Monday, 10 October 2011

Percecution, Paranoia and Motherhood... with Satan

Rosemary’s Baby
12 June, 1968
Directed by: 
Roman Polanski

Produced by:
William Castle

Written by: 
Roman Polanski, based on the novel “Rosemary’s Baby” by Ira Levin.

Mia Farrow
John Cassavetes
Ruth Gordon
Sidney Blackmer
Maurice Evans
Ralph Bellamy

Summary: Rosemary and Guy have only recently moved into their New York City apartment, when strange events begin to happen – particularly involving their neighbours Minnie and Roman. Rosemary is a somewhat naïve housewife and Guy is a struggling actor. Unknown to Rosemary, with the promise of his career improving, Guy makes a pact with the Devil for Rosemary to carry his baby – with the encouragement of Minnie and Roman. Rosemary does not think that things are right, and begins to feel like people do not want what is best for her baby. As she becomes more and more isolated and confused, Rosemary attempts to uncover what is actually happening before it is too late.

My Favourite Scene: For me, the most poignant scene and the one which remained with me afterwards, was when Rosemary visits her doctor (not the devil worshipping Abe Saperstein, but a different one!) and confides in him everything she has discovered about the ‘witches’ and expresses her worries for herself and the baby.  The doctor sympathises and tells her that she will be okay. After the conversation Rosemary is shown to a room where she can rest. It is clear that she feels a huge sense of relief and tells her baby that everything is going to be fine. However, just when we think that Rosemary is protected from them, the husband and Doctor Saperstein come and collect her, saying: if you say anything more about witches or witchcraft, we're gonna be forced to take you to a mental hospital. You don't want that, do you?” It is obvious that the doctor Rosemary thought would help her, did not believe her - and thinking that she was mentally unwell, contacted her husband and doctor to take her home.

This scene really made me feel for Rosemary. When she found someone she could talk to, it seemed that she was no longer alone and someone was going to help her. However, it turned out that the story was so ridiculous, it was not credible. Perhaps the most distressing element of the scene is the knowledge that now the ‘witches’ know Rosemary is aware of everything, they will trap her to make sure nothing more could possibly go wrong. This scene in the film really highlights the sense of Rosemary being defenseless and isolated, with nothing and no one to help her.
My Favourite Quotes: 
Rosemary Woodhouse: Witches… All of them witches!

Minnie Castevet: He chose you, honey! From all the women in the world to be the mother of his only living son!

Rosemary Woodhouse: What have you done to him? What have you done to his eyes, you maniacs!

My Thoughts: I found ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ really very gripping as a ‘scary film’ because as the plot progressed and more of Rosemary’s character was revealed, the audience connect with her and empathise with her situation – as anyone would! This makes what happens to her more hard-hitting and has a strong emotional effect on the viewer, I believe. The brilliant element of the plot, is the way in which it is slowly revealed.  Rosemary’s sense of a lack of security and trust as a result of what is happening to her - is felt by the audience also and therefore, it is difficult to know whether someone is helping Rosemary or not. This gives the film a very frightening feel.

I cannot imagine Rosemary being portrayed more perfectly than by Mia Farrow. I think she really captured the weak, fragile and vulnerable character. She also depicted the paranoid element to Rosemary’s character excellently, as the film developed – in such a way that it almost appears to be her that is insane, not the ‘witches’. The characters of Minnie and Roman Castevet (Ruth Gordon and Sydney Blackmer) were also portrayed brilliantly. The pushiness of Minnie and slight delusionary aspect of Roman, create an element of their characters being slightly loveable – as in some aspects, they present a realism which is not usually portrayed in the ‘baddie’ role in scary films. They, and the other Satan ‘worshippers’ also question the idea and existence of evil, as they are presented as just normal neighbours.

Something I found fascinating about ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ is that it is believed the isolation and persecution of Rosemary, is a reflection of director Roman Polanski’s own experience growing up as a Jewish person in Nazi-occupied Poland. I found this parallel very interesting and think that for a director to incorporate their own experiences in a film, really shows strong commitment and passion.

