Thursday, 23 December 2010

The Tenant

Fig 1

The Tenant is a 1976 mystery and the third in a trilogy of horrors following schizophrenic tenants as portrayed in Repulsion and demonic landlords as in Rosemary's Baby. Directed by and starring Roman Polanski as Trelkovsky, a young Polish French resident who rents a small apartment in Paris. Knowing that the previous tenant Simone (Dominique Poulange) committed suicide by jumping out of the apartment's window, Trelkovsky, although eager for the apartment, feels the guilt of occupying Simone's home without knowing whether she will be returning. He visits her in hospital bluffing his way onto her ward by pretending to be a friend, only to meet Simone's best friend Stella (Isabelle Adjan), who is in distress when Simone does not recognise her. However, when Simone sees Trelkovsky she lets loose a tremendous scream. Stella and Trelkovsky build up a friendship, but Stella is unaware that he is now living in Simone's apartment and is there only to secure his tenancy. The story does not venture beyond Stella and Trelkovsky's friendship and seems to relapse into focusing on Trelkovsky's occupation in his new home. Surrounded by elderly couples including the landlord, the tenants within this apartment block lay down certain standards to which everyone must adhere, but particularly in the case of Trelkovsky, who is ordered by the landlord to have no women or noise in his apartment. He complies, but is unaware of the repercussions if he breaks these rules. Polanski uses the turmoil between Trelkovsky and his neighbours to conjure up two different endings from this seemingly simple, but convoluted plot. The direction is not hard to follow - man wants apartment of suicide victim, but cannot have it until victim has died, so checks up on victim in hospital to secure his new tenancy while becoming acquainted with victim’s friend in the process.

Fig 2

Tim Brayton highlights the essence of the film: "A plot recap hardly captures the essence of The Tenant, however: it is a film of mood and emotion, not of story - which is, at any rate, extremely difficult to grasp" (Brayton, 2007). This is true, you could go back and watch this film over and over again and all you will realise is how curiously simple the film is in its direction and production. The real essence of the film lies in Trelkovsky's fragile and complex mind which binds the narrative and story together allowing Polanski to create a double climax to his mystery. Trelkovsky could be losing all grip on reality like Carole in Repulsion, or he could be haunted by the Landlord and other tenants as in Rosemary's Baby. These scenarios could be both, truly engaging the audience with a new form of the sinister.

Trelkovsky's problems begins when he goes to Simone's funeral which is attended also by the other tenants; most noticeably an elderly tenant and daughter who stare with piercing eyes directly at him as if they knew the deceitful extent to which he had gone to get his new apartment. While the pastor reads from the Bible Trelkovsky begins to feel more and more nauseous, as the camera pans back and forth between the statue of Christ on the cross and the other artefacts in the church, while all the time the pastor continues reading his sermon. Trelkovsky proceeds to bursts out of the church with some urgency. Was Trelkovsky suffering from a paranoid form of guilt, or did the tenant's daughter with piercing eyes plant the seed of guilt within him. Polanski uses this method to entrap the audience in the loop of Trelkovsky's fragile mind of what is real and what is paranoid delusion. This method is used constantly throughout this film to have the audience anticipating a more linear explanation and conclusion to what is real and truly happening. Such anticipation seems always to be instigated in some form by this particular elderly tenant and her daughter. Another example is when the elderly tenant and her daughter knock on Trelkovsky's door about a petition to remove the former from the building. Trelkovsky comforts the tenant by reassuring her that he will take no part in the campaign to evict her. The elderly tenant places a substance on the doors of those that have wronged her, and she knocks on Trelkovsky's door to inform him of her deeds and reminds him of the kindness he has shown her. Trelkovsky already in the other tenants’ and landlord's bad books is worried about being blamed for the mess outside their doorways, so he decides to put some of the mess on his doorway as well to allow the other tenants to also see him as also a victim. Trelkovsky's plan backfires as he becomes nauseous and begins to hallucinate. Trelkovsky's downward spiral begins to gather momentum; either his paranoia is getting worse or whatever is in front of his doorway has caused a terrible spiritual backlash.

