fantasy

Hellboy * Guillermo del Toro * 2004

For some reason I thought that the title referred to some Japanese action film, but nothing is less true. Now with the new film of Del Toro in the cinemas, attention is drawn to his older work. I saw a trailer of the new “El Laberinto del Fauno” (strangely translated as “Pan’s Labyrinth” for the international release), first thought that it was some kind of fantasy for children, but when I later read the reviews, it seems that it is actually an impressive fantasy for adults. The same can be said about “Hellboy”. If I had to tag the film, it would be something like: “a (political) sci-fi fantasy comedy”. A what? “Political” is between brackets. The Nazis are dragged it, but I don’t think that the film as a whole has much of a message. “Sci-fi” because of the laboratory, etc. “Fantasy” is obvious and “comedy” because the film has a wonderfull sense of humour and more than just a random joke here and there. The story then. The Nazis open a gate to another world and this in order to get forces here for the destruction of the world. A little red ape falls in the hands of a (good) scientist who later has some secret monster division of the FBI, monsters fighting monsters. There is a nice thick layer of religion and occultism in the film (but not really ‘deep going’), great costumes and stages and a simple but effective story with good scenes and acting. “Hellboy” is unlike almost any other film and in this regard refreshing; maybe not a brilliant top-film, but definately very enjoyable.

Pleasantville * Gary Ross * 1998

I wouldn’t have watched this film if my TV-guide hadn’t given it such a positive review. “Fantasy” is not really my genre. The film surprised me on a few levels though. Two teenagers end up in a 1960’ies TV-series called “Pleasantville”. David, a fan, likes the idea, Jennifer is initially shocked by the ‘uncool’ clothing, haircuts and manners. “Pleasantville” is a predictable series in which everthing is always the same and plays in a small town with the same name. A nice twitch to the film is that things that are not seen in the series, do not exist in Pleasantville. There are no toilets, nothing burns and the fire-deparment does nothing but saving cats, people are not born and do not grow old and most of all: there is nothing outside of Pleasantville; “Mainstreet ends where it begins.” The best part of it, is that the inhabitents of Pleasantville know this. They even know that their world is black-and-white. David tries to keep things as they are supposed to be, but the rebellious Jennifer walks her own path. She introduces sex in Pleasantville. Since this is never shown on TV, the people of Pleasantville do nothing but holding hands and do not have a clue how their children found their ways into their houses. As Pleasantville slowly changes, colours appear in the city, people and things “suddenly appear in technicolour”. This first seems to be the result of sex (even masturbation does the trick), later the hint goes more towards love, but also this does not entirely prove to be it. The nice start grows a bit too much towards an all-American teenager film with a slightly moralistic undertone, but overall the film is well done and also gives a few things to think about.
I have been reading an article about the stone-age series “The Prisoner” in Tyr journal volume one. These series and “Pleasantville” have a few things incommon. “The village” from “The Prisoner” is a world on its own and there is nothing outside of it. “The village” and “Pleasantville” are places where the main characters ‘go to’, but in both cases, ‘the real world’ is actually just as bogus as ‘the other world’. In both productions, there seems to be an undertone critical to our modern society. Nothing should change, there is no room for (real) emotions, no room for religion, people don’t have to think. I would be surprised if this recent production called “Pleasantville” did not heavily drawn on the 1970’ies TV-series. A series that I now really want to see, thanks to Colin Cleary. For all of you how already know, or don’t want to know “The Prisoner”, “Pleasantville” may be regarded as a ‘light version’. Watch it and think about the undertone of this film. It surely puts a few things that we take for granted under a magnifying-glass.

Photographing Faeries * Nick Willing * 1997

This review isn’t for the ‘usual Monas visitor’ as you can tell from the title, so don’t tell me I didn’t warn you!

Simply not the film that I would normally watch, but when I saw the title in the TV-guide, I had to think of a certain story. Then I noticed the year 1914 in the description of the film, so I was pretty sure that I was thinking about the right story, of which I never new that it was set to film.

The story came to me when I was still much engaged with Theosophical literature. It is a story in which photos of two children with elves/faeries caused a big stir in the UK around the beginning of WWI. The still young Theosophical Society plunged onto the story and presented the pictures of prove of what they had been telling for the last 40 years. The film seems to be just based on this story, since it is quite different from the actual events.

The film begins when Charles Castle (Toby Stephen) looses the woman he just married a day before in a snowstorm in Switserland. During WWI he becomes a photographer with nothing to live for and after the war he moved to London and became a professional photographer. When at a Theosophical meeting Edward Gardner showed a photo with faeries which Castle easily exposed as a forgery.
Later a woman that Castle had seen at the meeting, came to his office with a photo of one of her daughters on another photo from “the Cottingly series”, that Castle couldn’t unmask that easily. Slowly he became intrigued by the woman, her daughters and their story. In the film Doyle tries to make photos of the elf-folk himself as he became a believer and found out how his sight could slow-down enough to see the creatures. He has a fight with the husband of Beatrice after she died and as the husband (a priest) died during a stuggle, Castle is convicted and hanged.

