The Selfish Giant (2013)

The Selfish Giant (2013) Poster

Written and Directed by Clio Barnard

Having been lucky enough to see this film at the Gulbenkian Cinema at the University of Kent, where I study, the very campus at which Clio Barnard is a reader for Film Studies, I may be slightly biased in my review of this film, as my pride as a Kent Film student may have swayed my views, slightly. Never the less, this is undoubtedly one of the most moving films I have seen in my life, leaving me sobbing, it is a must see especially as it is an extreme exposé of the poverty that is an everyday occurrence for such families as Arbor’s.

The film follows a young boy, Arbor, whose mother and school struggle to cope with his extreme behaviour caused somewhat by a mix of ADHD and energy drinks. His saviour, it seems, his friendship with his best friend, Swifty, or at least it would be had this film been made with the typical Hollywood storyline and ending in mind. However this is not the case, we are drawn into an unfair world and so are given a true and realistic ending, possibly so that the harsh facts of this kind of life hits home with its audience. The emotion that is forced upon us is not just done so through the plot, but through such technical aspects as the motif of a shot of the Swifty and Arbor holding hands. This signifies the importance of their friendship to both of their lives, in the end this is all these boys seem to have that is certain, by the end the presentation of this motif is a bitter reminder of the reality outside of this film

The most obvious question that arises from the film is not the most obviously answered. Who is the Selfish Giant? The nerdiest answer would be that, after watching the film, the Selfish Giant is society, its unforgiving attitude and lack of help given towards these characters we see portraying Britain’s vast problems with poverty. It could also be Arbor, as he is the main character; however he is forgiven of his lack of consideration for others by the end as he is only a child. It could then be Kitten, an adult who takes advantage of these children in poverty, giving them work, treating them as adults when what they need is parental guidance. This is the choice that many a reviewer and critic have opted for as it is a tangible person who the audience looks to blame, however he is also a victim of circumstance as Arbor is.

It is no surprise that this film has been nominated for many awards, and won them, such as Best Independent Film and Best Director at the BIFAs. It has also been acknowledged for its technical achievements, as the cinematography is also one of the things that stand out as incredibly sophisticated especially considering it is only Barnard’s 1st Feature length film, not including her also acclaimed documentary, The Arbor.

This film is definitely one of my favourite of 2013, and a must watch when it comes out on DVD, I know I’ll be buying it and making everyone I know watch it. This needs to be seen buy as many people as possible, not only due to its unforgiving social commentary, for the political enthusiast in you, but also its sophisticated cinematography, for the film lover in you. For every other side of you there is the incredible characterisation of both Arbor and Swifty who you will both fall in love with and pity, as well as Barnard’s storytelling skills.

 

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Let The Right One In (2008)

“Låt den rätte komma in”             (original title)

Written by John Ajvide Lindqvist

Directed by Tomas Alfredson

A tale of innocence and vampirism, Tomas Alfredson directs this coming- of- age film in which a 200 year old vampire trapped in a young girls body befriends a young teenage boy, bringing him into her dark world, in which she needs blood to survive. Set in the suburbs of Stockholm, mysterious murders invade young Oskar’s world, an alluringly beautiful girl, Eli, moves in next door, but can only come out to play at night. And can walk barefoot in the snow.

This film captures the innocence of the love which the American remake does not. Eli’s need for blood to survive, not as monstrous, but as pitiful, she cannot help who she has become and yet she is not ready to die. This story of young love pulls on the heartstrings very unexpectedly. Our protagonist is the 12 year old Oskar, who is a character we come to care for, we hate the bullies almost as much as him and worry about his preoccupation with crime. We seem to fall into the role of the caring parent rather than seeing the world from his point of view. The tender moments between our two main characters, include using Morse code to communicate through the wall, Oskar accepting Eli for who she is and Eli returning his love the only way she knows how, through revenge.