Fig 3

Tim Brayton talks about Simone's fascination with Egyptology and that it had also played a part in the mystical essence of the film, "There is a recurrent motif of Egyptian hieroglyphics that remains unexplained in the film. Ancient Egyptian religious belief, it is important to note, was based on the notion that all things are the same all throughout history: not the same as Hinduism's conception that everything has happened before and will happen again, but more the belief that everything is always happening. The best I can come up with is to suppose that Trelkovsky, whether in his mind or in reality, is always the same as Simone. He does not become her, so much as we finally reach a point where the distinction between the two of them is no longer important" (Brayton, 2007). Brayton highlights a good point, when Trelkovsky moved into Simone's apartment he found books on Egypt, when he meets some of Simone's friends at their home they had books on Egypt which they had borrowed from her, when an old work colleague visits the apartment looking for Simone to tell her his true feelings, he mentions to Trelkovsky her interest in Egypt, and in the apartment block's lavatory Trelkovsky found hieroglyphic graffiti on the walls. This was evidence which Polanski presented to the audience to give potency to the supernatural plot; not with any suggestion of Egyptian mysticism being used, but leaving open the idea for the audience to form its own interpretations and conclusions. When Trelkovsky finds a tooth behind the wardrobe embedded in the wall and covered by cotton wool the first thing that springs to mind is sympathetic magic, which is a type of magic based on imitation or correspondence, that whatever befalls Simone when Trelkovsky comes into contact with her begins to affect him likewise. What could have affected Simone initially could have been the tooth in the wall; this could have been based in Egyptian mysticism. Trelkovsky claims that the tenants and those familiar with Simone were trying to change him into becoming her – this also could be equated to his paranoia, as he begins to don her clothes and make-up, even going as far as purchasing a wig to look more feminine. Polanski continues to contrast and play off the paranoia against the mysticism, with neither gaining dominance over the other. Until finally Trelkovsky follows suit and tries to commit suicide in the same fashion as Simone. Trelkovsky ends up in the same state as Simone does in hospital, but this time it is he who looks out through bandages at Stella and himself coming to visit, and it is he who lets loose a mighty howl.

Fig 4

With what appears to be the beginning and the ending of a time loop, Polanski leaves the audience speculating on the essence of The Tenant's catalyst, mysticism or paranoia, that drove Trelkovsky to his death prematurely and the audience to almost insanity. Roger Ebert expresses his feelings on the film, " 'The Tenant's’ not merely bad -- it's an embarrassment. If it didn't have the Polanski trademark, we'd probably have to drive miles and miles and sit in a damp basement to see it" (Ebert, 1976). Ebert's sentiments are understandable, the mere fact that the film does not end succinctly and that Trelkovsky’s degradation was elaborate and drawn-out does not help. However, these qualities reinforce his mastery of film making. Thinking that he might have lost control of this film could not be further from the truth; Polanski was always in control. It was the audience who became lost by unexpectedly relating themselves with Trelkovsky, becoming that downtrodden office worker inflicted with paranoia and mystical influences. The audience was so drawn into the film they could not see that Polanski's direction intertwined them into the nature of the film, allowing him to be the puppeteer of our own confusion by using both mysticism and paranoia to engulf us. Critic Dan Jardine believes, "The key error is almost certainly casting himself in the lead, as Polanski is not an adept enough thespian to pull of the challenging transformation of his Polish expatriate character from mildly eccentric outsider to full-blown cross-dressing lunatic" (Jardine, 2004). Jardine is correct; Polanski's acting could have been surpassed by a superior actor to allow a more convincing portrayal of a lunatic, but to what effect. Polanski casting himself in the lead role gives a more realistic mood to the film, and with a natural sense of humour allowed the audience to sympathise with his character and assume his bizarre misfortunes.

Fig 5


Fig 1, Poster (1976) The Tenant, Academic Dictionaries and Encyclopedias, Time 13:10, 12/9/2010

Fig 2, Trelkovsky and Stella (1976) The Tenant, Being Boring, Time 13:20, 12/9/2010

Fig 3, Trelkovsky finds a tooth (1976) The Tenant, For What It's Worth, posted October 27 2010, Time 13:15, 12/9/2010

Fig 4, Trelkovsky and Stella (1976) The Tenant, Chained and Perfumed, Time 13:18, 12/9/2010

Fig 5, Trelkovsky (1976) The Tenant, Aquarium of Vulcan, Time 13:25, 12/9/2010


Brayton, Tim (2007) The Tenant, Antagony & Ecstasy, September 14 2007, Time13:07, 12/9/2010

Ebert, Roger (1976) The Tenant, Chicago Sun-Times, American, September 27 1976, Time12:53, 12/9/2010

