Collateral Beauty followed the trend of Christmas releases that are designed to prey on our emotions during a time of family and togetherness. With a collection of talented actors, the film was sure to do well. However, its success was eclipsed by that of Disney’s release Rogue One. The film did reasonably well when considering its worldwide performance but had a high budget of $36m, most likely due to its A-list stars including Will Smith, Helen Mirren, Kate Winslet and Keira Knightley.
The film explores human emotion from the very beginning, starting with the ‘why?’ as Smith explains as our motivation for living simplified into three entities, time, death and love. During the film, these entities become all too real for Will Smith’s character Howard who is dealing with the devastating loss of his daughter. Collateral Beauty exploits our raw emotions through the relationships in the film and the characters attempt to save themselves, the company and Howard.
These relationships intertwine with each other and are made to reveal the beauty of life through death, time and love and how far Howard’s friends are willing to go to try and help bring meaning back into a sad, empty man’s life. The overall concept for the film is simple, a man tries to find meaning when his world crumbles and falls, this could be represented by Howard’s obsession with dominos, as he tries to build his life back up through confrontations with parts of life that he thinks have wronged him.
The film is a journey of acceptance, that the world may not have to mean and that his daughter is gone.
Through the intense performance by Will Smith, the audience is allowed to truly connect and sympathise with his character and his loss. The film may also be attempting to portray a different light to Christmas for people, not just as a happy occasion for all, though this may be looking too far into this Warner Brothers/New Line production.
Collateral Beauty is a fantastical drama that explores grief and reality through characters portraying entities of life such as death, time and love. An impossible reality made real for Howard through the intervention of his friends, in an attempt to help his company and his grief. The film is almost theatrical in its staging of this characters, as they try and unpick human behaviour and life to help Howard, appearing in restaurants, parks and subway stations. This is crafted in an attempt to prove their reality and Howard’s insanity.
The themes of the film are clear, love, death, time, friendship, family and togetherness all of which create a truly emotional Christmas film. But it is just a that, a film that plucks the heart strings with an interesting perspective and a quality cast of actors.
Tom Hooper achieves raw cinematic emotion through his adaption of the novel ‘The Danish Girl’ by David Ebershoff. Although the film is based on a fictional story, it still carries a weight to it that is both realistic and expressive. The Danish Girl is a pseudo biographical drama based on the life of two characters that have a failed relationship due to one of them being transgender. The film is based in 1920’s Copenhagen, a time that was not accepting of the ‘other’ in society. The film is based before the war, when people were comfortable with society normalcy. The film explores the journey that Einar Wegener (Eddie Redmayne) takes of self-discovery and wholeness. Although the film is centred on Einar, it also recounts the impact to his wife Gerda Wegener (Alica Vikander). The film is as much about transgender as it is about relationship struggles.
The main themes surrounding the film are freedom and sensuality. This is accomplished by the use of art, more specifically painting. Both characters are artists, this is how they express and reveal themselves to each other. It also works as a cinematic device to show the shift in power between the characters relationship. Einar is a landscape painter who is the success out of the two; Gerda is yet to get her break in her career as a portrait artist. The scene where Gerda asks to paint a portrait of Einar temporarily as a ballerina is when the truth is released in him and he is set free. Holding up the hose, wearing the shoes, feeling the silk of the dress sets free a part of Einar that has been kept hidden from even himself. Lilie is born in this moment of pleasure, Einar is captivated by the secret female pleasure of the feathery hose tickling his skin and the satin dress poised around his body, he is allowed a moment to believe, a moment to feel and a moment to be free.
In this moment Lilie is set free, free to take control for Einar. After this highly suggestive and expressive scene, Einar cannot fight Lilie. His paintings are harder to perfect and his need to be uninhibited takes hold. Through the aid of his wife Gerda, they create Lilie, with the work of make-up, dress, wig and mannerisms they hoax their acquaintances into truly believing Lilie is real. Gerda unintentionally releases the true flaw in their marriage. As Lilie/Einar is no longer himself, he is Lilie, she positions her hands, she tilts her head, she speaks as Lilie. Einar disappears as though he was simply a mistake finally being corrected. In this place Lilie is able to meet and be accepted for once by a man. However this moment peals away when Gerda catches this act of acceptance and is shocked. She wishes to not see ‘Lilie’ again.