As one of my favourite films, I would say this has to be added to your must watch list. Forget about watching the American remake Let Me In, there is no comparison. None. Nada. Every time I’m almost brought to tears, as well as being terrified by the suspenseful, fearful and bloody murders. This is a horror, love story, tear jerker and all round an incredibly made film. Subtitles may put some people off but it’s their loss, Let The Right One In is one of them films that five minutes in, you won’t even realise it isn’t in English. Forget Edward Cullen, the lovable Oskar will steal your heart.

Anna Karenina

 

Written by Tom Stoppard

Directed by Joe Wright

This is probably the most visually interesting film I’ve seen this year. Keira Knightly delivers an emotional performance as the title character, living in 1870s Russia and dealing with the social etiquette of that time. Tolstoy’s heart breaking novel, commenting on Russian society of his time, is a surprising choice for a movie, but Joe Wright brings the elegance of the novel to life. As a married Russian socialite, Anna has to uphold certain values in her lifestyle, so when temptation comes falls into her path in the form of Aaron Johnson-Taylor’s Vronsky, her world is turned upside down.

The incredible use of theatre-come-film set making and the transitions between scenes are like nothing I’ve seen before. Building a city in the stalls and setting up a room around the character, just gives this film that little bit more awe, as we see Anna’s world literally building up and falling down around her. This style of set allows for incredible camera movements, we see characters peering down from the lighting bridge onto the stage viewing the secrets of the society, our high angle shots, therefore are allowed to swoop from one characters point of view to another. Longer takes are allowed as the set is moved around the camera, not the other way around.

Lighting both hides and reveals Anna’s secrets to the audience, it emphasises the feeling of the whole room looking at you in high society, through the spotlight literally being on her. Anna’s happiness moments are in brilliant light, away from the stage, away from the eyes of society, while her darker days are literally in the dark, onstage, for everyone to see. Moments with her husband are always onstage, her marriage under the scrutiny of society, she can’t escape judgement from her peers. Anna Karenina is trapped. Trapped by her marriage, trapped by society, trapped by her love. In this we watch her life spiral out of control, due to the constraints on her love.

If you love elegance, if you love heart break, if you love tragedy, you will love this film. Think Victorian type society ideals to the extreme, mixed with the harsh background of cold Russia, and a woman in love with the wrong man caught in the middle of it all.

Warm Bodies (2013)

Warm Bodies (2013) Poster

Written & Directed by Jonathan Levine

In the not too distant future the majority of the USAs population are zombies.  We see this through the eyes of R, our zombie tour guide taking us through his seemingly monotonous zombie life. Until he meets Julie, that’s when it gets interesting, that’s when we realise that we are in for a different kind of zom-rom-com, one where your root for the zombies, and the love affair between a human, and zombie who is struggling desperately to regain some sensation of being alive. Even if it means doing that cliché zombie thing of eating brains …

R, played by Nicholas Hoult, offers us some hilarious zombie/teen idiosyncrasies, almost endearing, making us root for the love affair being able to conquer all, even death. Jonathan Levines fresh take on the zombie genre is surprisingly enjoyable. The trailer doesn’t do it justice, I had no desire to see this at the cinema but having watched it on dvd, I really wish I had. As you can imagine with a zombie film from the point of view of a zombie, the pace starts off slow but as R’s pace increases so does the film, and with the introduction of love into this zombies life, a more human pace is then adopted.

This film can be described as so many things, a coming of age film, as zom rom com, but neither really fully explains it. It can be enjoyed as a new age zombie film by nerds like me everywhere as well as by groups of girls who will be surprised at the uncanny accent of British actor Nicholas Hoult, or better known as ‘Tony from Skins’. It really is one for all audiences. It pulls you in, the more R feels, the more we do. If you’re looking for a dawn of the dead style gore fest then this isn’t for you, although fair warning there are a fair amount of brain shots, but if you’re looking for a genuinely surprising story line, and after all, a feel good film, then I’d definitely give this a watch, this is one for the dvd collection.