Jardine, Dan (2004) The TenantApollo Guide, March 8 2004, Time 13:03, 12/9/2010

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Thumbnails Environment

Wrong time on the road to nowhere

The eye sees all

A locked cell

Spring's snowman

Monday, 13 December 2010

Rosemary's Baby

Fig 1

Rosemary's Baby is a 1968 horror mystery directed by Roman Polanski and starring Mia Farrow as Rosemary Woodhouse and John Cassavetes as Guy Woodhouse. The film follows the traumatic pregnancy of Rosemary in an apartment building seemingly riddled with witches in New York City. Prior to Rosemary's pregnancy she and her husband recently moved into the Bramford apartment block unaware of the previous tenants, who were described by Hutch (Maurice Evans, a friend and old landlord of Rosemary and John's) as cannibals and witches. Dismissing Hutch's stories of the old house, Rosemary and John decide to move in. John an actor struggling to make the big-time makes his money from commercials and small productions, and Rosemary is the house wife who yearns for a child so they can become a family. The film from the start is very eerie with the first shots being of the notorious Bramford apartment block and the couple being shown around by another tenant (Mr Nicklas, Elisha Cook, Jr). They view the well furnished apartment of Mrs Gardinia, an elderly lady who died after being in a coma for a short period of time. In her study we see a collection of herbs she grew herself, a large collection of old books and an unfinished note about being no longer associated with something or other. There was also a large secretary cabinet blocking a closet door, which had been moved from its original place against the adjoining wall. These scenes on their own appear normal - many people, particularly the elderly, take up gardening as a hobby - but usually it is flowers and potted plants rather than herbs that are grown in one’s study. The unfinished note saying, "I can no longer be associated" seemed to indicate her dissatisfaction with a club or a group she had joined, but why did the camera pan so long on it; of what importance was it? And the secretary that was moved in front of the closet housing her vacuum and towels that was pointed out by Mr Nicklas as very strange because she was 89 years-old and could not possibly have moved it. These familiar objects are placed conveniently in each shot, using the uncanny as a form of narrative to build a caricature of the previous tenant without her being seen so that the audience forms its own conclusion thereby judging the film prematurely.  Without a doubt the dye is cast on this apartment which previously housed a witch or a woman who dealt in the supernatural.
Rosemary makes a new friend in the basement of the building while doing her laundry, Terry Gionoffrio (Victoria Vetri), a drug addict taken in by the Castevets, Rosemary's neighbours. Rosemary and Terry begin to talk and Rosemary explains that her apartment and the Castevets’ used to be one and Terry relaying how she came to be living with the Castevets. Terry shows Rosemary her good luck charm, a chain and pendant the Castevets had given her.  It contained an unpleasant smelling herb, but was beautifully crafted. Terry also explains the Castevets and Mrs Gardinia were good friends, with Mrs Gardinia growing a lot of the herbs for the Castevets. Although the Castevet's and Rosemary's apartments are separated by partition boards, Rosemary and Guy sometimes can hear the Castevets arguing, especially Minnie Castevet (Ruth Gordon) who is a very loud and obnoxious New Yorker. Polanski uses the Castevet's arguing as a medium to explain incidents that are about to happen, and the reason for their occurrence in such a way that is not apparent to the audience who believe such scenes to be nothing more than nonsensical background chatter. An example is a scene in Rosemary's bedroom before Terry kills herself by jumping out of the Castevets’ apartment window. Minnie and her husband Roman (Sidney Blackmer) are heard arguing about Roman divulging evidence to a girl to which Minnie was opposed. The arguing stops and as the Woodhouse's listen they start to mock the Castevet's. The Woodhouse's stop their mocking and suddenly begin hearing chanting instead of arguing coming from their neighbour’s home. The following day Terry kills herself, but on the same night while going to sleep, Rosemary hears the Castevets' once again arguing. With Rosemary obviously very tired the arguing becomes intertwined with a dream about her childhood with the church. Rosemary hears Minnie, who is portrayed as a nun in the church, saying "sometimes I wonder how comes you’re the leader of anything". She then goes on to say, "If you listened to me we wouldn't have to do this"; as she points to men rebuilding a window, she carries on, "we were all set to go now instead we have to start all over from scratch. I told you not to tell her in advance; I told you she wouldn't be open minded", while Minnie rages on Roman hints at her to be quiet. Polanski has continued to force- feed the plot to the audience - with these two conversations it is obvious that the Castevets' had something to do with the suicide, or at least know who has. Polanski authentically reproduces the dream sequence with Rosemary, as expected when dreaming, which is very uncanny in its own right, in which Polanski allows Rosemary to associate the voices and faces of the Castevets' with familiar scenes from her past, concocting a medley of information which unfortunately seems to get lost when she awakes. Roger Ebert explains how Polanski works, "Polanski  gives the audience a great deal of information early in the story, and by the time the movie's halfway over we're pretty sure what's going on in that apartment next door" (Ebert, 1968). Nevertheless the Woodhouses' remain oblivious to what is going on around them thus far. The film has lived up to its genre as a mystery, with the audience constantly looking and listening for the next clue in order to be kept abreast of events surrounding both these families.
Fig 2

