Sunday, 30 April 2017

The Wicker Man (1973)

Fig 1: Poster
Robin Hardy's The Wicker Man (1973) is a thriller, horror, mystery and crime film. It was based on  David Pinner's novel Ritual. The movie tells a story about Neil Howie a police sergeant, as he sets off to the remote coast of Scotland to investigate a case of a 12 years old girl who went missing, after he received a letter addressed to specifically to him. The place he goes to is owned by Lord Summerisle, known for their crops and fruits. After lots of very strange events, Howie realises that the locals are pagans and practising old rituals, which leads to him figuring out that the young girl is still alive and is held to be sacrificed for successful growth of crops and fruits for next year. However, everything takes a tragic turn when he ends up being the sacrifice, as the whole missing girl case was only a set-up for luring him to this horrible and lunatic place.
Fig 2: The devastating end scene
The movie is claimed to be one of the best British horror film and is classified as horror, however it is better described as only a folk horror, as it lack what a typical horror is described as. Said by Anne Billson in a article "The Wicker Man is influential not just on subsequent horror cinema, but on the thriller genre in general in the way it sets an artfully composed series of traps for its unwitting protagonist, expertly wrong-footing both him and the audience until the devastating ending..." (Billson, 2010) If the audience is looking for gore and monsters, this movie is not the one, but the ending of the film is a perfect fit the category, paired with some creepy scenes and the animal costumes.
Fig 3: Strange and unsettling costumes
The release of the film was very troublesome, as the director was told to cut lots off of the footage, and the original cut was considered to be lost, however later on it has been found (quite damaged) and after restoring what still could be saved, the film we see today (said by the director) is the closes to the original. Sometimes it is noticeable where the film was damaged and repaired by the quality and cuts, but the events on the screen take the audience's attention away from the little flaws in the footage.

The movie displays two main religion that could be considered as very opposing religions. The main protagonist is a faithful Christian, while all of the locals are pagans. Said by Steven D. Greydanus "Is The Wicker Man anti-Christian? Anti-pagan? Anti-religion? Where are its sympathies? Does it have any?...The two worldviews stand face to face, both unmasked, and in the end nothing is resolved." (Greydanus, s.d.) Throughout the film the audience is presented with a quite detailed exploration of pagan beliefs, while showing strong contrast as Howie keeps true to his Christian beliefs and often preaches about it. At the last scene the differences finally meet and that is the part that makes the whole film questionable if it is against Christianity, claiming that there is no God or God has failed and is dead, while Howie pray and keeps strong; or it tries to show Paganism in a negative light, as they do lots of strange and creepy things throughout the whole film and they happily dance and sing while the sacrifice screams and burns to death. But in the end it is left to the audience which part they are taking and what they read into it.
Fig 4: Howie placing a Christian cross in the unused church
The film had a troublesome past, and was not very recognised until after it has been repaired from the damages. The general opinion about the film is highly positive and is often said to be one of the greatest British horror film, with high ratings from various websites or magazines; finding negative opinion of the movie is quite a challenge. However, those who did not find enjoyment in the film, often criticise the plot, message, pace and the incorrect categorising of 'horror and mystery'. As said by a review on IMDb "If this film deserves any credit at all, it's for an underlying metaphor that puts the viewer in the very same emotional state as the main character." Agreeing with this statement, the movie does quite actively achieves to put the audience in the shoe of the main character, building up frustration and confusion, as the hints and clues of the missing girl points to another direction, but it has an incredibly slow pace and questionable, unnecessary or disturbing scenes and elements. Another review states "This is definitely one of the worst movies I have ever seen. At the ending, I was very confused as to what I should take away from it. That Christians are pure and above reproach and pagans are evil? Is there even an underlying theme to this movie? If so, it was completely lost on me having to sit through all its incredibly dull scenes." Overall, most people have greatly enjoyed the film, and there is no doubt, that in some ways it can be viewed as creative horror film with a message that can be controversial, but it is just simply not for everyone.


