Friday, 24 October 2014
The found-footage gimmick is somewhat of a hurdle to overcome these days. It's cheap, easy and often nausea inducing. Its similarity to a one night hook-up from the bar down the street continues in that it's difficult to make something that lasts out of it and get something that's more than one night's worth of fun.
It's a shame really, that something that can lend authenticity and an immersive feel to a film has been so overused.
Troll Hunter, however, jumps the hurdle and runs with the concept. For once, there's a reason to be filming for one. Øvredal's film features a trio of plucky Norwegian students are trying to make their mark on journalism by tracking down an illegal bear hunter in Volda. They soon discover that bears aren't his real prey and that far from the most fearsome creature lurking in the beautiful vistas of fjord country.
The bleak, mountainous and often dark surroundings that envelope the film are whole-heartedly reflected in the comedy of the writing. The typically dry humour of Scandinavia is weaved throughout the entire production. On one hand you have these terrifying, eldritch monsters towering up hundreds of feet up into the sky, ready to smash, tear and eat their way through anything that moves, and on the other you have incompetent civil servants, bureaucracy and a silly attitude to the dispensable cast. It's all delivered in a dry deadpan style and just works so smoothly that it works as a mockumentary on a level that many miss. It takes the "mock" bit as important for one. Poking fun at conspiracy theorists that believe that modern governments are capable of hiding a troll-sized elephant in the room, the film lambasts both the nutjobs and political landscapes with equal measure. One throwaway line about new Muslims immigration in particular is genius and biting.
Technically speaking, there are some weak points. With a CGI budget that is, understandably, much lower than those of Hollywood some of the effects can look a bit shonky. A very shaky and worrying start when the monsters are first encounter doesn't bode well, but it very quickly improves and some of the final scenes are genuinely impressive. The run time also feels a little padded out. As breathtaking as Norway's countryside is, you do see a lot of it shot from the inside of a moving Land Rover. But with a short runtime of around 100 minutes it's not something I think the editor's will be losing much sleep over.
Troll Hunter is a fresh take on the mockumentary genre and manages to spin the many plates of suspense, comedy, satire and horror with varying degrees of finesse, but all done to some level of high quality.
Tuesday, 14 October 2014
I saw Enemy about a week ago, and ever since I've been mulling it over and replaying it in my head. I've been wondering around lost in thought just pondering exactly how to put down in words how I feel about it. I couldn't really put into words what I appreciated about it and why I enjoyed it because I couldn't land on a specific message or idea it was trying to tell me.
Then today I stumbled upon a quote from Stanley Kubrick that helped me out:
Enemy's strange opening is matched only by its strange ending scene, with good competition coming from several seemingly irrelevant and isolated shots inserted throughout. Not a lot is explained, but the opening title card, reading "Chaos is order yet undeciphered", lays out why it's left unexplained. We are viewing a message that's encoded somehow without the cypher.
In essence, the film shows us the journey of university lecturer Adam Bell (Jake Gyllenhaal) who lives an unfulfilling, repetitive life. He discovers through chance the existence of Anthony (Jake Gyllenhaal), a man who looks exactly like him. Exactly like him. In an effort to track him down and figure out what's going on things get weird and existential.
It's Gyllenhaal's second film with director Denis Villeneuve, hot on the heels of Prisoners. It has very little in common with their previous film except for the high quality and understated, fantastic acting of Gyllenhaal.
I'm struggling to put into words exactly why I enjoyed Enemy so much. I think it's quite uncharacteristic for me. I don't understand it but I love it. That Kubrick quote is something that will stick with me for a while.
If the test is to love something without needing to understand it, Enemy steals my heart and hits my brain with a truck. So it passes, I guess.