A powerful theme in ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ is the idea of the bond between mother and child – although in this case, the child happens to be satanic! The end scene of the film really conveys that that bond is unbreakable because despite knowing that the child is evil (spawn of the Devil probably would be!) Rosemary still decides to rock the baby’s cot – portraying an element of her accepting the baby. I thought this film was really excellent. It was incredibly gripping and presented the strength of Rosemary attempting to protect her baby against everything. While the film revolves around Rosemary being surrounded by evil – there seems to be an underlying message of love.


Thursday, 29 September 2011

You are not in control

Paranormal Activity
14 October 2007

Directed by: 
Oren Peli

Produced by:
Steven Schneider
Jason Blum

Written by: 
Oren Peli

Katie Featherston
Micah Sloat

Summary: Katie and Micah have been living together for three years, but recently they do not feel that they are alone in their house. Strange things start to occur – especially at night. To attempt to find out what is happening, Micah starts to film them all day, every day, in hope of discovering what it is. However, while he sees it as a fun project, Katie (who we discover has been ‘haunted’ since she was eight years old) knows that the situation is dangerous. They call a ghost specialist to help them with the inexplicable presence they feel, however he tells them that their problem is far beyond his expertise. Katie becomes more and more disturbed by the ‘hauntings’ – which are followed by Micah’s video camera.

My Favourite Scene: One scene I found particularly unnerving was the one in which Katie wakes up and gets out of her bed. She then stands by the bed and watches Micah sleeping. Katie appears to be possessed as she hardly moves, with the camera showing hours and hours passing by.  In the morning she has no recollection of waking up during the night at all.

I found this rather freaky as it conveys the idea of someone not being in control of themselves and the fact that Katie couldn’t remember anything makes it even more frightening. In the film, I believe it highlights that the ‘presence’ terrifying them had all the power, and that Katie and Micah were completely defenceless. I think it is interesting to have a ‘scary film’ in which the most chilling scenes are not all blood and guts, but are simpler - and arguably more realistic because of it.

My Favourite Quotes: 
Physic: If you do try to play games with it, that’s inviting it in.

Micah : No I promise you I wasn’t going to buy a Ouija board. I didn’t buy a Ouija board. I borrowed a Ouija board. 

Katie: I feel it. I feel it breathing on me.

My Thoughts: It is really refreshing to see a scary film, which stays clear of the blood and guts. Of course, what is really terrifying about Paranormal Activity is the element of realism (if you actually believe that you could be ‘haunted’ by some sort of spirit). The idea of being trapped in this never-ending nightmare is so much more powerful than someone running around with a knife, killing people.

Filming a scary film with the effect of a hand-held camera is such genius, you wonder why more films have not used the idea! It really gives the audience a sense of living the experience with Katie and Micah. Especially the scene in their bedroom where Katie is dragged from her bed and Micah is desperately trying to help her. The fact that the camera stays where it is and only the screams can be heard is really quite chilling and it lets the most terrifying thing happen - one imagining what is happening to her.

Something I found particularly interesting about the film was the fact that it was filmed only in one location – their home. This really elucidated the feel of being in the house with them, scared and confused as they were. The one location was also significant in giving the sense of being trapped. I was really impressed by Sloat’s and Featherston’s performances. They were not over the top and ridiculous like in many scary films, but instead portrayed real characters – especially Katie.  As the film progressed there was a sense that she was just becoming more and more weak, giving up as she realised she could not fight this ‘spirit’. It was also interesting to try and perceive when Katie was just Katie, and when she did not seem like her but instead, possessed in some way.

Having finally seen one of the most talked about films of 2009, and I have to say I was slightly disappointed. The film had been built up so much - I thought I was going to be terrified! I found it quite scary, but I think the Blair Witch Project idea is nothing new – and I definitely found that film more frightening. However it will definitely freak you out and if you wake up in the middle of the night, it is best not to imagine being invisibly pulled out of your bed screaming, by a spirit – try counting sheep instead.

