind yet again.

Das Experiment comes highly recommended and without a doubt one that will leave you pondering even long after the film has finished. I found myself asking those alluring questions like how far would you or I go in a situation like that? What would we do differently? And more importantly if we made mistakes would we learn from them?

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The killing stroke in storytelling.

Posted : 7 years, 5 months ago on 22 June 2011 08:53 (A review of Harakiri)

''The suspicious mind conjures its own demons.''

17th Century Samurai story told through clever flashbacks and storytelling thus capturing a fiery tale of revenge, deception and malice.

Tatsuya Nakadai: Hanshiro Tsugumo

Director Masaki Kobayashi, whom also conjured the masterful horror Kwaidan and epic Samurai Rebellion has yet again created another film of note. He has captured a story so great and immense, in such a way, that can only be described as simply mind-blowing. The piece in the lime light is Harakiri or Seppuku.
An effort and work that deserves praise and then yet even more. For 1962 the whole affair has a timeless feel and quality which easily surpasses and rivals any film maker in the present.

The story consists of being told through a multitude of flashbacks and clever narration. Harakiri is essentially a story within a story.
So in 17th Century Japan, we find the wars are over, it is a peaceful time where Samurai are finding it hard to attain work and funding. Many Samurai are succumbing to poverty and a grim fate. The only honourable alternative for some, is to commit harakiri or seppuku (Ritual suicide although Seppuku is death by disembowelment of the intestines) in certain feudal houses.
We the audience are shown elder warrior, Hanshiro Tsugumo, played magnificently by legendary favourite Tatsuya Nakadai, Hanshiro visits a Feudal Lord's house and asks to commit the act of seppuku.
There at the abode, he learns the fate regarding his son-in-law, a young samurai who had previously sought work at the house but was instead barbarically forced to commit traditional harakiri in an excruciating manner with a dull, blunt bamboo blade.
In flashbacks the samurai tells the tragic story of his son-in-law, and how he was forced to sell his real sword to support his sick wife and child.
Hanshiro Tsugumo thus sets in motion a tense showdown of revenge against the house...

''Swordsmanship untested in battle is like the art of swimming mastered on land.''

Harakiri profoundly entices audiences with expertly executed cinematography, close up shots, authentic costumes and locations, and expertly synchronized sounds, effects and music which compliment the frantic action played upon the contrasts that are the ambient scenes of tragedy and decaying struggle.
Masaki Kobayashi professionally lays a masterpiece at our feet that dazzles and dances before our eyes, that has the characters which make us angry or sad and that play upon our emotions by their consecutive acts.
Whether he shows us Hanshiro battling upon a windy plain with long grass, displayed with cinematography which holds no faults but stands as a beacon to the greatest art and beauty within the medium of film.
Whether he shows the tragic demise of Hanshiro's brother in law and he makes us feel his pain, and makes us feel fury and then sadness for the tragedy and death befalling the family.
The exchange of blades between our hero Hanshiro against many opponents is breath taking to behold and we cheer for him, we follow his movements in precise detail, just like we had followed his story being told throughout the film.
Kobayashi plays upon the audience with every slippery trick and spidery tendril at his disposal.
It all successfully solidifies, both, equaling an affirmed vengeance story laced with those old Greek tragedies from long ago, and also dually captures an age old problem which is poverty. Questions directed at tradition and lack of wealth in times of desperation for warriors with no purpose for their skills. Questions about honour and tradition, about respect and humility: A study which touches upon cruelty, about suspicion and doubt, and how plans can backfire when faced with unforeseen consequences.

Harakiri shows us a modern masterpiece from Japanese cinema which captures 17th Century Japan from the very pages of history. It has the revenge story and Samurai film with an alternative twisting and mutation towards the warped code of honour and then towards lies and secrecy. The samurai are shown to what lengths a feudal house will go to cover up its haunting mistakes, using a shroud of lies and deception to conceal the truth.

Some aspects of life require bravery and strength, while also holding a sense of honour and conduct higher than anything else. Harakiri or Seppuku shows the strength and bravery of one man fighting against many foes in the pursuit of truth and redemption for a lost loved one.

''What befalls others today, may be your own fate tomorrow.''

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The Empire of Crime...

Posted : 7 years, 5 months ago on 16 June 2011 03:53 (A review of The Testament of Dr. Mabuse)

''When chaos has become supreme law, then the time will have come for the empire of crime.''

Berlin police inspector Lohmann investigates a case, in which all clues lead to a man, who's in a hospital for mental illnesses, for many years - Dr. Mabuse.

Rudolf Klein-Rogge: Dr. Mabuse

Fritz Lang's The Testament of Dr Mabuse was released in 1933 from Germany. It is certainly a psychological thriller laced with mystery, suspense and murder. The heart of the story revolves around the enigmatic Dr Mabuse whom is very much seemingly behind the case which Lohmann, played by Otto Wernicke, is investigating. When a call from Hofmeister comes through, things begin to become even more complicated...

