Thursday, 21 October 2010

Splice Review

Does this film successfully use metamorphosis to re-enact the creation of man mythos?
Introduction


Splice a 2009 Sci-fi thriller by Vincenzo Natali (Director) starring Adrien Brody, Sarah Polley and Delphine Chaneac. Metamorphosis is the dominant vehicle used to portray the emotional, physical and psychological ingredients of this film. Religious and cultural references are used to compare Vincenzo’s thriller to the creation of man mythos within the film’s hybrid family structure. The Director’s ideas and their correlation to the creation mythos, then the conception of the family in the film, and the development of the child and how through metamorphosis grows to achieve its own creation is investigated. Whether the film achieves its objectives will be also examined in the conclusion.

Fig 2, Adam And Eve Expelled From Paradise




 Main Body


‘Splice’ engages the audience with just the mere mention of the title. It suggests images of rampaging monsters of Resident Evil and the subtle alien life-forms of Species, however this is only partly true. Vincenzo Natali brings more than mere sensationalism to the table; he brings the foundation of everyday life, the family, to the screen. With suggestive underpinnings of the creation mythos my evaluation of the film is subjective, looking at the metamorphosis of the family in conjunction with that of the relationship of Adam and Eve with God. Vincenzo Natali uses the concept of Metamorphosis to detangle the foundations of family through the creation of man mythos. The Oxford Dictionary defines metamorphosis as; “1. Changes of form, from pupa to an insect. 2. Change of character, conditions” (Thompson, 1992). Meaning that metamorphosis is creation in motion. Vincenzo uses this motion to re-evaluate the dawn of man through his characters within a family unit. In an Interview with Chris Eggertsen, Vincenzo differentiates between his film and other creature movies “It differs in that it spends a lot more time examining the relationship between the creature and its creators. And I think takes that relationship to places that haven't really been explored before. So without giving too much away, it really delves into kind of Oedipal and Freudian underpinnings of that sort of relationship. I like to call ‘Splice’ my family film” (Chris Eggertsen, 2010). In this quote Vincenzo acknowledged that the creature (Dren, Delphine Chaneac) which exemplifies his concept of metamorphosis, and her interaction with the two scientists who created her within a family structure. The film draws upon the Garden of Eden story, where the gods create Adam to perpetuate their existence and nurture his obedience.




Fig 3, Clive and Elsa

Clive Nicoli (Adrien Brody) and Elsa Kast (Sarah Polley) are well-renowned scientists who work for a pharmaceutical corporation creating a new species in order to extract its proteins. Clive and Elsa who are in a personal relationship begin to think about starting a family. With ambition to create a human hybrid the couple, who now face the threat of losing their splicing unit, are compelled to bring their ideas to fruition. The two scientists are portrayed as parent gods on the brink of creating a new humanoid being, defying institutional protocol to fulfil their desire to procreate. Elsa uses her own DNA to initiate the conception of Dren who was once just a thought in her creators’ minds materialises (a form of metamorphosis). With no wisdom behind her knowledge of creating this creature, Elsa ploughs head-long into the abyss of degradation. Clive although initially hesitant, complies with Elsa’s actions. The two scientists more concerned with the power they wield become like the archons in the Gnostic Bible as this quote reveals; “The rulers made plans and said, ‘Come, Let’s create a human of soil from the earth.’ They formed their creature as a being entirely of the earth. These archons have bodies that are both female [and male], and faces that are the faces of beasts. They took [soil] from the earth and formed [their human], after their own bodies and [after the image] of God that appeared [to them] in the water” (Meyer, 2008, 161). The archons created man oblivious to their own creators, creating almost for creation’s sake. Elsa and Clive working as a unit, act as the androgynous rulers, subconsciously needing one another to complete their experiment. Elsa and Clive epitomise the archon’s lack of wisdom and forethought of the consequences. 
Fig 4, Dren as a child