Sunday, 27 March 2011

The Birth of Facebook

The Social Network
4 October 2010
Directed by: 
David Fincher
Produced by:
Scott Rubi
Dana Brunetti
Michael De Lunca
Seán Chaffin 
Written by: 
Aaron Sorkin
Based on the book ‘The Accidental Billionaires’ by Ben Mezrich 
Jesse Eisenberg
Andrew Garfield
Justin Timberlake
Armie Hammer 
Max Minghella 

Summary: Mark Zuckerburg (Jesse Eisenberg) is a computer geek with next to no friends. Aiming to get revenge on his girlfriend for breaking up with him, he creates a website, involving comparison of girls - which then leads to the idea of ‘The Facebook’ (later known as ‘Facebook’). Originally just for university students, the site becomes a huge success across the world, with the help of Sean Parker - creator of ‘Napster’. However, there are legal complications as Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss and Divya Narendra argue that Mark stole the idea from them. If one legal case was not bad enough, Mark’s former best friend and co-founder of Facebook is  also suing him, after his shares were massively diluted. ‘The Social Network’ follows the lawsuits and the amazing story of how Facebook was created. 
My Favourite Scene: Without a doubt my favourite scene is when Mark’s best friend (not so much at the time, but before the success of Facebook) Eduardo travels to California ready for an exciting meeting and a party for reaching one million Facebook users. However neither of these events happen. Instead he arrives and is told that, due to new share holders, his shares have been diluted down to .03 %. None of the other co-founders of Facebook had their shares diluted - shown in the scene where his lawyer asks four consecutive times how much the other founders’ shares were decreased by. My favourite moment in this scene is when Sean Parker tells Eduardo that Mark is ‘wired in’, meaning that he is too involved in Facebook to talk to him. But, in anger, Eduardo picks up the laptop and smashes it against the desk saying ‘What about now? Are you wired in now?’ Implying that he will finally have Mark’s attention. 
The discussion leads to Eduardo realising everything was about his success in the Phoenix and he believes that Mark was even behind the animal cruelty story involving him. Sean Parker also tells Eduardo that he should ‘check again’ about his name being on the masthead - conveying how he and Mark were attempting to permanently disregard his involvement with the creation of Facebook. I felt this argument was excruciating because it showed just how easily Mark had abandoned his friendship with Eduardo - who had been loyal to him from the beginning. 
My Favourite Quotes: 
Erica Albright: The Internet's not written in pencil, Mark.  It's written in ink. 

Sean Parker: We lived on farms, then we lived in cities, and now we're going to live on the internet! 

Marylin Delpy: Bolivia. They don't have roads, but they have Facebook. 

My Thoughts: I really enjoyed this film. It was very interesting to see how the idea of Facebook had evolved from comparing the ‘hotness’ of girls online. I found myself having mixed feelings for many of the characters - especially Mark. He was easily dislikable due to his selfishness and the way he treated the girl who broke up with him in the first scene. However, it was difficult not to laugh at his quick-witted comments, like “The rest of my attention is back at the offices of Facebook, where my colleagues and I are doing things that no one in this room, including and especially your clients, are intellectually or creatively capable of doing. Did I adequately answer your condescending question?” It was also impossible not to appreciate him creating such a hugely successful website, but also, how he knew what was necessary for its success.
A reason why I particularly enjoyed ‘The Social Network’ was because it is a true story. The idea that a young man could invent a website which now has over 300 milli0n members is quite incredible. I use Facebook nearly everyday, and it occurred to me as I was watching the film how big a part it plays in some people’s lives - whether that be a good or bad thing. The phrase ‘Facebook me’ has become commonplace, and as shown in the film, people can live their lives on the internet.
I loved the ending of the film. Instead of anything too dramatic, it ends with a woman who was present at the hearings, Marylin Delpy, telling Mark that he’s not an asshole, but ‘just trying so hard to be’. He then goes onto Facebook and adds her as a friend. He keeps refreshing the page just to check if she has accepted, despite only seeing her a few minutes ago. I think this is a nice ending because it shows that despite the success of Facebook, he is still a loser - searching for a friend.
Although I really enjoyed this film, I was slightly confused as to why it gained 8 oscar nominations. It was very watchable, the characters were good and the script was relatively entertaining, but I do not think it was oscar-worthy - which is probably why it did not win any! I am also, after doing some research, doubtful as to how much of the film is factually correct. However, this is an excellent film for a easy watch and definitely a must-see for Facebook-addicts, but nothing profound or oscar-worthy. 

