Yorgos Lanthimos’s exceptional and piercing attention to detail gives his film, The Favourite a rare quality. It’s upsetting but in a graspable and interesting way. It’s riveting but without the typical character arcs that makes a drama and comedy film entertaining. I want to dissect each aspect of the film to illustrate its beauty and charm. The air around Queen Anne, Lady Sarah, and Abigail is purposefully cold as Yorgos isolates each self from the other and from its own being. The costumes, music, and camera-work exist to elevate this tense and dense atmosphere.
Off the story goes, drumming a savage, naïve, and sometimes repulsive rhythm and you, the unfortunate witness, can’t not take your eyes away from it. The use of wide lens is a sensational approach to conveying a twisted attachment between the characters. But it’s versatile in the way it is shot. You see a close-up which is soon followed by an immediate and cutting wide-angle shot. So it’s crisp and keeps you on your toes throughout. Perhaps this is what keeps the actors on their edge too.
The film, overall, is a tough nut to crack. But it remains one of the greatest triumphs of cinema. With striking resemblance of its time, its world is suffused in such contemptible and realistic colors, so crucial and transformative that, no doubt, you won’t be able deny its realness and intimacy. The film keeps you in a continuous state of anticipation and concern. And the compelling and detached humor is generous and forbids you to make your own personal assumptions. If I am pressed to say one more thing about this film, I’d say that it exists to shock you into complete visual paralysis so that in every scene, before the next, you’re waiting for something to go terribly wrong. And that the acts of defiance in the film always surpass each other in their intensity and vigor.
Choreographing movement is everything. If you’ve seen most of Kubrick’s films, you’ll understand the emphasis on diagramming – actors, objects, and the spaces in between. It’s a strong reason to want to watch a film. Especially if it’s a film as messy, sadistic, and verbally vague like A Clockwork Orange. Based on Anthony Burgess’s book, the film started off as being a dystopian horror but soon transformed itself into a glorified drama.
The film’s motive is simple. It is to present to you the life of people without the immediate effects of law and order. And by those virtues, it portrays distasteful and offensive acts that the world (perhaps inevitably?) would carry forward. The story is about Alex, a hedonistic, sadistic, and young man, who spends his nights listening to Beethoven’s 9th, and his days frolicking. He’s violent, a rapist, and a sex addict. If you’re wondering if there’s any hidden philosophical purpose to the story, there isn’t. But that’s not to say there isn’t a psychological one.
Stanley Kubrick composed the film’s frames imagining how one would a contradictory and conflicted world. He dehumanized Alex to the point of insanity. It’s focused – it’s not clear why Alex is but his existence is seen and purported as an object. The scene where they’re all walking in a tight circle in prison externalizes this aspect. It compresses their crime as striking not a moral nerve but only a bureaucratic one. One that serves a society; someone we raise to the stand to desensitize and terrorize the masses.
The film has no telling, instrumental moment. It’s harsh and radical. That some things never change. That’s the moral of the story. Only Stanley Kubrick presents it in a way that it is bound to confuse you. With the help of religion and psychiatry, the film is long and psychopathic. You’re not supposed to feel something for Alex – even though it’s his life you plunge into all throughout the film. And for me, that’s a tough thing to achieve. To present a character for the length of 140 minutes and not give away any emotion to the audience (that is you) to take home or sit with.
The intricate relevancy of Her in all its brooding loneliness asks us to modify our perception and our yearning for intimacy. When Jean Paul-Sartre wrote, “Nothingness lies coiled in the heart of being – like a worm.” It’s true that to exist, which in the times of Her, could be intuited as a nauseating act, humans would feel, live, and be as trapped in the maze of technology as can be.
The unending reassurances of love to emerge out of nothingness. Although there are hardly any empty spaces in the world of Her – people are swarming everywhere – but then you see Theodore’s and Amy’s empty home. This, to me, symbolizes the distance between any two people. Is it a possibility to love and live through a system that is perhaps more equipped at handling heartbreak or disappointment or misery better than you?
The operating system that names itself Samantha reflects the ambiguousness of our own christening. Samantha possesses a consciousness so it evolves at every stage. It feels love, jealousy, indifference, nostalgia, and yearning. Tell me, how is it any different than the essence of being human?
In the film, Samantha says she can understand how limited perspective can look to the non-artificial mind. It made me think of the why and how of the possibility of a non-human mind. And in all its ability to process information, to perceive, to relate, to feel emotion, can there be the same humanness of a self that transcends nothingness and yet is so acutely defined by it? Is it the same proof of life that completes a human being from birth to death that would define a computer?
The use of red, which in other films like Enter the Void or We Need To Talk About Kevin, harbored a frustrated and pessimistic unease, in this film, felt sympathetic and positive. The film urges you to understand an acute relation between things. The relationship between people, objects, places, memories, and words. They exist in a disquieting and foreseeable realm. Within reach but still out of one’s complete and solitary possession.
Shot in cut-throat black-and-white, it’s hard to shut your eyes to Ronny Sen’s inviting, bold, and definitive film about addiction. Capturing the solemn streets of Calcutta where time seems out of focus against the stinging effects of the night that inhabits it. Cat Sticks follows a structure that is not limited to the dark and abandoned alleys. It extends out to the lives of the people wandering these very lanes. All of which strikes a solid and memorable emotion. Somehow, the cinematography portrays the streets of Calcutta as more familiar and beguiling than one’s own home. .
The film is not artistic in that it doesn’t exalt the world it creates. It is merely there to reflect it. Strip away the red herring and show what’s real. From the start of the film, you feel the humor and detachment in your bones; you quickly identify with the darkness, cutting shadows, and heaviness of the silence. Which forms the recesses of how you experience the film.
Out of many, there is that one scene that portrays the striking fluidity of human life, its nakedness, and fragility. Then there is one that portrays the ridiculousness of human life, its humor, and impassivity. Once you watch the film, you understand which is which. And if you don’t, well, you’re meant to watch it again.
Don’t we all, in our inner minds, look at things strangely? That when you really minimize the noise, the pointless chatter, and get straight to the point, human life and living is absurd. This is how I saw The Grand Budapest Hotel. Wes Anderson’s characteristic and dark and funny film.
There’s humor in silence, in eye contact, in the little details that are just as striking as the actors themselves. The way this film is shot is very geometrically-centered so that the film gives off a naïve and trimmed impression. However, as the story progresses, you understand why, aside from Wes Anderson’s style of filmmaking and thematic structures, the frame is so crisp and pleasant to view. It’s because the lives within those walls are quite puzzling and unkempt.
The film’s versatility is hard to miss. It’s here that you feel the word ‘film’ as more of a verb than a noun. It’s an ongoing process that sparks a creative nerve in you. You want to understand those colors that stand out so magnificently in everything. The cinematography, set design, and dialogue offers continuous engagement. There’s no way you’re withdrawing from it. Take your eyes away for a second and you feel you’ve missed out on the world.
What the film is about is a paradox. It wrestles with everything that is not that different from our own lives. The angels and devils in our story are just well epitomized in Wes Anderson’s. In other words, what he does is give it a comical and profound exterior. With fascinating characters, a dreary motif, and above all, the transformed ordinariness of each and every element – the perfume bottle, the cake boxes, the birthmark, the fake mustache, the concierge’s desk – the film seeps into everything. Every frame is a photographic masterpiece. How else would you expect to experience a Wes Anderson film?