Dren once conceived is not what the scientists expect. Roger Ebert had this to say on the growth of Dren. “What results is a new form of life, part animal, part human, looking at first like a rounded SpongeBob and then later like a cute kid on Pandora, but shorter and not blue” (Ebert, 2010). However comical this comment may be, he is not wrong. The development of Dren is a fantastic metamorphosis from a marsupial-like animal to a humanoid being able to adapt to the surrounding environment. Elsa quickly adopts a motherly role, whereas Clive becomes resentful of Dren’s existence. Dren evolves faster than a human being, with accelerated physical and mental growth. The scientists raise Dren within the confines of the laboratory and isolate her from contact with other humans. The couple feel the need to hide Dren in fear of being discovered, while also waiting for the right moment to reveal her to the world. The Biblical God also felt the need to contain his creation, as we see in this quote. “And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed” (The Holy Bible, Authorised King James version). God in isolating Adam in this Garden allowed His influence only to be imparted to Adam giving him everything he could desire. Adam not completely satisfied leaves the Garden through the tree of good and evil i.e. original sin. With Dren’s similar predicament it appears hopeless as the new parent scientists realise very soon through her accelerated growth that she cannot be contained. This becomes clear when Dren falls ill during her relocation to the basement in the laboratory, and Clive tries to drown her. Dren amazingly adapts gills breathing underwater, recovering her to full strength. The metamorphosis of Dren slowly allows her to become less dependent on her ‘creators’, mastering her new world, and drawing from all elements of her environment. Dren learns many things within this self-created Eden but nothing more significant than the sexual act. Which she sees when Clive’s and Elsa’s passion overcome them, while Dren is still awake. This scene recreates the picking of the apple from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil by Eve. The scientists’ sexual act represented the loss of Dren’s innocence. Similar to Adam and Eve eating the apple (having sex) manifesting into the real world – in other words being cast out of Eden and materialising on Earth.

Dren grew too big to hide in the Laboratory and was taken to Elsa’s mother’s farm in the country, where she would complete her development into this new world and become through instinct who she was destined to be. The two scientists still new at parenthood continue their attempt to control Dren, although she is physically stronger and instinctively more inquisitive. Clive and Elsa play a dangerous game of mother and father to a being whose behaviour and actions are driven purely by animal instinct. The scientists’ lack of wisdom in creating Dren becomes clear, not knowing which genes in her conception would become more prominent and rule over her. Film critic, Philip French, makes an educated guess on the direction of Dren’s DNA makeup. “When the pair take their creation to the wintry countryside to be kept in secret at the farm where Elsa was raised, matters go from bad to worst. As Dren metamorphoses she draws her makers into deviant, transgressive behaviour as parents, victims and lovers. What makes Dren so dangerously unpredictable is the human DNA she contains in her make-up, not that derived from animals” (French, 2010). Clive and Elsa re-design the barn to house Dren, while monitoring her every action from the house. Dren almost fully grown begins to focus her sexual yearnings on Clive, who is the only male in her life and world. As a result she sees Elsa as a competitor rather than a parent. This roller-coaster ride instigated by Dren reflects how children interact with their parents, sometimes playing one against the other. The animal within Dren forces her to obey the animalistic laws of nature, so setting her biological clock in-sync with the environment. The human being within her determines the way in which she carries out these animalistic behaviours. This is shown in her ability to metamorphosise, while attempting to explore her surroundings. In a daring leap to escape her confinement Dren climbs on the roof, threatening her parents. While there the wind picks-up, blowing her off the edge of the roof; she displays no fear, anticipating the appearance of wing-like fins from her body to enable her to fly. Clive shouts “don’t leave us, I love you” as she swoops back down, and reciprocates Clive’s hug.