However, the truth can not be wished away, Einar becomes less present in the film, he paints less, feeling Einar disappearing, too enthralled with his true person, Lilie. Lilie comes out when Einar explores the limitations of his male body, in a truly painful scene when Einar undresses in front of a mirror, naked, bare, and uncomfortable in his own skin. He poses and rearranges him self as how a women appears, thinking that if he does this perhaps he will be able to achieve his true feminine self. Einar feels things that are truly breath-taking and beautiful and it is not in his own skin, it is in Lilie’s.
After this scene Einar fades away like a breath of air, he can no longer hide his true self and seeks help. Gerda comes to terms with this and just wishes him to be well and happy again, her old husband. However, the doctors and their treatment only seem to worsen the matter as they believe that his condition is hormonal, when this fails they believe it is a matter of his state of mind and declare him insane. However, Gerda does not believe this, she fights for her husband and for Lilie time and time again, even though in saving one she dooms the other. As the narrative progresses Lilie is fully formed and ready to live her life as a transgender, even though the term would not have yet existed. Lilie and Gerda come to a mutual symbiosis, but still Lilie is not happy with her form; she does not feel at one with herself. She undergoes the next stage and becomes the first male to female sex reassignment surgery to take place.
Her eagerness to correct a mistake at birth causes complications and she catches an infection. However, Gerda is there for her through it all, allowing Lilie one moment in the world as a true women, a moment in the sun where Lilie is finally at one with herself. This scene is truly emotional as Lilie finally achieves her true identity and it is taken from her. Although it could also be seen as blissful, as Lilie dies in her rightful form, able to be eternally a women.
I believe this film achieves a painful cinematic pleasure, something so bitter sweet and powerful that it maybe able to change the views of transgender for society. Feeling something so powerful had the ability to make a whole audience breakdown into tears. This film helps to capture a missing element in the notion of transgender, helping to make people better understand the struggle and process. Tom Hooper has captured the views and journey of a hugely controversial matter, though it is set in the 1920’s very little has changed, the surgery is possible but peoples state of minds are still not as open, which is a sad notion.
The Intouchables (2011) a French film directed and written by Olivier Nakache, Eric Toledano. The Intouchables is a comedy as well as an intense drama. The film is based on a true story of a 61 year old, French aristocrat who is stuck in a wheel chair in 1993. The film plucks at our heartstrings with a beautiful sense of performance. This is impressive as the budget was only €9,500,000, with this the directors were able to have impressive long shots of Parisian life, paragliding and reckless car driving.
These aspects are what made the film so triumphant in so many different markets of the country. After only 9 weeks from the release of the film it became the second most successful French film, after Welcome to the Sticks (2008), which is first successful. It has sold nearly three times as many tickets worldwide as The Artist.
The film explores themes of companionship, loneliness and disability. The stem of the films motifs is centred on impotence and feebleness. Having to completely rely on another human being to keep you safe and alive, this requires patience and trust. This sense of patience is used to style the film, slow, and steady like the pace of the film, for example the shots and sounds used. This links perfectly with the type of genre and narrative that is presented, allowing the audience to truly immerse themselves in the visual style and performance that the film offers them.
The film also explores the differences in people in society, yet t are able to connects and form a life long. Philippe is rich, Driss is poor, Philippe is a aristocrat, Driss is a criminal, Philippe enjoys Mozart, Driss enjoys Kool and the Gang. Though different they share humour and enjoy life’s many pleasures that they can better enjoy through the aid of each other.