In fact, the photographer and writer Arthur Conan Doyle (who is only shortly mentioned in the film) and the Theosophist Gardner started to do investigations themselves with the help of the ‘unknown clairvoyant’ (the Theosophist Geoffry Hodson) after Doyle wrote a book about the elves. Gardner also travelled through the UK and Switserland searching for faeries between 1920 and 1925 by himself.

In the end all of the photos were proved to be forgeries or plays of light and the story has ever since be controversial in and outside Theosophical circles. The film is of course rather boring, but one scene in which Doyle has his first ‘vision’ is really great with objects moving very slowly and other very fast. The subject is neither very interesting, but I was just curious if there would be any reference to the Theosophical Society and there was here and there. The TS is depicted as a bunch of superstitious spiritualists having sceances and trying to call on dead family-members. I don’t know about the TS of that time, but I suppose 40 years after the foundation, there were still at least some serious seekers for the thruth.

Paperhouse – Bernard Rose (1988)

I don’t believe in coincidence, so when first a friend mentioned this film which I hadn’t heard off and only a few weeks later my youngest sister too, there must be something with it. I suppose it was just rereleased on dvd recently and that is why it is back in the attention or so. Anyway, I watched it, so here we go.

“Paperhouse” is about a young girl Anna who does not quite feel comfortable with her surroundings. Also she has some unknown disease which causes her to loose self-consiousness on a far too regular basis. During these attacks Anna has strange visions/dreams that she later learns she can influence by drawing.
She starts with a house, so she dreams about a house in a big field. Then she draws the head of a boy in the window which she can’t meet, since the house has no interior. This goes on and on until Anna has created her own frightfull dreamworld mostly caused by forgetting things (the boy can’t walk since she didn’t draw legs, etc.). The dreamworld is far too closely connected to the real world. The boy is in both of them, to name one thing. Also the dreamworld influences the real world.

Overall a nice fearietale kind of film. For it’s time very good, for today just nice.

Merlin * Steve Barron * 1998

DVD distributors have discovered the market for older films and (old) TV series which are sold cheaply. “Merlin” is a three hour epic about of course the Celtic wizard Merlin (Sam Neil). I got this DVD for only E 3,50 (second DVD half price), which is for the better, because the film is not really good. The story is a bit too loosely based on different Celtic myths about Merlin and King Arthur and the presentation is a little childish. I think “Merlin” will appear more to Harry Potter fans than to people interested in Celtic mythology. It is no boring watch though, but with a little effort, the result could have been better.

Equilibrium * Kurt Wimmer * 2002

“Forget ‘The Matrix’! This movie will blow you away!” Quite a tagline, especially when you don’t live up to it. “Equilibrium” has only a few things incommon with “The Matrix”, but its level of quality is at best half that of the sublime “The Matrix”. The idea of “Equilibrium” is nice. In a future world, emotions are rooted out, because they are the source of war and other problems. This idea immediately raises a few problems, that are by far not solved in the film. Why a leader make his people enthousiastic about his ideas when they are not allowed to be happy or glad? How can the leader and inventor of such a system get angry and hold a grudge? Drugs are prescribed and “sense-offenders” (what a horrible term!) are hunted down by a special police force. It is the “cleric” John Preston (Christian Bale) that we follow in this film. Of course he becomes opposital to the system and tries to destroy it. So where is “The Matrix”? Maybe in the few way too fancy fighting scenes and the camera work? Oh well, “Equilibrium” is a scifi action film like you can see many these days, a weak Matrix spinnoff.

Dark City * Alex Proyas * 1998

A wonderfull film that I have seen long ago, but not reseen it on tv. The story is about a city that is made and maintained by an extraterrestial race called ‘the strangers’. They experiment with humans to find out what makes humans different from themselves, a search for the soul. In order to do this they swap memories and change the city to see if this effects a persons personality. At midnight everything is put to sleep and the strangers ‘tune’ a new city. Buildings arise or disappear, strangers go out to erase or add memory with the help of a human doctor (Kiefer Sutherland). The strangers don’t like the light, so everything is always dark, it’s always night. One human seems to be uneffected by the powers of ‘the strangers’ and even has the ability to ‘tune’. Naturally he saves the world.

A great film with a strange atmosphere. However ‘thrillerish’ it is brought as a comedy, but of course not one of these hilaric ones. Really wonderfull!

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon * Ang Lee * 2000

It seems that everybody who sees this movie, likes it. I didn’t, not really. “Crouching Tiger” is a Chinese movie with martial arts and “Matrix-like-filming” (read “flying fighters”). Personally I get a bit tired of people walking against walls and ceilings, but especially when they start flying from roof to roof, it gets a bit too much for me. Conclusion: a family film about Chinese fighters looking for a magical sword.

I am much more curious about the upcoming film “Iron Monkey” which seems to be “Crouching Tiger” in a serious version.