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.
A bold and cruel movie, Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight comes off as unhinged and even provocative. Quentin makes a conscious effort to show it just as it’s named: hateful. Though the violence and graphic display of blood and brains seemed a little over-the-top, the movie does comprise of a few noteworthy scenes.
It’s slow-paced, at first, and sort of ambiguous in its expression. But it does quicken once you get to know the characters and their temperament. It’s the kind of film that will keep your eyes glued to the screen. Not because of Tarantino as a filmmaker, but the characters themselves compel you to anticipate a disastrous and defining ending.
The dialogue and the screen time that each character shares. The way the camera captures every facial twitch just in time to build suspense. All your anticipations about the film evaporate through nasty provocations and oftentimes unpleasant slurs. You know it’s about to come to an end but you’ve got to know how.
The cinematography, though confined to a cramped cabin, is stimulating. The film reads like a book with talks about the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln’s letter, and Maj. Marquis Warren’s savageness. Tarantino leaves nothing to guesswork. It’s a story about how a group of men use words under the same light as artillery, in order to kill and be killed.
By refusing to follow through in a chronological format, Gaspar Noe’s Irreversible deflects one’s perspective on violence, sex, and crime in films. The film is frank, explicit, and ironically, reversible in every sense. It has structure, definition, and motive in both ways. Though watching it irreversibly, or as it is, is undoubtedly more cerebral.
The film places plenty of emphasis on expression. Expression by sound, light, and the spaces in between. It’s fast-paced, all-pervading, and unwatchable. Never have I seen such a repulsive film with such strong a message; that violence, when seen through the lens of revenge, is ugly and non-censored.
And the crime, which is one of the most disturbing scenes of the film, manifests as physical pain, unflinchingly felt, through spasms and bouts of shock, disgust, and anger. You’re cornered to a point of no return where what is at stake is how much you can endure and if you do watch every second of the film, there’s no way to recover from what you’ve just seen.
Irreversible recoils in time. It possesses extremity in sight, sound, and rhythm. It lacks the blurriness that we’re generally conditioned to in films and so the cinematography really puts one in an uncomfortable spot. It argues what reality can be when denied of its televised and printed privilege. That one can’t exploit crime when it’s right in front of you. So what if a film makes it moral – without allowing you to shut your eyes.
The scope of Ari Aster’s Hereditary is much deeper and coarser than what you might assume within the horror genre. The film evokes an emotional and psychological reaction; destroying the cliched setting of a scary film.
The process of grieving is a stagnant and remote one. And it brings feelings of isolation as much as the destruction of self. What this film does is it creates an atmosphere in which it is impossible for the characters to relate to one another. They grieve but secluded, confined, and forsaken. And so the film is inspired in the way it is executed.
The most gratifying aspect of the film lies in its cinematography. It does more than capture the essence of the characters; it escalates their every movement. And as the movie gains momentum, the weight of every scene is chilling to the bone. You don’t know what’s going to happen next until it does and you’re so completely shaken by it.
I’ve had unsettling thoughts about the film when I first saw it. But now, after having watched it again, I did not resist its disturbing and disquieting personality. It does tackle the traditional family tragedy in a consistently horrifying and complicated way. Which is central to its appeal: that it’s not cut out of the ordinary jump-scare tactics. To watch it is to drift into the most unexpected corners of terror that are hard to shake off.