The film is based in Paris, the refined and knowledgeable Philippe (François Cluzet) is trapped in a wheelchair, only able to move his head, and he is also a millionaire. Driss (Omar Sy) needs welfare money by looking for work, which is where Philippe and Driss meet. Philippe is interviewing candidates for his carer. The relationship between the two kindles when Driss is rude and unphased by Philippe’s condition. Philippe immediately connects with Driss and offers him a trial period to help him. This involves Driss staying with Philippe in his extravagant mansion, living the good life. Changing the boring life of Philippe and his employees
The Intouchables is based on a true story, that allows for a deep emotional connection to the characters. Driss was in reality a young Algerian man called Abdel. The directors Eric Toledano and Olivier Nakache changed the character’s nationality to West-African, as they had enjoyed working with Omar Sy on Tellement proches (2009). François Cluzet expressed that portraying a man paralysed from the neck down was a particular challenge. “I’m an actor who isn’t fond of dialogue and who loves to act silently. That means I usually need my body to express things … Driss becomes my body in a way.” François Cluzet is one of Frances most respected actors. “I think it’s a very human story, and it’s funny and touching. Philippe chooses Driss as his caretaker partly because he doesn’t see him as disabled or pity him. He just sees another person.”
Both characters come from having a disadvantage in life for example one a physical disability, the other socioeconomic however, the characters bond because of this struggle. This is shown in a meaningful scene, where the two characters have a heart to heart, in a café, high on marijuana after Philippe struggles with phantom limb pain. The two speak openly, sharing the same eye level, allowing the camera to catch this intimate moment perfectly. Two guys talking about life forgetting Philippe’s real struggles such as only having his mind.
The French have made a true masterpiece; it is as visually pleasing as it is emotionally forceful. The Intouchables is a cinematic gem. Mathieu Vadepied is the masterful cinematographer that puts the film to justice. The use of angles and transitional shots helps to create that intense emotional bond that Driss and Philippe share. Mathieu dominantly uses tight zooms and close ups to explore this relationship, to reflect the friendship between the two. The close up shots forces the audience to be uncomfortable close to characters, stuck almost, reflecting Philippe’s emotional state and position during the film.
The composer for The Intouchables is Ludovico Einaudi who is known for composing for films such as This Is England (2006), Aprile (1998) and Insidious (2010). The music composed is influential to the film as it helps the audience identify important moments in the film. The song Fly by Ludovico itself is solemn and uplifting, matching the story perfectly the song itself is used to link to Phillips accident paragliding, Fly, ironically named, to represent though constrained to a chair he can still enjoy life, the music is played when this occurs. The film also features Earth, Wind and Fire songs such as September to introduce Driss’s effect on Philippes life.
The Intouchables is not just a drama, there are many truly enjoyable and funny moments which allows the film to develop and become even more heart warming for the audience, an example of this is when Driss experiences Opera for the first time. The film can be slow paced at times, whether this is on purpose is a matter for you to decide, I believe this is so that the audience can soak in the emotions and style of the film. It is a pure cinema, visually pleasing, amazing performance and brilliant script. The films narrative is that of truth and honesty, how life real is, in all its pain and pleasure. The film uses humour towards the ignorance and humiliation that people present to those who live with paralysis every day. The film truly is a cinematic gift, that I have thoroughly enjoyed many times. I hope you enjoy this film the way I have.
Tim Burton directed Sleepy Hollow; the film allows us into Tim Burton’s world. He is known for eccentric films such as Edward Scissorhands: 1990, The Nightmare Before Christmas: 1993 and Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street: 2007. Burton has won 21 awards and has been nominated for over 40. Burton is known for his instantly recognisable style that is evident in Sleepy Hollow, a twisted version of Irving’s story ‘The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, a classic short story. Burtons approach to Sleepy Hollow, the Headless Horseman as if it were a silent film. “We tried to make the stage look as real as possible and the stuff on location as fake as possible so that it would intermingle and match.”