Fig 5, Female Dren, fully grown

Dren’s development has almost reached its pinnacle with one further act to complete - her role as the child is instinctively being transformed into a more creative feminine form, by a hidden force willing her to metamorphosise into the next stage of her evolution. Dren’s urge to reproduce becomes a necessity more than a desire and she goes about this in the same manner as her ‘creators’, as expressed in the Gnostic Bible. “When the chief creator saw that the light was beautiful as it shone forth, he was amazed and very much ashamed. The light appeared and a human likeness was visible within it, and it was marvellous. No one saw it except the chief creator and Forethought, who was with him. But its light was visible to all the powers of the heavens, and so they all were disturbed by it. When Forethought saw this messenger of light, she fell in love with him, but he hated her because she was in darkness. She desired to mate with him, but she was not able. When she was unable to satisfy her desire, she poured out her light upon the earth.” (Meyer, 2008, 178). This quote refers to the chief Creator and Forethought who are one of the same being - the chief Creator being the masculine part and Forethought being the feminine, the world desire is used to explain her emotions in wanting to mate with the being of light, her ‘creator’, but when she could not, it became a necessity to pour her light upon the earth – to give birth, like an aborted foetus. A parallel may be drawn when Clive and Elsa reach the height of their career as scientists and pulled away from their ‘creators’ (the pharmaceutical company) feeling the need to ‘create’ a sentient being through their chosen vocation. Dren at her pinnacle takes on the role of the ‘creator’ Forethought instinctively wants to pull away from her ‘creators’ and embark on her own creation. She does this through Clive who is frustrated with Elsa about the way the whole experiment has unfolded. He becomes vulnerable to Dren’s very powerful and attractive feminine presence within their home and the two mate. Dren cannot grow any further in her existing form having reached her ultimate goal and begins to die. This metamorphosis ushers in the death and resurrection of Dren - for one to be reborn one first has to die. With discarding her old feminine hybrid body, Dren creates a male hybrid body to take her to the next level in her development. A stronger more aggressive Dren emerges on the scene, to accomplish his goal of perpetuating the cycle of his re-creation. Dren although being strong enough to overcome Elsa met her match with Clive and mated with him in order to develop further. Dren through nature, or that unknown force of instinct, had to become male in order to push Clive the father to one side, and mate with Elsa to perpetuate his current existence. With the Oedipus complex now in full motion, the use of a quote from a Yoruba creation story is the simplest way of summing up Dren’s necessity to mate with its ‘creator’. “There being no other persons to marry, Aganju and Yemoja married one another and had a son named Orungan. Orungan is said to have committed incest with his mother. She fled from him in horror, but was hotly pursued by her wicked son, until she fell backward to the ground owing to exhaustion. Streams of water began to pour forth from her body, and these eventually united to form a Lagoon” (Lucas, p 98) Just as Aganju (Earth deity) and Yemoja (Sea deity) married themselves, because there was no one else, Orungan (Sky deity) had no other but his mother to reproduce with so instinctively pursues her. Dren in a similar predicament has always been blinded by its ‘creators’, not being allowed to view the outside world in its entirety, and having none if little interaction with similar species other than with her ‘creators’. So Dren now the male ‘creator’ pursues Elsa, looking to plant in her the seed of his creation to continue his existence. Dren establishes the next step in his development, after raping Elsa and fatally wounding Clive, who with his last remaining breath, kills Dren. This does not matter in the greater scheme of the film of creation through the family, as Dren at this point has reached his pinnacle, so dies again to manifest himself through the impregnation of Elsa with child.
Fig 6, Lion-face deity thought to be Yaldabaoth (Samael), The Demiurge


This quote from the Gnostic Bible summarizes the comparison between the creation mythos of man and the family unit portrayed within Splice. “The leader of the authorities is blind. [Because of his] power, ignorance and arrogance he said, with [power], ‘I am God; there is no other [but me]. When he said this, he sinned against [the realm of the All]. This boast rose up to incorruptibility, and a voice answered from Incorruptibility and said, ‘You are wrong, Samael’ – which means ‘blind god’. His thoughts were blind. He expressed his power – that is, the blasphemy he uttered – and pursued it down to chaos and his mother the Abyss, at the instigation of Pistis Sophia. She established each of his off-spring according to its power, after the pattern of the eternal realms above. For the visible originated from the invisible. Incorruptibility looked down into the region of the waters. Her image appeared as a reflection in the waters, and the authorities of darkness fell in love with her. But they could not grasp the image that appeared to them in the waters, for they were weak, and what is only of soul cannot grasp what is of spirit. For the authorities were from below, but the image of Incorruptibility was from above. This is why Incorruptibility looked down into that region, so that, by the Father’s will, she might bring all into union with the light” (Meyer, 2008, 161). The two scientists where arrogant and blind, and while embarking on their creation failed to acknowledge their own ‘creators’ above them. And in so doing robbed Dren of that rich and nurturing tapestry of an ancestry, blinding her to the scientists’ own ‘creators’, but by the Father’s will within Dren, she metamorphosised into a ‘creator’ herself. Since the Father’s will manifested in Dren as instinct, Dren perpetuates the scientists’ mistakes and continues the act of re-creation, blind to those above her.


Conclusion

Director Vincenzo Natali in his film is successful in accomplishing his goal of using metamorphosis to unite the family unit of Dren and her two creators in representing the creation of man mythos. The two scientists were clearly portrayed as arrogant demi-gods within a greater organism trying to give meaning to their own existence by creating a hybrid life-form, against strict orders. Their extensive knowledge of genetics allowed them to move in leaps and bounds, but their lack of wisdom inhibited them to see no further than the experiment in front of them. The creators who were from creation became creators, completing their cycle of evolution. Dren who represented Adam and Eve was nurtured by the scientists to the best of their knowledge; however her ability to learn and grow surpassed whatever they could teach her. Dren had a divine spark within her, a will or instinct that drove her; something the creators could not control which infuriated them. It is this will which represents the serpent in the garden, that instinct which leads Dren to want to metamorphosise, procreate and evolve into a more advance being. So Dren achieved the pinnacle of her existence through the sexual act, eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, and became like a god. “Splice is two thirds of a really interesting movie, more an ethical debate about scientists playing God than a Species-like monster on the loose flick - and that's part of the problem” (Gibron, 2010). No, that is the beauty of this film. It brings the age old story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, represented through parent and child, to a modern audience under the guise of sci-fi metamorphosis.