A clue of what is to come is given when Minnie invites Rosemary and Guy over for dinner and the way in which the Castevets behave around the Woodhouses, particularly Minnie who is still overexcited even amongst other people. Roman accidentally spills some drink on the carpet while serving the Woodhouses and Minnie adopts an old hag's voice, screeching at Roman while doing her best to mop up the mess. Her table manners could also do with some polishing as she shovels as much food into her mouth as possible, talking and chewing at the same time. The dinner scene is the turning point of this film for Rosemary as her husband Guy is allowed time alone with Roman. Nothing is heard between these two characters, but Guy emerges from their conversation somewhat enlightened and more appreciative of the Castevets. On returning home he wants to go back the next day, which is unusual as just hours before the party he showed his disdain against attending. The familiar Guy we once knew has changed his attitude towards the Castevets and Rosemary, and his career also has taken a turn for the better, getting to work on shows he would not have previously. Polanski directs us towards the Castevets', using Guy's uncanny behaviour to solidify the Castevets’ guilt in his change of attitude. The Castevets' present Rosemary with a gift, one identical to Terry's charm with a similar smell; however Rosemary does not appear to recognise it. After showing Guy and expressing her dislike for the smell, Guy emphasises the Castevets’ will by urging her to accept and wear it as a gift. Guy even approaches Rosemary to have a baby while marking out the days she will be more susceptible to becoming pregnant. Guy observes this day and prepares a dinner for Rosemary; however who knocks on the door other than Minnie bearing gifts in the form of two chocolate mousses. The couple begin to eat the dessert with only Rosemary noticing a chalky under-taste, and refusing to eat anymore. Guy takes offence to her actions and convinces her to eat more, but she is unable to finish it. Rosemary starts to feel slightly dizzy and falls into a trance-like state and Guy puts her to bed and undresses her, but by this time she has begun dreaming while still hearing her husband's voice in the background. Polanski recreates Rosemary's dream sequence again, but with images of familiar faces that include Hutch, and the voices of people who are actually there with her including Minnie and Guy, who can be heard wondering aloud whether she realises what is going on. And what is going on is that Guy, the Castevets and others have drugged Rosemary so they can perform a sexual ritual to impregnate her with the seed of Satan. Rosemary awakes the following morning with the feeling of being violated and scratch marks all over her back.  However, Guy takes full responsibility for this by saying that he “could not miss the window of opportunity for making the baby".
Fig 3

Time Out highlights the decline into insanity of Rosemary after the rape, "Although it manages to be frightening, there is little gore or explicit violence; instead, what disturbs is the blurring of reality and nightmare, and the way Farrow is slowly transformed from a healthy, happily-married wife to a haunted, desperately confused shadow of her former self" (Time Out, 2010). With Rosemary now pregnant, Polanski starts to play on this fact and twists the evidence he has previously suggested by using a pre-natal condition to justify the strange happenings that begin to surround Rosemary. Rosemary is urged to change doctors to a friend of the Castevets, Dr Abraham Saperstein (Ralph Bellamy), who is also a society doctor. She experiences a pain in her stomach which she believes is cramp, she starts to lose weight and begins to eat raw meat. Rosemary is visited by her friend Hutch who after seeing her begins to suspect something is wrong and starts his own investigation into her weight loss and the mysterious pendant given to her by the Castevets. Hutch discovers the Castevets' secret of being the head of a coven of witches, and for the first time in the film Rosemary becomes aware through Hutch of what has been and is going on, and realises that Guy is involved in the conspiracy. Although these circumstances are revealed to the audience there is still doubt as to the whole truth, as Polanski uses Guy, Saperstein and the Castevets to spin out the illusion that the stress of the pregnancy is affecting Rosemary and that there are no such things as witches. Polanski plants and uses these doubts not just because he can, but because they introduce a new sense of tension to the film and allows confusion to run through the audiences’ minds as well as Rosemary's, creating drama around previous suspicions of newly created pre-natal uncertainties, almost like enacting an argument within an argument.
Fig 4
Rosemary's due date draws closer and closer while this drama unfolds, naturally causing undue stress to mother and child up to the arrival of her due date. Rosemary goes into labour at home in the care of Guy and Dr Saperstein, but passes out before the baby is born. When Rosemary wakes she is told that her child died. These doubts that Polanski has created are played out right to the end of the film, where through sheer determination Rosemary escapes the confinements of her bed and heads towards the Castevets' apartment where Guy and the Castevets' coven are tending to a black cot also draped in black material. Rosemary brandishing a knife almost feels a sense of relief, as does the audience, although the latter suspected the baby would be Satan nothing was certain until this scene was revealed. Roman makes a toast to the child of Satan and all apart from Rosemary start to cheer. Roman explains to Rosemary that they never intended to hurt her or the baby, and that she as the mother should care the child and raise it as normal. Rosemary shocked at what she had just heard, starts to reconsider her initial reactions, moving closer to the cot she starts to accept the fact, that she is its mother.            


Fig 1 (2010) Rosemary's Baby review,

Fig 2 (2010) Rosemary's Baby review,

Fig 3 (2009) Rosemary's Baby review,

Fig 4 (2009) Rosemary's Baby review,


Ebert, Roger (1968) Rosemary's Baby Review, Chicago Sun-Times, Time 01:37, 10.12.2010.

Time Out (2010) Rosemary's Baby Review, Time Out, Time 01:37, 10.12.2010.

Environment Thumbnails

The toys they use to love

Eskimo's building a sauna

West End buried under sand

Fire hidrant at sea

The mouse with the lion's share

Open air-bag in car

Innocent baby, or is he?