Sleepy Hollow is based in a small town full of mystery and terror. Ichabod Crane played by Johnny Depp, is sent to Sleepy Hollow to inspect the decapitations of 3 people from the town. The town’s hysteria and folklore creates the curse of the Headless Horseman, being the culprit for these murders. Crane is plunged into the middle of secrets and murder that his new world forensic techniques may not be able to solve. The dark secret of Sleepy Hollow also reflects the dark secret from Ichabod’s past that is haunting him. Crane is immersed into the world of the Hessian Horseman (Christopher Walken) a German mercenary who was known for decapitating people during the American War for Independence.
Sleepy Hollow is full of secrets and mystery. Sleepy Hollow is set around a gothic horror story based on a traditional folklore tale about a headless murderer, sent to kill the residents of Sleepy Hollow. The themes of the film are based on terror and full of dread, as an unknown force decapitates the towns people, while they are helpless and terrified that they will be next. This creates further themes of panic and anxiety. Burton’s motifs for the film were to keep to the themes of Hammers horror films, which was a British production company known for gothic horror films made in the mid-1950-70. Sleepy Hollow also keeps to the gothic style of Edgar Allan Poe’s poetry and tales, with mist and crows creeping in the audiences mind. This links to Hammer’s gothic style of filming.
Johnny Depp plays Ichabod Crane a squeamish and eccentric man. Johnny Depp could be seen as the filming-partner to Burton. Crane is fascinated by forensics and scientific evidence. In Sleepy Hollow Ichabod reflects the ever-logical mind, thinking too much which fits with the ever-confusing mystery. Christopher Walken plays the Hessian Horseman. The headless horseman is a key character to the film, Burton found the image of the horseman important to the film and the audience, and (Tim Burton) “We all look at people’s eyes to categorise them. But here you’ve got this powerful, elegant character without a head. The Headless Horseman represents the subconscious”. Christina Ricci plays the leading lady Katrina Van Tassel. Katrina is a beautiful, doe eyed, elegant girl who is a mystery, who charms Ichabod entirely.
The production designer is Rick Heinrichs who is famous for working in films such as Fargo (1996) The Big Lebowski (1998) Captain America: The First Avenger (2011). Rick Heinrichs creates a beautiful dark world, rich in shadows and mist. The crew who worked in the production of Sleepy Hollow said “The feeling one had walking around Sleepy Hollow’s sets, and in particular the town at Lime Tree, was almost as if you were walking around the inside of Tim Burton’s head”.
My favourite scene in the film is when Ichabod goes with the townspeople to look at a decapitated body. The scene shows Ichabod trying to re-enact the murder, to find clues as to what killed the man, hoping to disprove the legend. The scene shows the captivating performance by Johnny Depp but also the dark quality the film has. The townspeople whisper, and clutch their crosses, fearing the demon that has committed the act. This scene illustrates the dominant themes of the film, mystery, murder and panic.
Sleepy Hollow has a captivating luminescent quality because of the camerawork by Emmanuel Lubezki. He is known for filming Gravity (2013), Children of Men (2006) and Burn After Reading (2008). This luminescent quality makes for a beautiful horror movie that mesmerizes the audience. Lubezki has a clear eye for eccentric visual details. He creates a mixture of dark hues and earthy tones to add to the foggy darkness quality of the film. He also uses bloody red tones for the decapitation scenes.
The visual colour works in harmony with the music. Danny Elfman is known for films such as Corpse Bride (2005), Wanted (2008) and Silver Linings Playbook (2012). The films have different genres and styles however the quality of music never falters. Elfman uses soft violins to create the idea of mystery. He also uses energetic brass instruments to create a ghostly atmosphere and bells for a shadowy effect as well as a sharp sense of aloofness, that is present in scenes of decapitation and the dream like states used. Elfman’s music works stunningly with the cinematography, creating the horror, which makes Sleepy Hollow such a stunning, suspenseful watch.