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Tuesday, 4 April 2017

E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

Fig 1: Poster
Steven Spielberg's ET. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982) is a adventure, drama, sci-fi and family movie. The film tells a story about a gentle and shy alien accidentally being left behind on Earth. He is found by a ten year old boy named Elliot and after a while they start to communicate and become friends. Elliot takes the alien in, naming him E.T. and keeps him hidden from adults with the help of his older brother and younger sister. E.T seems to learn fast and short after starting to talk, he asks Elliot to help him 'phone' home. They both get sick and the government discovered the alien hidden in the home, completely taking over the house. With the help of some friend Elliot and E.T. both escape and as the spaceship returns to Earth the two friends say their last, tearful goodbye.
Fig 2: Elliot and E.T.
This movie is considered to be a family movie, mostly aimed for children and younger people, but it is similarly enjoyed by adults, as the whole film is filled with joyful and cute scenes. As said by Robert Ebert "It is filled with innocence, hope, and good cheer...It tells a story about friendship and love...It works as science fiction, it's sometimes as scary as a monster movie, and at the end, when the lights go up, there's not a dry eye in the house." (Ebert, 2002) The film is heavily shot and portrayed by a child's perspective (as often seen by the height of the camera, which appears to be at the level of a younger child) and most adults are only shown in a threatening way; hardly any faces shown, but rather adults are only seen from the waist down. This perspective helps reflecting the curious and innocent nature of young kids and overall the film has a very heartwarming tone. E.T.'s childish behaviour and Elliot's enthusiasm to help the friendly creature instantly make their friendship look way more adorable and makes the final scene that more of a heartbreak. Some moments make us feel happy and adore characters, others make us desperate to be able to help them. Overall the whole film has a wondrous an innocent feel, with lovable characters and a ending that make the audience both sad with tears and happy at the same time.
Fig 3: E.T. and Elliot saying goodbye
The film's alien E.T. was not the product of CGI, but was a puppet, which meant that the whole presence of the creature would feel more real, however unmistakably just a puppet. Sometimes it might be very obvious that the puppet is moved by a machine and not be a person judging by the rigid movements. However, the lack of smooth movements and the clear knowledge that it is only a puppet does not change the fact that E.T. is still very lovable. Stated in a article "...the creators of E.T. strived to design their alien to be as empathetic as possible. With empathy comes believability, the line between suspension of disbelief and outright audience immersion blurred as an artificial creation is transformed into a realistic on-screen personality even if, on a conscious level, the viewer knows the creature is simply a visual effect." (s.n., 2010) The creators were able to sell the character/puppet to the audience with a cute and innocent personality. As the audience is presented with the curious and friendly little creature, they are able to ignore the knowledge of it not being real, and the see the movie 'believing' that it is a real alien.
Fig 4: E.T.
This movie is also praised for its music and soundtracks, which were written by John Williams. As said in an article "John Williams’ score is also significant here, as it is throughout the film, building from a sombre sketch of the film’s fantasy theme played as a flute solo evoking a sense of wondrous alienation before the sound of a harp invites the other sections of the orchestra to subtly enter the soundtrack just as the orb-like alien spaceship is shown on the forest ground." (s.n., 2010) The music is not only there to fill some quiet moments, but it communicates actions and events and successfully sets up the atmosphere the director wanted the audience to feel. When the actions are calm and the focus is wanted on a specific character or event, the music softens down, however when the scene is heavy with action and the aim is to get the audience at the edge of their seats, the music picks up, with more instruments, louder volume and quicker pace.


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Monday, 3 April 2017

Close Encounter of the Third Kind (1977)

Fig 1: Poster.
Steven Spielberg's Close Encounter of the Third Kind (1977) is a Sci-fi, drama, adventure movie. The film tells a story about a Roy Neary, who has a close encounter, as he witnesses a UFO spaceship flying through the sky. Following, he has visions of the same mountain, but being unfamiliar tho what it is, where it is and why is he seeing it. He becomes obsessed with it, which causes damages in his marriage and family life, however he does not give up. Meanwhile, the government discovered some military planes that went missing and they start to search the clues and create a cover-up in order to safety communicate with the aliens. Roy, other witnesses and the government follow the clues till the end where they finally contact the UFOs. Roy becomes one of them and leaves the surface of the Earth in the spaceship.
Fig 2: The Mother Ship.

Spielberg's next film after Jaws was Close Encounter of the Third Kind, which was released at the same time as Star Wars, which meant the expectations from the audience were high and the competition between the two was strong. However, it was a success, as it showed the viewers something they were not used to, especially if we consider the sci-fi genre and UFO topic. As Ian Nathan states in an article "Here, in the film that forever sealed Spielberg's reputation as one of cinema's great directors, dwells something else entirely: a sense of wonder, that the unknown can reveal joy, and — akin to the overarching hope of Schindler' List — that humanity may actually have a chance of succeeding." (Nathan, 2000) What audiences were introduced very often was monster/alien vs. human, films usually shows war between species, how dangerous and murderous aliens are, that if human gets into contact with the creatures that will not end well for the person. However, Spielberg approaches UFO topic from another angle, he rather shows wonder, that aliens are not trying to kill human kind and a possibility of what could be out there, as Robert Ebert says "I thought the original film was an astonishing achievement, capturing the feeling of awe and wonder we have when considering the likelihood of life beyond the Earth." (Ebert, s.d.)
Fig 3: Roy joining the aliens.

This film leaves the audience in awe instead of fear. We do not know why the aliens are on Earth and what they want, however as the movie is nearing the end, and the humans and Mother Ship communicate through music and light, and the tiny aliens exit the spaceship, we are presented with the idea that there is no need to fear them. From the moment Roy finally realises what is happening, his face clearly displays joy and brings a sense of childishness. "As with most Spielberg films, the message is powerfully and anti-cynical. Innocence and optimism prevail — the aliens are angelic, childlike, non-threatening. And it is the innocence, Neary's inner child, that the alien beings finally choose...This is a film without bad guys, the drama constructed out of yearning and mystery not peril." (Nathan, 2000) There are no villains in the film, even as it would be expected that the aliens are evil. At first the scientists and government might seem like they will be the bad guys, but at the end they turned out to be just as confused and curious as Roy.
Fig 4: French scientist.

It is said that this film was a very personal of Spielberg, but later on he confirmed that he would change the ending (after he had his own family). As we see, there are multiple times where Roy's wife and children are troubling and quite annoying. At the end of the movie, Roy freely leaves Earth, which also means his leaving his family behind without any care. The director's worry about family is clear, based on the fact of how the married couple behaves, how the children are uncontrollable and how easily Roy leaves them.As said in an article "It is the first Spielberg film to truly encompass his preoccupations: children, family, suburbia, and the emotionally abandoned." (Nathan, 2000)
Fig 5: Roy, his wife and one of his children.


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Life Drawing #22