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

One choice. A lifetime of consequences.

Sophie’s Choice

December 8, 1982

Directed by:
Alan J. Pakula

Produced by:
Alan J. Pakula
Keith Barish
William C. Gerrity
Martin Starger

Written by: 
Alan J. Pakula
Based on the novel by William Styron

Meryl Streep
Kevin Kline
Peter MacNicol

Summary: Sophie is a Polish Nazi concentration camp survivor, who is saved and falls in love with unpredictable Biologist Nathan – who is obsessed with the holocaust. They becomes friends with Stingo (the narrator), a young American writer who moves into the apartment below them. As the film progresses, Sophie begins to trust Stingo by opening up to him about the past which haunts her.  The film follows Sophie, Nathan and Stingo’s relationships, as well as the traumatic repercussions of experiencing the horrors of a concentration camp. The film sees the consequences of a choice Sophie was forced to make, to keep one of her children and let the other die.

My Favourite Scene: One of the scenes I found particularly powerful, was at the end when Stingo returns to the house and realises what has happened.  When he walks into the bedroom he sees Sophie and Nathan, two tortured souls, lying in each other’s arms, dead. It is a peaceful end with He then takes the Emily Dickinson book and reads the poem “Ample make this bed” to them. This moment sees Stingo crushed by the death of the two most important people in his life. The hope that Stingo had of him and Sophie having any future together is gone.  In the end, everything that Stingo offered Sophie was not enough, as she could not escape the horrors of her past, and so made the choice of going to Nathan – which she knew would result in her death.

My Favourite Quotes:
Sophie: (In reply Stingo asking ‘you were sent to Auschwitz for stealing ham?’) No, I was sent to Auschwitz because they saw that I was afraid.

Nathan Laudau: Don’t you see, Sophie? We’re dying.

Stingo: I saw the first rays of daylight reflected in the murky river. This was not judgment day. Only morning: excellent and fair.   
My Thoughts:
I was really impressed by Meryl Streep’s portrayal of Sophie – which earned her an Oscar. The Polish accent was very good and I felt that she really put everything into Sophie’s story and her feelings. The scene where Sophie was sat by the window recalling her memories and sharing them with Stingo was really moving and I think Streep deeply connected with the role. I don’t think that it is necessary to explain how powerful her performance was in the ‘choice’ scene. This was the unthinkable choice that every person would find impossible: choosing which of her children should live, and which should die. This dreadful moment in Sophie’s past led to her issues about having a family with Stingo. She was a very complicated and delicate character. The film sees pieces of her past unfolding as she shares them with Stingo.

There was an interesting theme of trust and lies in ‘Sophie’s Choice’. Sophie trusting Stingo with her secrets, Nathan’s paranoia meaning he does not trust Stingo and also Sophie’s trust for Nathan – she had no idea who he really was. If trust is important in the film, so is lying. Firstly, Sophie lies about her father being an anti-Semite. This was a lie that led to the pivotal moment in the film when Stingo confronts Sophie and she reveals the truth about her time at the Nazi concentration camp. At the end of the scene she falls into his arms crying. The audience is given the possibility, since the film is seen those Stingo’s eyes, that he will save her and they will be together. However, she cannot bring herself to leave Nathan – who I think she felt completed her in some way and she was not strong enough without him.

Another lie was Nathan’s life as a biologist. There is a scene where Sophie and Nathan were sitting by the river and Nathan ran up to them excitedly saying that he and his team were close to a breakthrough at work. At this point I realised something was not quite right with Nathan. One moment, he was extremely happy and dressing up in ridiculous outfits, the next he was shouting at Sophie saying “I need you like death!” This was sad because Sophie trusted him and he had led a completely different life than she had thought.

Sophie’s Choice is beyond through-provoking. The audience can feel Sophie’s pain in the scenes where she is talking about her past. After everything that had happened, I was hoping for some happiness for her and, on reflection, I think her death portrayed that she was finally at peace with herself and her memories. ‘Sophie’s Choice’ is incredibly moving and powerful, but I will not be watching it again for a while – it was far too emotionally draining!