Illustrations


1. Splice Poster (2010) IMDB. Splice (2009) - IMDb


2. Giuseppe, Cesari. (1597) Oil on copper, Musee du Louvre, Paris. http://www.oceansbridge.com/oil-paintings/product/69774/adamandeveexpelledfromparadise


3. Clive and Elsa, Splice (2010) Screenrant. New ‘Splice’ Trailer Unleashed - Screen Rant


4. Dren, Splice (2010) theFXspace.com. First look at SPLICE


5. Dren, female, fully grown (2010) scificool. The Creature Of SPLICE | SciFiCool.com


6. A lion-faced deity found on a Gnostic gem. May be the Demiurge. http://image.absoluteastronomy.com/images/topicimages/d/de/demiurge.gif





1.


Bibliography








Ebert, Roger (2010) Splice, http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20100602/REVIEWS/100609991/1023


Eggertsen, Chris (2010) Splice: Director Vincenzo Natali at Sundance, http://www.splicethefilm.com/dvd/media/SPLICE_Production_Notes.pdf


French, Philip (2010) Splice, Splice | Film review | Film | The Observer


Gibron, Bill (2010) Splice, Splice (2010) - Filmcritic.com Movie Review


King James, The Holy Bible Authorised Version, London And New York, William Collins And Sons Company Limited, Genesis, Ch 2, v 8, p 8


Lucas, J. Olumide (ed) (2001) The Religion Of The Yorubas, New York, USA, Athelia Henrietta Press, p 98


Meyer, Marvin (ed) (2008) The Gnostic Gospels, London, The Folio Society, p 161, p 178


Thompson, Della (ed) 1992 The Pocket Oxford Dictionary of Current English, UK, Clarendon Press. Oxford, p558


Poker Chips

The Elephant Man

This is a sentimental film about a London Victorian surgeon (Frederick Treves, Anthony Hopkins) who learns of the existence of a disfigured person (John Merrick/Elephant Man, John Hurt) in a carnival freak show dubbed The Elephant Man. John’s character loosely based on Joseph Carey Merrick is a misfit of society, whose mother is thought to have been abused by elephants at birth. Frederick on visiting the freak show follows a policeman into the stall at which John is being exhibited. A police detective argues with the proprietor (Bytes, Freddie Jones) about the horrendous look of the Elephant Man, and ordering him to close the exhibition.  Frederick curious to see the Elephant Man bribes Bytes to see him after hours. Frederick is moved to tears after seeing John Merrick and pays handsomely for him to be documented by his medical fraternity.
“Frederick Treves (Hopkins), a surgeon at the London Hospital, removes Merrick from the dingy sideshow and treats his bronchitis. Although Treves initially thinks - hopes - Merrick is no more than an imbecile and exhibits him to his fellow doctors he is essentially a more humane keeper than Bytes (Jones).” Frederick is at first driven by curiosity by wishing to view the Elephant Man, but then he is moved to pity, and then to selfishness in his exploitation of John. This film should have been called the Victorian Surgeon And His Pet Elephant Man. The direction of this film focuses more on the surgeon than Elephant Man, John Merrick appears to prop up Frederick’s position in high-society. With only sympathy being given to John when he is abused by Bytes or others. To emphasise this so-called great duty that Frederick undertook, John receives only sympathy from him.
“It would take a heart of stone not be moved by ‘The Elephant Man’. Based upon the true story of the horrendously deformed John Merrick (Hurt), this tale of a pure soul struggling to be heard over the prejudice of the many is quite heart-rending.” The film was heart-rending, but not because of John’s so-called struggle to be heard, but because of the surgeon’s will to understand the different emotions he experiences and deals with them appropriately. When the matron points out her dislike for Frederick’s society friends visiting John, Frederick becomes defensive, nevertheless the matron drums home the idea that he is no better than Bytes, which brings him to question his true motives.  John Hurt’s physical performance of the Elephant Man is spot-on. His movement and mannerisms in that prosthetic suit is brilliant bringing to life a true vision of John Merrick. He was so subdued that no one could hear his voice, maybe because he had none.
The Elephant Man forces me to question this position on two grounds: first, on the meaning of Merrick's life, and second, on the ways in which the film employs it. It is conventional to say that Merrick, so hideously misformed that he was exhibited as a sideshow attraction, was courageous. No doubt he was. But there is a distinction here that needs to be drawn, between the courage of a man who chooses to face hardship for a good purpose, and the courage of a man who is simply doing the best he can, under the circumstances.” John Merrick was courageous in dealing with the social stigma that surrounded his deformity and the brutal treatment brought upon him by his captives. On the other hand his lack of courage to change is an issue; his submissive behaviour when being persecuted is disheartening and almost puppet-like, and warranted my anger more than this abuse. Frederick’s intervention in John’s life changes them both, with Frederick benefiting most out of the union as he learns to truly value the man he came to study. Merrick on the other hand becomes a respected gentleman, who he always was, hiding his true nature behind his disfigurement, and learns that society is willing to accept anyone if they know them better.
The Elephant Man is a good drama, a film worth seeing, if only to learn the value of constantly questioning ourselves and our motives, and never to accept the motives of others without first questioning them, whether they seem genuine or not.    