Cocktail on runway

Living in the slums

Monday, 6 December 2010


Fig 1

Repulsion is a 1965 horror thriller filmed in black and white, written and directed by Roman Polanski, starring Catherine Deneuve as Carole, Ian Hendry as Michael, John Fraser as Colin and Yvonne Furneaux as Helen.  The timid Carole is the central character of this film, who with her phobia of men seems to have them always thrust upon her. Carole is very fragile and her phobia takes its toll on her as the film draws to its conclusion, conjuring horrific schizophrenic images of men abusing her in her impressionable mind. Carole lives with her sister Helen in a two bedroom flat in London and works in a beauty salon with an all female staff, surrounding herself with women to ward off her phobia. Although always in female company, Carole’s lunch time is occupied with an admirer who is constantly trying to get a date from her, but to no avail. The beginning of the film is very sharp and clinical, and plays out like a documentary of the two sisters’ lives with an account of Carole’s entire day, from her morning at home to work and lunch, and to her journey home and her settling into bed. The film has an airy light feel to it with natural lighting giving a realistic look to scenes that were calm and refreshing. Behind their flat was a convent and Carole would gaze at the nuns playing catch which would captivate her attention for long periods of time and give her a sense of joy. The nuns mirrored her desire to be secluded from men in their marriage to God, with a yearning expression to be in a similar position. Carole also exhibited slight OCD (Obsessive-compulsive disorder) in her unconventional behaviour and when carrying out certain tasks. 
Fig 2
The first instance of her phobia is displayed with her sister’s boyfriend Michael, who always uses her glass cup in the bathroom to store his toiletries. This infuriates her, forcing her to one day throw his toiletries in the bin. Also, Carole questions her sister about Michael staying over, asking when he will go. The sister replies, ‘it is none of your business ’. The second instance is when Carole’s admirer drops her home and he attempts to kiss her on the lips. This she does not take well, bolting out of the car and rushing to the bathroom in the flat to brush her teeth and cleanse herself of his presence. Nevertheless, the film remains reasonably light-hearted. Carole’s sister Helen planes to take a holiday alone with Michael, leaving her in the flat on her own. Carole pleads with Helen not to go, but it is not entirely clear why she fears being left alone. The inevitable happens and Carole is alone in the flat. At this point, the film changes mood and speed, giving heightened suspense. Rob Vaux talks a little about the film’s qualities“Roman Polanski's Repulsion has been rightly hailed as a chilling examination of a woman going mad. With unnerving intensity, it places us in the shoes of Catherine Deneuve's fragile beautician, whose unexplained trauma and sexual repression induce bizarre, repression frightening hallucinations that ultimately drive her to murder” (Vaux, 2009). Vaux’s description of the film might appear somewhat unrelated to the storyline as it has developed thus far, however, a change in the film’s direction seems to solidify the genre as a horror. This sharp change is brought about through Carole’s inexplicable behaviour after her sister leaves. Carole’s senses are so heightened she can hear a crack spread in the wall, and she starts to notice her surroundings in uncanny detail. This is expressed when she is in the bedroom looking in the mirror and suddenly notices a man in the corner of the mirror. The sudden appearance of this image frightens the audience and catches them off-guard. The intensity of this image is compounded by loud music and the sheer fright of Carole’s reaction. From here on Vaux’s quote above reflects the true nature of the film. 
Fig 3
Carole begins her decline into paranoia, putting her on edge in the mere presence of a man and believing that every man is a threat to her. The stranger in the mirror appears in the flat and rapes her, but not just on one occasion. He appears to have taken up residence in the house since his initial break-in, and continuously rapes her thereafter. This stranger mysteriously appears in her bed from time-to-time and at first Carole struggles, but she becomes more accommodating, prettying-up her appearance for his arrival. Her behaviour is contradictory, not because this phantom of a man appears and takes her, but when other men try to get close to her, a more corporeal man, she fights tooth and nail to get him off, with the struggle always ending with the man’s death. This occurred when the landlord forced himself on her and also to the persistent admirer who wanted only to help her, both dying violently. Why was the phantom stranger allowed to follow through with his intentions, whereas others were stopped dead in their tracks. The convent shown in an earlier scene sheds light on the reason. Carole reflected the attitude of the nuns; instead of cutting herself off physically she cuts herself off psychologically from men. Instead of marrying God, Carole gave herself to this phantom stranger, who appears to be a figment of her imagination that she created to fill the gap of having any real man in her life.    
Carole’s outward repulsion of men  and her frustrated sexual need for them is the uncanny behaviour which drives this movie along. Her repulsion of men is the first characteristic we see exhibited in her as a shy and simple girl whose only wish is to be left alone.  Carole’s schizophrenic persona allows Polanski to recreate a more pronounced atmosphere of decline into insanity and sexual frustration as she materialises an imaginary stranger to have his way with her while defending this desire against all others with murder.    


