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.

Suspiria (1977)

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Directed byDario Argento

Written by Dario Argento & Daria Nicolodi

A film set in a German Ballet academy, directed by an Italian film maker and spoken in the English language is bound to have a mixture of influences, but what struck me about Suspiria is the cinematic influence it has had on many of my personal favourite films. Never has a film reminded me so much of so many others. The story, although long and a bit slow, is clearly a classic tale of good and evil, with an American student travelling halfway around the world to study her passion at a dance academy when some strange occurrences start happening . After a gruesome death reminiscent of the slasher genre, the story follows Suzy as she struggles to fit into the academy, whilst trying to ignore the signs of things not being quite right in her new residence. Inspired by such gothic stories as those of the Grimm Brothers, this film uses many horror conventions to send shivers down your spine.

Suspiria reminded me of some of its contemporary films such as Carrie (1976) with the significance of blood to the story as well as later films such as The Shining (1980) through the use of a red setting, like the blood red of The Shining’s Bathroom scene, and the red exterior of the academy in Suspiria, giving a bloody first impression of the place. This visual choice by Argento gives the ominous effect of the supernatural, making it seem as if the walls are dripping with blood, clinging to the setting as the centre of the haunting atmosphere. The cinematography and tinkling music in an interesting non dialogue scene where the blind piano player walks through the town is also reminiscent of the famous Tubular Bells walk near the start of The Exorcist (1973). The similarities extend to the foreboding elements that the two scenes suggest and the suspense, the waiting for something to happen, the tense atmosphere just waiting to be released through a scare or shock. This era of American cinema has to be one of my favourites, and this film fits so well into that category, amongst some of the best horror films of all time, it seems it’s only a matter of time until its remade by some Hollywood studio, as is happening to all truly great horror films, no doubt with Chloe Moretz playing a lead role.

To me it also seems to have influenced more modern films such as the quick editing style of Edgar Wright, the suspense caused by it, the almost waiting to be scared through contrasting this with long takes of the country side, again, waiting for something to happen. It also has such images as this …

… devil’s snare anyone?

Although not the most imaginative of narratives or endings (without giving too much away), the cinematography, editing and just composition of everything are amazing, I have never seen anything like it, never watched a film and been in complete awe of the visual aspects of it. The way everything is placed on the screen, how one shot suggestively slides into another, the narrative, which I always focus on, comes second in my eyes to this astounding artistic piece of cinema. There’s one particular shot in which a glass of wine is being drunk, the deep red matches the almost black background of the door, in deep focus, it’s like the wine is pouring into or away from it. There are so many shots like this; I’ll be amazed if you can’t find just one shot that makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up.

There isn’t much focus on the dancing aspect of this film as it is a horror not a musical, but one of my favourite scenes is that of Suzy, dancing on point (dancing term for standing on the tips of your toes), feeling faint and staggering, still on point and then her falling from such a height. Seeing this from a high angle, the helplessness of her is presented. After which a close up on her face reveals pinky-red blood dripping from her nose. One of the most beautiful scenes I’ve ever had the pleasure of viewing. The utter helplessness of our protagonist fighting against the music to dance, a stark contrast with how the other girls are dancing, shows the significance of her to the story, her inability to fit in, to keep up could possibly save her.

It’s so difficult to explain just how enchanting the composition of this film is without watching it. So that’s my advice to you. Watch this film, guaranteed you will be as lost for words as I was when I first saw it, which Is why I took so long to write this review. It’s difficult to put into words just how chilling and mesmerising and tense this film is. Not necessarily scary but you will get a few jumps out of this, but mainly the effect of the film is the fear of the jumps that you Argento takes his time setting up. You will not be disappointed.

The Purge (2013)

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Directed and Written  by  James DeMonaco

The year is 2022 and the American Dream is in full view, the crass colours stand out on the screen in an imitation of the Hollywood melodramas of the 1950s. James DeMonaco seems to adopt the falseness of that era in his introduction of the perfect Sandins and their neighbourhood. The claustrophobic nosey neighbours and deliberate magnification of everything from faces to movements imploring us to notice their imperfections sets the uneasy atmosphere. The effect given is that of the unrealistic expectations of America, the larger than life lifestyle is represented and this can only be experienced, in my view, whilst watching it on the big screen.

During the Purge, the Sandins, the wealthiest family in the neighbourhood are locked down in their house, their choice is to hide rather than seek but the night has other ideas, when the youngest of the Sandins acts on his conscience, the family are thrown into a situation where they must decide; kill or be killed.

The Purge can be seen as a strictly American film, with it only being fully understood by those who live in the USA. The importance of the constant reference to the ‘new founding fathers’ can only be understood by those whose everyday life is already effected by the original founding fathers. American audiences may see this as a comment on society, a political stance or just a ‘what if?’ film, but those who do not have a considerable understanding of American life and politics may find it difficult to gain the full message of the film.

I’m still not sure about whether this is an amazing idea/comment on where American society is heading of just another Battle Royale type film. I can’t fault the acting, Ethan Hawke plays the competitive all American father, Lena Headey, the Game of Thrones beauty, plays the concerned, not quite fitting in housewife who would do anything for her children. I guess it comes down to the fact that yes I did enjoy it but no I would not buy it on DVD. I’d recommend it as a rental on LoveFilm or Sky Box Office when it comes out or trying to catch it at the cinema now, but it loses its effect after the first time viewing. The shocks can’t happen twice and, as there has already been a sequel rumoured I’d wait for that for my next fix of The Purge.

First Post ..

stanley-kubrick-great-director

Hi Guys!

So I’ve decided to start my own film review blog, seeing as I have about a million opinions and don’t know what to do with them

I’m going to have to tweak a few things before I post anything else but I thought I’d try and get it started.

So I’ll be reviewing/ analysing anything from a personal favourite Kubrick film to a film I’ve just seen at the cinema.

If you have any recommendations or anything feel free to let me know and I’ll try my best to watch and write a post about it.

To be honest this is mainly a way to voice my opinion on a film without annoying my friends and family =) (I talk about films a lot)

So my first post should be up in a few days and I’ll try to post a few a week from now on.