The case being investigated involves a secret group of ruffians carrying out orders from an unknown boss whom gives orders in a room while shrouded unseen behind an ominous curtain.
The men carry out the orders without hesitation, whether it is robbery or murder, threatened that if they fail to follow orders death is imminent.
While all this is taking place Thomas Kent reluctantly joins the group, after having a hard time finding work, as seen in a flashback scene which shows Kent unemployed and mightily disgruntled in a hall for finding citizens jobs.
This scene certainly reflects the desperation and turmoil of the time which had seen the shadow the Great Depression.
Cleverly, The Testament of Dr mabuse isn't just a mystery psychological thriller, it is a love story.
Kent meets Juwelen-Anna while down on his luck and looking for work, and confides in her as he becomes reluctant to go along with the others who engage in heinous activities for money and greed.
We have a murder of Dr Braum, the insane asylum run by Dr. Kramm who is shown having visions of the ghostly Dr Mabuse, and then we have the criminal group which are all connected by a secret of duality and strange intellect.

Fritz Lang successfully captures the madness and desperation of the struggle in the 1920s and 30s, Germany and Europe, it shows everything with graceful cinematography, lightning precise effects, brutally effective sounds and sparkling clarity.
Fritz Lang shows quite precisely the capabilities of what people will do when faced with the blunt choice between destruction and survival. Crime being the only possible, desperate alternative for a society with no work, no money and no value.

The Testament of Dr Mabuse is in fact a dark, bleak picture painted with the colours of extermination and the destructive traits of bitterness, of madness and the glowing effigy that is terror beckoning horror.
As commissioner Lohmann rallies towards the truth, we the audience are with him all the way. Rays of light and hope shine towards justice and compassion through the victory of finding an end and conclusion to the impending chaos.

Fritz Lang manages to give us an appetizing show case from a monstrous eyed ghostly apparition that is Dr Mabuse, to mysterious shadows and mechanical trickery.
Whether it is the cleverly executed cinematography behind a murder taking place in an immense traffic jam, with loud beeping and glaring from cars to disguise a gun shot, to the frantic flooding of Kent and his love in a trapped room The Testament of Dr Mabuse has it's moments. And what moments they are. This is Fritz Lang's diamond in the rough and while it may not be in the same league as Metropolis or M it certainly shines with its own unique, unblemished dark style and an intriguing roller coaster of action, and one of puzzling mystery.

''Mabuse the criminal? Mabuse the genius. His intellectual legacy would have turned your world, with its police protection, on its head!''

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This is your moment...

Posted : 7 years, 10 months ago on 24 January 2011 11:20 (A review of Black Swan)

''We all know the story. Virginal girl, pure and sweet, trapped in the body of a swan. She desires freedom but only true love can break the spell. Her wish is nearly granted in the form of a prince, but before he can declare his love her lustful twin, the black swan, tricks and seduces him. Devastated the white swan leaps off a cliff killing herself and, in death, finds freedom.''

A ballet dancer wins the lead in "Swan Lake" and is perfect for the role of the delicate White Swan - Princess Odette - but slowly loses her mind as she becomes more and more like Odile the Black Swan, daughter of an evil magician.

Natalie Portman: Nina Sayers

If you know Darren Aronofsky, if you understand his previous work and his way of doing things Black Swan will certainly be easy to work out. But even so, perfection is something hard to place in our reality, and Black Swan is exactly that. Hard to place,but nonetheless, an unrivalled masterpiece, nothing less. It was everything I expected and in some ways even more. The fact he has chosen Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake also has a special, personal significance due to it being one of my favourites. Darren is one of those like-minded individuals whom I can relate to in many ways.

Obviously Black Swan is eclipsed not just by the beautiful Soundtrack by Clint Mansell, and songs from Tchaikovsky, not only by the majestic cinematography, and costumes...The terrifying, transformation, acting from Natalie Portman. This is without a doubt her best performance to ever be captured upon the screen, and I can guarantee that she will win an Oscar. Affirmed and resolute, I felt this adamant even before seeing the film; That is how honed in I was regarding my instincts via clips alone.
Mila Kunis, Vincent Cassel,Barbara Hershey and a very dark Winona Ryder also give solid acting, gripping performances which are believable and poignant...But they sometimes feel as if they are just there for Portman to interact with. This is certainly not a negative factor, quite the opposite in fact.

Black Swan perhaps draws its strengths from the usage of close up camera angles, from shots that follow the character from behind, as seen in his previous works. Requiem for a Dream and The Wrestler are sometimes brought back to memory when we see a close up of a grapefruit, or we have a gripping finale which takes ones breath away. It is simply a magician at work, it is among the reasons why film-making is an art-form and means of expressing the very soul which resides in our very being.
Not since Pi or The Fountain has Darren harnessed that spiritual energy into something primordial, something dark, and Black Swan is the next piece to his master jigsaw puzzle. He is a master at work like a great renaissance painter, and as usual, the work speaks for itself, with elegance and purpose.

This is certainly, without a doubt, one of the best films to be released this year, and already should be considered among the best for this emerging new decade. It is surreal, erotic, seductive, destructive...Perfection. Ordered chaos, and Natalie Portman has given a spark and energy to the very fabric of performance and metamorphosis.
Black Swan is in essence, the perfect Swan Lake...And we will never see a performance like that again, the point is this; Perfection exists. But it only exists in that moment. The moment being the beautiful end.

''Because everything Beth does comes from within. From some dark impulse. I guess that's what makes her so thrilling to watch. So dangerous. Even perfect at times, but also so damn destructive.''

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