Fig1,2, 3, 4 Imdb (2009) Repulsion review,
Kendrick, James (2009) Repulsion review,, 2009, 00:29
Vaux, Rob (2009) Repulsion review,, Jan 23 2009, 18:33

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

The Dark Crystal

The Dark Crystal is a fantasy adventure written and directed by Jim Henson, the legendary puppeteer whose mastery of storytelling has brought much joy to children all over the world. A thousand years ago a great conjunction happened when three suns lined up and the Dark Crystal cracked releasing the Skeksis and the mystics, the Skeksis became lords of the Crystal and represented evil and the mystics became nomadic travellers of good. The Skeksis assume stewardship of the world ruling with tyranny and fear; however, the Skeksis’s reign is about to come to an end, as the anniversary of the cracking of the great crystal approaches and the prophecy that a Gelfing, elf-like creatures of the earth, will bring their destruction to fruition. The Skeksis’s fear this prophecy will come to pass, so set out to kill all the Gelfings, but two survived, Jen and Kira.
Jen was taken in by the Mystics and schooled in reading and the arts, while Kira became a child of nature learning the various tongues of the animals. The two Gelfings travel to the Castle of the Skeksis’s with a shard of the broken Crystal in order to heal it on the day of the coming great conjunction. The directors brought to life the various environments of this mythical world on a sound stage in the studio. Some of the panoramic shots of characters travelling over great distances where filmed outside the studio. Steven D. Greydanus relays his interpretation of the production ”Imaginatively ambitious and often visually engaging, The Dark Crystal resolutely remains a distant, uninvolving experience. The filmmakers’ attention seems occupied by the technical challenges of bringing this fictional world to life; characters and emotions, even by the archetypal standards of high fantasy, never come to life, and the overarching mythology seems too self-consciously contrived rather than taking on a mythic reality of its own.” This statement is factually correct, but does not detract from the magic of the film. This film was made for children, and it was PG rated when it was released. The character’s emotions whether true to life or not, was not as important as the overall visual production, or the technical marvel of the animation of the puppets, which has made this film an iconic fantasy. The first sets we see are dark skies and the environment surrounding the castle. The rapid movements of the clouds into a gathering swirl over the castle create an image of dread and fear, while the desolate lands paint a picture of death. The use of deep purples and dark blues sets the mood for the audience to envisage the terrible nature of the Skeksis before they appear on film. “The Dark Crystal, besides being a dazzling technological and artistic achievement by a band of talented artists and performers, presents a dark side of Muppet creators Jim Henson and Frank Oz” The dark side of Jim Henson and Frank Oz find expression in the Skeksis’s castle, the pinnacle of all the set designs in this film. The exterior of the castle has the shape of a trident with its black structure protruding through the earth, but with many more prongs extending out through the walls. The castle’s exterior exhumed a sense of dread; a place you would not dare to visit. The Interior on the other hand was multi-faceted, perceived as dreadful in only a few scenes. Both of scenes took place at the bottom of the castle, one relayed the image of a great maze of tunnel-like catacombs that interlinked under the castle. The Garthin resided in the deeper darker parts of the catacombs. The second room, also in the dungeons of the castle, is right underneath the Dark Crystal’s room; this is where all prisoners are kept and re-programmed to serve the Skeksis as slaves. There were cages hanging from the ceiling and dotted all around, tools of torture pinned to the walls and what looks like an electric chair at the edge of a chasm where the Crystal is floating. The other rooms in the castle were not menacing at all, though messy and unkempt, particularly the dining room, which was littered with scraps of food. This room, like many others, had impressive set designs of towering stone-like walls.
The great hall where the Skeksis ruled had convincing carvings showing the tapestry of their history in stone alcoves. The Crystal chamber room with symmetrical lines embossed on the walls was also richly decorated with balconies. There was no doubt that this was their ritual room with symbolic shapes and signs underneath the Dark Crystal. The other sets are not on the scale of the castle, but were nonetheless just as impressive. We then see Aughra’s observatory, which exhibits an impressive moving replica of their solar system with a wall and ceiling made of glass through which Aughra could watch the stars. Other trinkets and decorations were strategically placed to emphasise her work with magic and science, confirming her title as the Keeper of Secrets. Most of the other scenes and sets where located outside, such as the home of the Mystics, who resided in stone ruins and caves in the mountain side where there was a forested grotto and a waterfall.

This area had the tranquillity and peace of the grotto and the simple stillness of the rocks that lay dormant on the ground. The Gourmand’s village is a combination of the base of enormous trees and dirt huts built inside the tree. Simple and basic are images that come to mind with the great tree canopy blocking the majority of light from reaching the huts, thus producing the desired effect. The Gourmand are a race constantly under the scourge of the Skeksis to enslave them. Jim Henson’s children’s fantasy lives up to the genre, delivering a technically innovative movie with an original story of good and evil. Gregory Weinkauf expresses the nature of The Dark Crystal,“Immerses us in a familiar yet utterly unique world that's deeper, wider and more vibrantly alive than any mere puppetry.”