Sleepy Hollow creates a daunting atmosphere, with ghoulish landscapes. Although it is clearly visually stunning there is a sense of hopelessness about the ending, that it is not truly over. The film is somewhat anticlimactic because of the lack of fear, though a horror film it is not truly fearful it is still captivating. I found the film to be clever with its use of cinematography, for example the judge in the beginning of the film, is positioned to seem as if he has wings, sending Ichabod on his journey to Sleepy Hollow. In addition to the scene in which the headless horseman is present in, the camera is angled low as if to make the horseman bigger and thus more powerful, scary for the audience. I would suggest any fan of Burton’s previous work to watch this, but also anyone who likes a mystery and a touch of the gothic.
A Dangerous Method was directed by David Cronenberg who used to be known for making films such as The Fly (1986), eXistenZ (1999) and Eastern Promises (2007). These have been of a horror and thriller genre, Cronenberg could be seen as a Freudian filmmaker because of the topics he explores in a way that causes mayhem on an audiences mind and body. Cronenberg’s latest films show that he has remodelled himself as a classicist, a master of understatement, which is illustrated in this films style. The film is based on a play called The Talking Cure, screenplay written by Christopher Hampton. He has also written screenplays for films such as Dangerous Liaisons (1988) and Atonement (2007).
The film is a period drama based in the early 20th century, in Switzerland. Focusing on Carl Jung, a student of psychotherapy’s Sigmund Freud. Jung starts to treat a mentally disturbed young woman, who was abused by her father. As the film progresses the relationship between the two becomes more intimate and dangerous to both their reputations and sanity, Jung begins to wonder about Freud’s theories, that they are flawed. A Dangerous Method looks objectively; historically at the early days of psychoanalysis and the relationship between Freud and Jung as their lives take them to different theories and beliefs.
A Dangerous Method is strongly upheld on the principles of performance. Keira Knightley plays Sabina Spielrein. Her performance is alarming and physical as Sabina is Jung’s patient and lover. The audience’s first introduction to Sabina is her arrival to Jung’s clinic, where she is restrained, writhing, grunting and propping her chin out at a violent direction. It is a thoroughly unsettling sight, one that the audience will have trouble recovering from. This then sets the theme of the film, a serious take on disturbed minds, trying to understand the mentally ill. The mentally ill are unsettling, they make people nervous and upset, these are the motifs for the film.
Keira Knightley’s character Sabina is a complicated one; her mental state is that of trauma but also self-inflicted. She is presented to the audience in a manner that makes us unsympathetic to her emotions, even when she is cured from her mental issues. According to Keira Knightley, the character of Sabina was a hard character to portray, because of this hysteria. The screenplay wrote that Sabina’s condition was much like a demon or a dog. This was then used as inspiration for Knightley’s performance as Sabina, the degree to her research into getting the character correct, this helps make for a more outstanding performance by Knightley.
Viggo Mortensen plays the father of psychotherapy, Sigmund Freud. To prepare for the weighty role of Freud; one of the most famous psychoanalysists, Mortensen read everything he could on Freud, he even visited his actual house in order to get into character of the amazing man that was Freud. Michael Fassbender plays Carl Jung, psychiatrist and psychotherapist. The scenes between Jung and Freud were less than what was expected, two famous psychiatrists in a room would be more interesting than talking of dreams. It was just a lot of chat, though this should have been a fascinating conversation, on theories discussed and argued over for years, is it all about sex as Freud’s debates or as Jung suspects is there more to it than that?
A dangerous method is a precisely made film, somewhat a traditionalist account of the two men’s scuffle for conceptual authority, the scenes where they are together should be a ferociously, interesting clash but the screen play and film is not able to put the two together often enough with enough chemistry to truly convey the promised intellectual repartee that is promised by the films plot, yet it never arrives. The final scene between Sabina and Jung, explores the themes of overcoming mental illness, as Sabina is now the sane one, and Jung is suffering from depression, the role of patient being reversed.