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Point 3 Lighting

Point 2 Lighting

Point 1 Lighting

 

Stylistic Lighting

 

 


A Company Of Wolves

A collage of wolf tales with no real direction or purpose, I couldn’t settle into this film. Unlike Cat People which mastered the power of suggestion, this film used the power of sexual symbolism to draw up unconscious images of the big bad wolf and his sexual prowess; but in what context and why? Was it just to explore the nature of the beast, or could there have been some other underlining tale that linked the intertwined short stories to the sleeping beauty at the beginning of the film. In the opening scenes we see Rosaleen (Sarah Patterson) fast asleep in her room, with her sister Alice (Georgia Slowe) rapping on the door and abusively requesting an audience with Rosaleen when their parents returned home. Her sleep is so deep she seems to have drifted into an alternative reality, but where that is, is not explained. There is no background story to explain the obviously dysfunctional relationship between the sisters, or the reason for her deep sleep, did she eat an enchanted apple, or what?


" A young girl dreams she is Rosaleen, who, wearing a red cape, carries her basket through the woods to Granny's house. Along the way, she meets and flirts with a werewolf in the guise of a man, and promises him a kiss if he reaches Granny's house before her.”
This one quote sums up, much of the whole film! What else can I write? Well, during Rosaleen’s dream is where ninety-nine per-cent of the film takes place. The young innocent maiden sees her sister Alice making her way through a very dark and enchanted forest, we do not know where or what this wood is called. The sister is lost and strays from the path further into the heart of the forest. She encounters giant toys that come alive, grabbing at her. Wolves lurk in shadows, waiting to pounce. The wolves corner Alice and kill her. Why did Rosaleen conceive her sister’s death, what is the background giving rise to Rosaleen’s thoughts? I don’t know why I ask, because nobody knows. Anyway, the alarm is raised and the villagers go wolf hunting. With that slight distraction out of the way, we now look at Rosaleen’s character, a young girl who is not so much curious with her sexuality, but with others’, mainly boys, who are eager to explore hers. With the neighbour’s son in hot pursuit and a suspicious gentleman entranced by her, impels Granny to guide Rosaleen on to the right forest path, warning her to beware of men who are hairy on the inside. “A bag full of symbolic folklore about werewolves, or, rather, their sexual connotation. Granny tells her granddaughter Rosaleen strange, disturbing tales about innocent maidens falling in love with handsome, heavily eyebrowed strangers with a smoldering look in their eyes”. The method of intertwining tales within a film fills in gaps and ties up loose ends. Unfortunately Rosaleen’s and Granny’s (Angela Lansbury) short stories do not produce such effect. They only convey a message of the nature of wolves and a structure on being weary of hairy men, adding to my confusion about this movie! The Company Of Wolves has a few horrific scenes - the transformation of a woodsman into a wolf at his estranged wife’s house is quite gruesome, but unrealistic. The few other transformations in the film are by noblemen, but none as horrific as the woodsman.