By Orisakolade Orisadamilare

Barbarella is a 1968 comic fantasy adventure directed by Roger Vadim and stars Jane Fonda as Barbarella, an Earth heroine from the 41st century. It is a film that defines the 60s in its use of contemporary and futuristic fashion and incorporated the belief in free love and sexual awareness. Perhaps, this film could only be made and based in that decade and no other, with its vivid tonal scenes and questionable acting. Nonetheless, this film has a story to tell. Jane Fonda’s character is reminiscent not only of the Eternal Aeon from the Sethian creation myth, but they have very similar names: Barbelo (Sethian god archetype), described as a supreme female principle is an androgynous being, and the virginal spirit through which the father (male god) would manifest. Barbarella gives birth to these associations as Earth’s feminine saviour the villain Durand Durand (Milo O’Shea), who unbeknown to himself will use her to manifest the destruction of the alien world, Tau Ceti. Not only a heroine, Barbarella is also an astronaut who lives in her own spacecraft in some unidentified part of the galaxy. This is no ordinary spacecraft, with three spheres resembling breasts on the exterior, it defies conventional design.

The interior brings a new dimension to the cockpit of the ship; with floor, wall and ceiling decorated in fur and a piano-looking console as the dashboard, making the cockpit look more like a seedy playboy hotel suite. A rectangular section of the floor of the ship was cut away, revealing a transparent material that doubled as a mattress. This provided the director with the access to get close up shots of Barbarella sleeping from underneath. Barbarella is first contacted by Earth’s president instructing her to take on the mission of finding and bringing back the rogue scientist Durand Durand. She is suitably equipped, and with the coordinates for Tau Ceti now logged into her navigational system, she makes haste for the planet where Durand Durand is believed to be.

After crash landing on Tau Ceti Barbarella is abducted by feral children, who with murderous intentions take her back to their lair. The first depictions of Tau Ceti  is an ice waste land above ground “The film shows its 1960s comic book origins but the sets are wonderfully realised through Claude Renoir” The ice set is very sparse with bare trees and jagged ice towers in the background, a low line mist covering their base gives a wilderness effect. The sky was a lemon yellow to emphasise the fact Barbarella was on an alien planet. These strengthen the effect of the comic book theme sets with not only the 60s lending its naturally vivid colour scheme to the film, but the bold and very clear reproduction of environments and props allowing a purposeful understanding of the vision of the production. This ice world is inhabited with the feral children, who live in Durand Durand’s wrecked ship this giving the impression that they are Durand Durand’s children and human. Mark Hand the Catchman (Ugo Tognazzi), who also lives above ground, and clothed in a full fur ensemble, comes to Barbarella’s aid at the hands of the children. The Catchman, a sort of shepherd, rounds up the children when they reach a serviceable age and turns them over to the authorities in Sogo.

 The Catchman repairs Barbarella’s ship and in return she is asked to make love with him. Such behaviour is a constant reoccurrence in the film, with Barbarella rewarding help with sexual favours. When the ship is finally repaired Barbarella heads to Sogo to apprehend Durand Durand. Little does Barbarella know that the ship has been repaired in reverse, so as soon as Barbarella takes-off the spacecraft heads down to the ground drilling its way to the centre of the earth until the craft has to stop abruptly in front of a wall of rock. Barbarella has reached a gigantic labyrinth where Pygar (John Phillip Law) the angel is there to greet her. The labyrinth is made from rock and is inhabited by alien humanoids with other creatures imbedded in the rock structure, all donning stylistic make-up and costume. All that is good is exiled to the Labyrinth, while evil remains situated in Sogo.

The inhabitants hold Professor Ping (Marcel Marceau), a faun-like character who undertakes the repairs of Barbarella’s ship, in high esteem. Placed in the middle of the Labyrinth is the city of night, Sogo, where it is said The Great Tyrant lived and ruled. Sogo appears more like an alien spaceship than a city; it hovered above the labyrinth with cables connecting the two entities. While, Ping repairs Barbarella’s ship she and the angel sneaked into the city to find Durand Durand. Sogo is a mechanical city with an infrastructure of working parts clad with metal and iron piping protruding from its walls, portraying a convincing industrial theme.  “The film is ugly on so many levels—from art direction to human values—that it's hard to know where to begin. Let's be charitable and write it off to love—Fonda was married to director Roger Vadim at the time.”, Regardless of Fonda’s relationship with the director the belief that this was just an entertaining film for entertainment sake is incorrect. Many theories on heaven and other mythical kingdoms such as Shambhala have their locations not in the sky but within the centre of our earth. The Matmus which is the liquid entity beneath Sogo represents the creation of all that exists; many creation myths have their origins in water. There are many creditable stories and characters which could be associated with the film Barbarella, however it is up to the discretion of the audience whether these are skated over or not. The Great Tyrant captures Barbarella and crucifies Pygar, but Barbarella escapes with the help of Dildano (David Hemmings) a rebel leader planning to overthrow The Great Tyrant. There are a few memorable sets in the city, for example the chamber of ultimate solution, chamber of dreams, the rebel hideout, Durand Durand’s room with his organ of pleasure, and The Great Tyrant’s lair.  These sets work well because the decor and props highlight their intention and relevance, also coinciding with the actors’ costumes, with the exception of the chamber of ultimate solution. The chamber of ultimate solution, looking like a beaker in a laboratory with transparent walls and revolving doorways leading to total destruction, painted images of a gas chamber, emitting screams from its depth whenever a door was opened.