This is further explored by the shot reverse shots used during their conversation, this helps to develop the change in character roles. The films cinematography was done by Peter Suschitzky who has worked on films such as Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980), A History of Violence (2005), Eastern Promises (2007) and The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975). He has been nominated for one BAFTA film nomination; this shows the level of skill Suschitzky has. In A Dangerous Method the cinematography is stylised in an unseen, concealed manner. This could have been done to allow for a more realistic, historical depiction of Jung and Freud’s encounters.
The film’s main focus in terms of techniques are performance, the cinematography is made to be indirect, and the music used is composed by Howard Shore who is a famous composer in the film industry, having won 3 Oscars. His most famous work was on The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003), The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001), The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002) and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012). The music has an intense, deep, passionate rhythm, in scenes of Sabine’s mental illness, this helps to make the experience that bit more concentrated for the audience allowing for a more alarming experience. The music works with the actor’s performance to create a more intense experience for the audience, improving the films enjoyability.
The film is an engrossing and thought provoking drama, with a top billed cast, Knightley and Fassbender in particular, as their performance is more dominate in the film. Cronenberg purposely avoids conventional films about psychoanalysis that are excessive and clearly dream-like, a-typical psychoanalysis film. A Dangerous Method is restrained, though visually beautiful however; the film does feel repressed with the potential that it could have achieved. It is a shame it was not able to create the right level of chemistry between the characters, especially the historical context and history that lead with Freud and Jung. It just misses its mark, for myself. This being said, it is still a highly interesting and thrilling film to watch.
Kinky Boots was directed by Julian Jarrold who directed The Girl (2012) and Becoming Jane (2007) these films are comedy, dramas. Kinky Boots has a knight and shinning armour rescue narrative, however, the knight happens to be a drag queen named Lola. Charlie Price inherited his fathers shoe factory and is responsible for people’s jobs and livelihoods. However, the factory is failing, Charlie needs to diversify his products if he wants to keep the company going. The main purpose of the film is to capture the different types of people in society, lower working class and the hidden culture of drag queens.
Lola is a flamboyant drag queen cabaret singer, Charlie’s meet cute with Lola consists of a mugging and getting hit by red heeled shoe. Their meeting transcends to a conversation about how Lola’s shoes break on him. This gives Charlie the idea of creating men’s fetish footwear. Lola is the endorser and designer for these unorthodox shoes. The main themes of the film are a struggle with the prejudice loyal staff, Lola’s discomfort in a small towns closed mind and the selfish manipulation of Charlie’s fiancés greed, not believing in his dream. The main motifs that motivate this film are the beliefs in a dream, life’s struggles and discomforts.
Joel Edgerton plays Charlie; he starred in such films as Warrior (2011), The Great Gatsby (2013) and The Thing (2011). Joel Edgerton was nominated for 8 awards, including Best Supporting Actor in The Great Gatsby (2013). The character he portrays in Kinky Boots is a desperate man fighting to keep his father’s legacy alive. He also is emasculated by society and conforming to his fiancés needs. As well as his new idea being androgenise and morally confusing. Joel’s performance presents this perfectly, his facial expressions and hand twitches expose the rawness of the characters emotions.
Chiwetel Ejiofor plays Lola, he is known for his performances in 12 Years a Slave (2013), Children of Men (2006) and American Gangster (2007). 12 Years a Slave is his most prestigious work, for which he was nominated for an Oscar. The contrast in characters shows the talent that Ejiofor presents, an outstanding performance as a slave and a drag queen cabaret singer. Lola is shown to have a troublesome childhood with a father who would not accept him for wanting to dress like a lady. This is Lola’s main character motivation, he needs to be accepted, and the scene where she is living in Charlie’s town, meeting the factories staff, shows her depression and struggle with who she is and what society wants her to conform to.
