Month: September 2012

Another Earth (2011): One of those Sci-Fi’s that ain’t quite a sci-fi?

Another Earth (2011) is described as a science fiction/drama, directed by Mike Cahill.

Rhoda (played by Brit Marling who also co-wrote the film), a young astro-physicist wannabe, is about to embark on her college journey at MIT.  She dreams of the stars.  After celebrating with friends and drinking, she drives home slightly intoxicated.  There is a newsflash on the radio : an earth-like planet has appeared in the sky – she looks out the window whilst driving to gaze up at this other planet earth, and before you know it , bang – crashes into another car, killing two of its three passengers – father/husband John (William Mapother) survives.
We next meet Rhoda when she is released from her four year jail term (imprisoned for manslaughter).  She is a woman now living on the edge – having caused the death of two, and destroying John’s life, she feels utter remorse.  Instead of going back to pursue her college dreams the only job she can bring herself to perform to pass the days is as a cleaner – wearing the kind of attire which reflects her desolate mood.

ugly clothes

Several theories about ‘Earth 2’ begin to arise as the plot unfolds: startlingly, that this second Earth is a mirror image of Earth, with beings who are leading their lives in parallel to those here at home.  Rhoda clings to this hope – perhaps her mirror image did not commit this life altering accident of a crime – she enters a competition to travel over to the planet.

Rhoda’s appearance is deliberately played down (- this is a low-budget indie film after all), you can see that she is a beautiful woman – considerate and intelligent – and desperately want to see her pulled out of this miserable mess, and get back on the path to following some part of her dream.  You want her to make amends with John, whose family she had destroyed.

There are some insightful voice-over monologues in the film: reflecting on space exploration – exploration of the unknown and the curiosity we would all have about confronting a mirror version of ourselves.

I think this film had a great story – that wasn’t quite fully realised to the extent that it could have been.  The ‘small’ elements of science fiction driving the plot mainly drove the drama played out by Rhoda and John which seemed to be the focus of the film.

That being said – I wish there were more films being made like this one!

 

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The Skin I Live In (2011)

Shocking. Disgusting? Compelling. Humourous?

These are just some of the words you might use to describe The Skin I Live In, directed by Pedro Aldmovar.

The skin i live in

The film is centres around Robert Ledgard (played by Antonio Banderas), a plastic surgeon (with an in-home private practice), who is developing new methods for growing and attaching artificial skin to patients who have suffered severe burns, or who require face transplants.

We first get the hint that Ledgard has been un-ethically experimenting with his ideas on humans when we encounter Vera, dressed in a full skin coloured body suit, designed to encourage secure attachment of new skin to the body of burn victims.  Her skin is surprisingly smooth, yet extremely tough (like pig skin – Ledgar uses pig DNA to create artificial skin).

We soon find out that something is all very wrong with this situation.  Without giving away too much, we learn about the tragedies that have befallen Ledgard regarding the death of his wife and daughter.

Then an act of revenge takes place, the full extent of which unfolds in a compellingly unusual way.  The perpetrator and the sufferer seem to be confused in their roles.

If you’ve read or seen film versions of  Wuthering Heights or The Count of Monte Cristo, (where epic acts of revenge take result after years of careful planning and execution) you’ll think Robert Ledgard puts Heathcliff and Edmond Dantes to shame!

Love, and having it viciously taken away from us, can lead us to do crazy things.  What Ledgard does is pure madness!

I highly recommend seeing this film.  The pace of the plot is perfectly timed with the unravelling of the twists and turns that unfold.  You need not fear gore (a la The Human Centipede).  You can expect to laugh.  You will be shocked, but also compelled to see what happens in the end.  A very unusual, but good film.

Review: The Elephant Man (1980)

‘The Elephant Man’ is a biopic of the life of John Merrick (played by John Hurt), who had severe facial (and other) deformities due to the disease Elephentiasis.  Filmed in black and white, we first encounter Merrick as the Elephant Man on display at a freak show in Victorian era London.

Regarded as an imbecile, Dr Treves (played by a young Anthony Hopkins) encounters Merrick at the freak show and pays a sum to Merrick’s brutal keeper to examine him at a London Hospital.

Treated initially as an imbecile, Merrick has the chance to prove otherwise to Dr. Treves by reciting Psalm 23 by heart.  Initially we don’t know either way, whether  Merrick can speak at all, and feel sheer sympathy to the brutality and judgement that he has suffered up to this moment of triumph.

Merrick is granted permission to stay in the hospital in comfortable accomodation and is met by a flurry of people interested in the fact that this ‘freak’ is a man of culture and intelligence underneath.

Dr. Treves, at first excited by the fact that ‘discovering’ Merrick marks an important step forward in his career,  soon realises the erroneousness even of his own treatment of Merrick: that placing him in the hospital with advertisement to the public, is pretty much just another freak show for Merrick.

The film boats no ostentation in its presentation and almost feels a bit ‘B-grade’ .  However, in its simplicity of directly telling the story, it really implores  us not to judge a book by its cover.

Being shot in black and white, the few moments of elation conveyed by Merrick are well contrasted by an overall feeling of deep sadness.

Overall, a beautiful story and movie.