 The Tyrant’s lair or courtroom where top ranking subjects gather is a splendid place where a door magically appears to the entrance of The Great Tyrant who shows her true form as a woman with a single horn protruding from her forehead and clad in a tight sequined outfit, with sharp fingernails. In a previous unannounced appearance she donned an eye patch holding small cutting knives, and was labelled the one-eyed wench by Barbarella.  

The rebel hideout lived up to its name, which is why it worked so well as a room under The Great Tyrant’s lair it has interconnecting tubes linking all of Sogo to the hideout Dildano the head of the rebel outfit is conveniently dressed in a brown outfit reminiscent of the Second World War French resistance in ‘Allo ‘Allo!

Durand Durand’s pleasure organ is a machine resembling a piano, and when Barbarella is strapped to the organ and Durand Durand begins playing, pleasure is imparted to Barbarella - the harder and more intense he plays the more pleasure she reaches. Durand Durand has nothing but murderous intentions when he straps her in, and trying his upmost to destroy Barbarella with pleasure, ends up only destroying the machine.

Finally the chamber of dreams where the black queen goes to sleep is depicted as a huge space with a bronze-like bed in the middle on which she dreams peacefully in the foreground there are small potted grass plants with lights strategically placed to give an illusion of open space and a giant screen as a wall showing the black queens inner thoughts and dreams. Although Durand Durand traps Barbarella (the innocent and pure feminine aspect, the white queen) and The Great Tyrant (The Black Queen) in the chamber of dreams with the intention of the Matmus to devour them, one could be forgiven in thinking it is all over, but the Matmus which seems to be of the same essence as Barbarella, encases her and the black queen in a bubble to protect itself against her innocence.

 This leaves Durand Durand to be consumed by the Matmus as he uses his Posatronic ray to try and dissolve the rebel uprising.
Barbarella may not be for everybody’s taste, but it does deliver what it says it will, a comic-strip pop art themed indulgence, which captures you in anticipation of her next and every move for the whole 98 minutes.

Street Render

Monday, 29 November 2010


By Orisakolade Orisadamilare
Avatar is a fantasy action adventure directed and written by James Cameron and starring Sam Worthington as Jake Sully, Zoe Salddana as Neytiri and Sigourney Weaver as Dr. Grace Augustine. The story follows the arrival of Jake Sully on the moon called Pandora, which is a lush rainforest type Garden of Eden that also produces a high intensity magnetic field. Jake is a paraplegic marine dispatched on a mission to take part in an avatar programme to interact and convince the Navi (the inhabitants of Pandora) to leave their land, in order that a large corporation can have easy access to a mineral called unobtanium laying beneath the forest.

James Cameron is tasked with the duty of conceiving Pandora’s environment and peoples, the colonies coming from Earth, their settlements and equipment. Roger Ebert looks at the technique employed in achieving the vision, “Like ‘Star Wars’ and ‘LOTR,’ ‘Avatar  employs a new generation of special effects. Cameron said it would, and many doubted him. It does. Pandora is very largely CGI.” CGI is to Avatar as Technicolor was to The Wizard of Oz, a necessity, hours could be spent on the way in which Cameron created the vast jungles in Pandora, but there’s no point. This film has to be seen to give it true justice. The flamboyant use of colour particularly at night when many of the plants came to life with bright neon colours highlighted the floor-to-wall green vegetation that glistened in light. Although the film was shot mainly within interiors lighting was never an issue, whether beneath the forest canopy or in the human base camp, objects and props were clearly defined, and nothing was unnecessarily hidden in shadow. The Navi and the wildlife are also magnificently coloured complementing the forest they live in, and when the forest’s neon lights shone, to be any other colour than blue would have been a disappointment.
Pandora was a moon in harmony, but also during the conceptual art, everything complemented everything, colour schemes, the otherworldly lighting, and a good proportion of scale with landscapes in real world perspective. Just as Pandora gave a vision of a realistic working environment, the human equipment and base station followed suite in this theory. All the equipment and machinery conceived had to work, and if built for future use would probably be reproduced in the same fashion. All these items had to be logically constructed to be able to work in the world in which they served.  Therefore, not only did the machines have to work as real life concepts, they had to work on Pandora. The aircrafts all contained hover technology which could lift off vertically from any surface especially within Pandora’s jungles; the weapons were good old-fashioned projectile machines which were noisy and emitted plenty of brass.
All these mid 21st century machines were used for two reasons - one, this technology was the most advanced that could function on Pandora, and anything more sophisticated shut down under the high intensity magnetic field. The second, Cameron wanted the audience to feel comfortable with all the technology in the film, so there could be no supposition on their part; they could associate all the machines with what they had previously experienced, allowing them to concentrate on the unfolding drama and special effects. Exactly what the drama Cameron is trying to get across to the audience is the age old story that is played out in contemporary modern day wars; or a classic tale of an incompetent native unable to defend himself, who needs a so-called ‘sophisticated’ hero to fight his battles.