“The characters in Jordan's film of Angela Carter's story inhabit a magical, mysterious world of cruelty and wonder, rarely seen in cinema. In tales within tales within tales, dream is reality; wolves are human, and vice-versa. Rarely has this Gothic landscape of the imagination been so perfectly conveyed by film; there is simply a precise, resonant portrayal of a young girl's immersion in fantasies where sexuality is both fearful and seductive.” I disagree with these reviews that portray this film as magical and dreamy, in the sort of traditional fantasy genre. Yes, most dreams are strange and disjointed such as this film, as the majority of people wake up the next morning trying to piece together what happened the previous night. This is not what I want to see when I visit the cinema or Blockbusters to spend time and money. I want an entertaining, preferably original, story, and if needs be, flashy special FX. This abstract Picasso like film, with its dislocated story failed to draw me into its so-called magical world of wolves and hairy men, whose eyebrows meet in the middle. "Granny knows a great deal, but she doesn't know everything. And if there is a beast inside every man, he meets his match in the beast inside of every woman." Granny surely did not know everything, or she would have stayed at home when they were filming this movie, and the beast in every man should be neutered before embarking on any editing or production work! Good luck.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Portrait

Need to try again, bottom half too big, but since we should use all our work, even the ones we don't like, I put this up.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Cat People





“I have never liked Cat People (1942). The film is an attack on people who are 'different'. The film treats anyone who is different as psychologically disturbed, vicious, and a threat to others. It states that people who are different need psychological treatment by psychiatrists.” Yes, this film does try to portrait Simone Simon (Irena Dubrovna/Reed) as some sort of protagonist, but it fails miserably. Irena, a shy young lady, is pictured at the start of the film intently drawing at the zoo, when a young architect (Kent Smith, Oliver Reed) decides to get to know her. After a short introduction Oliver decides to escort Irena to her house, all the time explaining that he is a clean cut all-American boy. He learned that Irena is from the old country, Serbia, to be exact. Oliver who is intrigued by this young beauty imposes himself on her even further, wanting to know more about her, Irena invites him to her apartment. They enter through the double doors of her building and Oliver was pleasantly surprised with the size and the grandeur of the interior. After climbing the stairs Irena stalls before opening the door to her apartment, and stresses that she has never before invited anyone to her home. She said that he was the first friend she had made in the city. “The dialogue, a first screenplay by DeWitt Bodeen, contains lines that hint at the bizarre and the erotic. Oliver tells Irena her perfume is ‘warm and living’. Irena says the roars of the big cats in the nearby zoo is ‘natural and soothing’. As the afternoon lengthens, she finally turns on a light, after saying she finds the dark ‘friendly’.” A little bizarre maybe, but erotic, I didn’t get that from those scenes. The subtle quirk of Irena in liking the roar of the big cats is explained by the nature of humans to adapt to their surroundings, particularly with her mystical background in the old country, soon to be explained. A love of the dark is another natural quirk that many fail to understand. Do we not turn off the lights to sleep; dim the lights to create a more relaxing atmosphere? Does the darkness not bring about a calming effect enabling us to gather our thoughts, or am I just as bizarre?  The only protagonist or predator at this point is Oliver who pursues Irena with an almost stalking quality. He makes his presence felt at the zoo. He then proceeds to follow her home and spends the evening in her apartment smoking on the sofa.

