Sunday, October 25, 2009

tragedy strikes the silver screen

When a film has you crying five minutes into it, you should realize you're in for a long ride. What is it about a movie that grabs hold of us and turns our emotions, and gets a physical response out of us? If film was purely escapism this wouldn't happen. No, films are about identification. Numerous film academics and directors alike would disagree with me, but for my argument let's focus mainly the big "blockbusters" that get so much of this attention. As a viewer there is an association we make with the characters of a film. Sometimes it's a distrust and dislike, but often it's symbiotic sharing of emotions. This is especially true in sad movies when a tragedy befalls a likable character.

In two days I saw both Bright Star and The Boys are Back at the London Film Festival. Jane Campion's Bright Star is about the the deep love between poet John Keats and Fanny Brawne. I am not ruining anything by saying that Keats dies and the audience is left watching a wrecked and torn apart Fanny. I stared, elbows on knees, at the screen with uncontrollable tears streaming down my face. Campion set up the most gorgeous love affair between two people. The lighting and mise-en-scene reflected an airy, perfect love that from the get-go is doomed (or at least the viewers know that). We romanticize the great artists of the past and Bright Star is no different. Ben Whishaw, who plays Keats, is handsome with dark eyes, a curious smile, and a sincere countenance. He is exactly who we hope John Keats was. And naturally, we are heartbroken when he dies. But it is not only death that makes us cry in movies.

The Australian Scott Hicks film The Boys are Back utilizes sadness and happiness back and forth to pull at the audience's heart. Women cry and it's sad, but when Clive Owen cries, it's sadder. The story of Joe Warr (Owen), who loses his wife to cancer (literally five or six minutes into the film) and is left to learn how to be a single parent to his six year old son is, if nothing else, a story about learning. Not only the death of Joe's wife, but also the love between a son and father makes the audience reel. The movie places human emotions in relation to vast, sprawling Australian landscapes and a strong soundtrack by Sigur Rós.

Any emotional fragility will have you bleary eyed after and during these films, but if you can stand it and bring some tissues or don't mind using your sleeve, these films are absolutely worth seeing.

1 comment:

  1. wow i must go see these! you make them sound so great. miss you