Sarah Jane Potts plays Lauren, Charlie’s simmering romance and trust with Lauren starts when he realises she is not like ordinary women conforming to Wolverhampton. She is the helper, to the narrative, guiding him to his true self, the person he is meant to be. The person who derails this is Jemima Rooper, who plays Charlie’s fiancé, greedy and selfish, too busy trying to aim big to appreciate the ambitions and personality of Charlie, especially his small factory legacy. The films narrative has Lauren, the helper, but also Don, played by Nick Frost, he works against the narrative, causing struggles for Charlie but especially Lola, as Don is a very macho British man.
The film works to draw similarities between Charlie and Lola’s parental problems helping to show the friendship and relationship with British, good natured humour and character types. The drag club scenes bring colour and excitement that contrasts with that of factory life, it shows British sense of hardship and community prevailing. The film works as an emotional feel good comedy but it is more of an emotional drama than anything else. The scene that presents this style the most is the opening scene.
I believe this to be the most important scene in terms of narrative and performance motivation, the start of the film with Lola as a child shows the drama genre of the film. She is seen to be cold, outside Clacton Pier, looking in on her father. Music is playing and slowly becomes louder, non-diegetic and overwhelming the scene, as Lola begins to dance in high-heeled shoes. The music stops when the father knocks on the window, in anger, shocking the audience out of the beautiful trance like state that was created. This could be a metaphor for the films overall narrative state, it tries to break free from stereotypical British films by being original, yet people broke the trance by not truly appreciating the beauty of the film. Showing the inner struggles ordinary people have either with unemployment, bankruptcy or drag.
However, to contrast this sad sense of drama and life that Kinky Boots takes on are the drag-club scenes that as I have mentioned earlier, they are bright, colourful, theatrical and humorous. Scenes such as when Charlie is introducing Lauren to Lola and she performs. The costumes are bright, the music joyful, the setting is flamboyant representing Lola’s passion and joy being who she is- a drag queen. A perfect quote of these themes of passion, happiness and comedy is during the making process of the transvestite shoes, Lola says “Burgundy. Please, God, tell me I have not inspired something burgundy. Red. Red. *Red*. *Red*, Charlie boy. *Red*! Is the colour of sex!”
Lola’s character performance is a tortured one, however the one aspect of him that is always reliable is his flair for the beautiful and dramatic. His costumes are sparkly, sequin covered and ‘red’. The costumes are designed by Sammy Sheldon, she is known for her work on films such as V for Vendetta (2005), X-Men: First Class (2011) and Kick-Ass (2010). Lola’s elaborate entrance to Northampton in a shiny blue suit speaks for the art and beauty of Lola’s character, brought out by the films costume design. The film focuses on British values of friendship, society, community and family legacy. The film brings together these ideologies with a wonderful, captivating twist. A British shoe company making transvestite shoes, what could go wrong? or what could go wonderfully right? This film is a magical collaboration with different, colourful characters.
It is one of my favourite uplifting feel good films. Could it be one of yours?
The Birds was voted seventh scariest film of all time according to a public poll carried out by Channel 5 and The Times (2005). Alfred Hitchcock directed the Birds after he had made Psycho (1960), Vertigo (1958), Rear Window (1954) and North by Northwest (1959), these are seen as Hitch’s most famous works. The Birds takes on a Horror like genre, with a blonde female wondering into a small, unknown town. A typical start to a horror film, however the story also takes on a comedic value, by the birds being the danger, it seems unlikely, thus humorous.
The film begins with a meet-cute of Melanie Daniels (Tippi Hedren) and Mitch Brenner (Rod Taylor) they meet at a pet shop, that includes a cameo of Hitchcock at the start of this scene walking two of his dogs out of the pet shop. Their meeting is how the narrative unfolds as it is based on Mitch’s family at Bodega Bay. Mitch is a lawyer and Melanie is a wealthy San Francisco socialite who pursues Mitch to small town in California in Bodega Bay. The film starts out normal and quiet in a small town, the film however takes a bizarre turn when birds of all breeds begin to attack people, they slowly increase in numbers becoming more vicious. A seagull even attacks Melanie, foreboding to the future disaster. The attacks slowly increase as Lydia, Mitch’s mother finds her neighbour dead, attacked by birds.