Oliver sees a statue on the table and asks Irena to elaborate on the meaning it portrays, Irena cautiously tells the tale of her village in Serbia. A long time ago her village was in chaos; the women in the village made a pact with the devil, which turned them into witches who could change into big cats that could exact wrath. That was the nature of her village until a great king, King John, attempted to kill the witches, but a few fled to the mountains bring peace and order, and a new life for the people of the village. Oliver sees the fear in her eyes and comforts her, reminding her that she is no longer in the old country but in a new world, America. The couple become close, each declaring their love for each other. During Their courtship a few clues begin to emerge that link Irena to the supernatural past of her village. Oliver buys her a pet cat, which takes an immediate dislike to her, so Irena and Oliver go back to the pet shop to replace it with a bird. The couple enter the shop causing the animals to go wild, but on exiting with the proprietor the animals resume to a more sedated state. With Irena aware of what is going on she stays back when Oliver and the proprietor re-enter the store. With the animals’ heightened senses picking up on Irena’s inner beast, a panther, they realise a predator is amongst them and become naturally alarmed. Irena, very self-conscious of who she is decides as always to step back; not to cause any discomfort for those around her. After a couple of days Irena and Oliver announce their engagement in a restaurant; it is a joyous occasion with all of Oliver’s friends there. Irena is in high spirits until she is greeted with the word ‘sister’, in Serbian, by a woman cunningly cat-like. She responds with a look of terror, while the woman continues her greeting, but her frightened expression is her only response. With that the woman leaves with a stern expression, as if to say you have no business getting married, are you not one of us? Irena cannot shake the impression the woman has had on her, later relaying to Oliver what she had said and her belief that the curse of the cat people also applied to her. The couple now man and wife have difficulties with Irena’s past - Oliver unable to believe her and Irena unable to consummate the marriage for fear of the old Serbian legend that she might transform and kill her husband. From here on the film becomes much more atmospheric and tense, with Oliver suggesting Irena visit a psychiatrist recommended by work colleague Alice (Jane Randolph) who has also fallen in love with Oliver. Irena agrees and starts up a rapport with the doctor (Jack Holt, The Commodore), divulging everything to him, as he dismisses it as a mental illness. ”The heroine's condition is in some ways a code for being a lesbian. The film endorses the complete run of prejudice gays and lesbians faced in that era: the condition is seen both as a sin against religion, and a mental illness that needs to be treated by a psychiatrist. This is one of the worst cases of homophobia in 1940's film.” I understand what the reviewer is getting at, but I don’t agree with attaching a homophobia to it, and if I wanted too I could attach a racial phobia, or a cat phobia, and the list could go on and on. So let’s deal with the phobia that is at hand, religion, Christian monotheism against the pagan polytheism, with Oliver representing the new world of Christianity – his initial reaction being to denounce his wife’s beliefs as a sort of mental illness. And Irena the beauty from the old country who embodies ancient pagan practices of witches and Satan. Irena’s journey from Serbia to America represents her desire to leave behind the old pagan ways; her falling in love and marriage is the aim to adopt the new Christian belief. The old ways appear as facts, with laws that cannot be broken; they are not represented as a belief. The story builds on this struggle between the couple’s relationship and the husband’s separate needs. The husband’s needs overcome him as he believes he is being deprived of Irena’s physical love. Oliver’s perceived neglect leads him to strikes up a more intimate relationship with Alice, Irena becomes aware of his infidelity, as Oliver inadvertently keeps dropping Alice’s name into every conversation. Irena struggles to control her emotions, and does for the better part of this film, only letting her true jealous rage through on a few occasions without hurting anyone. On one occasion Oliver and Alice are cornered in their office by Irena who has transformed into a panther Oliver shouts at Irena begging her to leave them alone, but Irena still approaches. Oliver reaches for a T-square on the desk to defend Alice and himself, with the office bathed in darkness and only the street lights shining through the window casting obscure shadows. Oliver and Alice position themselves in a corner in front of the window; he raises the T-square in the air as if to swing at the inevitable danger, casting the shadow of Christ holding the crucifix and shouting “in the name of god leave us alone”. Irena retreats after hearing this, obviously being reminded of her desire to shed her old pagan ways.

The power of suggestion is the true master in this film allowing atmosphere, dialogue and great camera work to post images into the mind, to achieve a sense of terror although we couldn’t physically see any, as we wait in anticipation for the panther to pounce but it never does, well almost never the sleazy commodore goes one step too far and forces himself onto Irena, causing the ill-fated transformation into a panther. This makes Cat People a real classic; it doesn’t matter which side of the fence the audience sits on, whether you are pagan or Christian, the pros and cons are there for us all to see.

Monday, 4 October 2010

Work done at London College Of Communication


LCC Work







video

La Belle et La Bête



We all have that beast in us, but we lack the knowhow of how to transform from the beast into something truly human. This fairytale however knew exactly what would tame the savage heart, love. If it was only that simple for the rest of us. The story starts with the damsel in distress (Josette Day, Belle) and the powers that bind her in this situation, her siblings - especially her sisters (Mila Parély, Félicie and Nane Germon, Adélaïde). Her father (Marcel André, Belle’s father/Merchant) through no fault of his own has to take some responsibility for this environment; with his failing business and lack of money. The only son (Michel Auclair, Ludovic) is no help what-so-ever, becoming a full-time wastrel around the house, with his equally lazy friend (Jean Marais, La Bête (The Beast), The Prince and Avenant) in tow, who has a crush on Belle. The precious sisters have no taste for humble pie and do everything they can to keep up an appearance of grandeur, putting Belle to work doing menial chores - too stubborn to recognise that they are all in the same boat. But this does not faze Belle, realising that her sacrifice is to keep her father and family content. The atmosphere at the start of the film is very light with more than a few humorous scenes, creating a comic feel to the air of magic which surrounds the production. The film continues in this fashion with each cast member solidifying their characters strengths and weaknesses.
 “Beauty and the Beast, the first film of Cocteau’s own since The Blood of a Poet, is by general consent one of the most enchanting pictures ever made” I agree it was enchanting, and the visual effects were very satisfying in places, but, one of the most enchanting pictures ever made, I don’t think so. This review, written 3 June 1991 was almost 20-years-ago, nevertheless, between 1946 and 1991, there have been some real gems. Disney’s Beauty And The Beast for instance, is just as superior, if not more so - nothing can compare to an animated fantasy when it is done well. The only barrier animation really faces is time - deadlines - more to the point. One’s imagination can be realised with animation, characters brought to life, with worlds born from the things dreams are made of.
What of Legend, and Jim Henson’s Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal, with live action and puppets bringing magic and suspense from start to finish. Cocteau introduces suspense half-way into his film, when we see the Merchant (father) arrive at the port master’s office as he tries to negotiate the release of his goods, but to no avail. Within the gloomy room the windows portray the darkness and fog, which then changes the mood of the film, as the port master ushers the merchant out into the night, turning down his every request. The merchant disappointed with his travel to the port now faces a more uncertain journey back. The burden of coming back empty handed, together with the fog causes the elderly merchant to lose his way, bringing him to an unfamiliar part of the forest. He continues on this path until he reaches a magnificent castle. The castle seems almost alive, with doors that open and close by themselves, statues that watch you with piercing eyes, and arms bearing candles that protrude from the walls. Outside in the courtyard the merchant sees the Rose that he had promised Belle, and plucks it. Cocteau's La Belle et la Bête has a lot to do with the way you know the story of Beauty and the Beast. For example, Cocteau came up with the details of the Beast's castle that we're familiar with: talking doors, food that serves itself, and so on. The Disney version ripped this off and added the voice of Angela Lansbury. Cocteau's castle is much creepier”

Creepier maybe, but the Disney version added a better understanding through animation of the character of Cocteau’s mansion and its inhabitants; bringing to life candlestick holders, a clock and, a tea pot and cup, which did not seem soulless and creepy like the original.



The mood still remains tense, with the use of the darkness and shadows to intensify the scenes, allowing Belle and the Beast’s theatrical acting to be more prominent – particularly around the dinner table when the Beast asks Belle to marry him. However, she turns him down, expressing her true feelings about the beast. This doesn’t sway the Beast. He professes that he will, every night at 7, ask for her hand in marriage at the dinner table. Belle and the Beast form an uneasy alliance with Belle insisting on her privacy and constructing boundaries by which the Beast is happy to oblige. As he puts her needs before his, Belle’s immediate dislike for the Beast allows her to see his kinder side. Despite his ugliness, Belle starts to see the true nature of the Beast, although she glimpses his savagery on the few occasions he believes himself to be alone. Belle begins to understand the battle the Beast faces within himself, which allows her to pity the monster. Belle now comfortable in her new abode gains more and more feelings for the Beast as time goes by, but the sole memory of her sickly father tugs at her heart strings. She convinces the Beast to let her go to visit him, but in doing so the Beast asks her to promise that she will return in 7 days or he will die, and entrusts her with the five secrets of his powers - The Rose, The Glove, The Horse, The Key to Diana’s pavilion, and The Mirror. The key and the glove are given to Belle; the glove in particular, is used as a way of teleporting from the castle back to her family’s estate. This is executed very well, as she emerges from the wall like water being poured through a crack, landing back in her bedroom.
The key is placed on a bedside table and forgotten about by Belle. She rushes out of the room to see her father whose bedridden body soon comes to life from the sight of his daughter he had presumed dead. The rest of the family are soon alerted, and she unravels the mystery of her disappearance to the enchanted castle, and her life with the Beast. However, she makes the ill-fated mistake of telling her siblings the circumstances of her departure - which she must return in 7 days or the Beast, will die. She tells of the love he has for her, entrusting her with the key, and the secrets of his powers. You can imagine what happens after that, you are right, the siblings plot against Belle, planning to kill the Beast and relieve him of his treasures.
I agree, the ending did seem rushed, I think the audience would have appreciated a little more insight into the Beast’s powers, especially the reason for Diana's pavilion. Who amongst us wouldn't want to rid ourselves of the animal deep within our psyche and elevate to the highest of heights. Although predictable – with the beast transforming into a handsome prince, and the wrong doers punished - I found this an entertaining production. In 1946 I would have marvelled at the special effects and the dreamy retelling of this fable, but like many films which rely heavily on the special effects, the production becomes dated, and all that remains is a story and the acting. The story, a simple tale of never judge a book by its cover, and acting which is mediocre in some places and very theatrical in others. It is the kind of film you would enjoy watching after waking up hung-over on Sunday at 12noon.