The most famous scene in the film is when the birds attack the town in hundred and thousands causing mass panic. The main panic and scare to the film is that there is no explanation for why the birds are attacking, no way to stop them from continuing their vicious attack on children at schools and people out of houses. Survival becomes the films main narrative motivation for the characters. While filming these vicious scenes, Tippi was actually cut on the face by a bird; Hitchcock used real birds for many of the shots. He had many techniques for getting the birds to perform such as whisky. The first scene where the birds truly ‘attack’ is at Mitch’s sister’s birthday party. The birds swoop down and attack. Hitchcock uses medium shots with the birds flying in and out of shot to create the feeling of being stuck in place, attacked by birds.
Tippi and Rod give a convincing performance, selling the idea of being attacked by birds. The only thing that gives it away is the bird’s overlay on the footage. The special effects to make the film appear to have more birds appear on the screen makes the birds seem less realistic, however when this was filmed I’m sure it was more believable. CGI now is far more advanced then it used to be. The single shots with only a few birds attacking such as at the birthday party or Melanie’s attack scenes are more believable then the swallows coming down the chimney. The films performance though impressive with Tippi and Rod, the mother Lydia Brenner played by Jessica Tandy, is less impressive. The scene where she finds her neighbour attacked, mutilated and killed by birds. She runs and drives away, her performance in this scene is less then convincing, it is almost over dramatic making it seem more melodramatic then cinematic. This occurs numerous times in the film such as the school and towns. The actor’s movements and reactions are more melodramatic, given the nature of birds attacking, being slightly unbelievable, the acting needed to be more realistic to pull off the concept.
The scene were the children get attacked by birds at the school is a montage of long shots showing them all running into town, low angle showing the birds flying and close ups of the birds attacking the children’s faces. The violence, and action scenes are contrasted by moments between them with quiet conversation trying to understand the idiocy of birds attacking, the realisation that the birds overpopulate the people. A scene in the local café shows different towns people discussing the possibility of a bird war, conspiracy theory’s, nature specialists, religious and drunks all trying to understand what is happening.
My favourite shot in the film, is a high angle shot from the point of view of a seagull, flying to attack, rallying their forces, overlooking the town and all the people they try to injure. The scene allows for a re-establishing shot of the town when under attack, allowing what to happen to sink in, ‘why are they doing this?’ this is another theme that motivates the film, the uncertainty of what is happening. This works to make the film more realistic, having a reason would make it less understandable. The air of mystery helps to make the film more engaging for the audience.
There is no musical score in the film, although Hitchcock did have Bernard Herrmann consult on the diegetic sounds that were present. It was Bernard Herrmann’s idea to not have music, possibly to make the film more realistic. However the lack of music makes the audience more sensitive to the sounds they do hear, making the birds shrieks more severe. Robert Burks did the films cinematography with Hitch’s input. The movement of the birds was a struggle to film because the wings caused excessive fringing; this could be why they look unrealistic in the film. The movie uses 370 feature effect shots, the final scene is a composite 32 separately filmed shots that are edited together. It is the scene where Tippi Hedren is attacked by birds in the attic. To get the effect of the birds attacking Melanie, Hitchcock had them attached to her clothed by long nylon threads so they could not get away. This level of acting the Tippi preforms in this scene is truly convincing it is a touching scene where she sacrifices her self, truly believing she is the cause of the birds attacking.
This is an important scene in the film however the most interested aspect of the film is its ending. Hitchcock did not want the film to end with the usual style, ‘the end’, he wanted to give the impression of unending terror, this is why the film was left on a cliff-hanger, allowing the audience to make up their own ending. This is a vital theme of the film; the terror and unknown motifs explored throughout, with the attacks, the number of birds and the concluded ending. Overall I find the film to be unrealistic and goofy however the performances help pull the film off. I suggest the film is definitely worth watching because of the techniques and acting as well as it being a Hitchcock film.