Posted in movies

Pather Panchali – A Genius at Work

INTRO

Explaining to people why you love a Satyajit Ray film is like trying to explain to the love of your life why you love him – There are too many things to be said, too many details to be gone over, and after a certain point they all start to sound very repetitive, and you realize no matter what you say, words couldn’t possibly do justice to how you feel. And especially what new thing could be said about Pather Panchali, when so many people, way more qualified than me, have already done so. However, the sad reality is, Ray’s body of work is largely unknown to the general audience. When you bring up the notion of Indian cinema to people, their minds automatically go to the songs and dances, the lavish sets, and the larger-than-life melodramatic affairs that Bollywood has unfortunately popularized. Heck, even most people in his homeland haven’t sought out his films. Yes, every Bengali is aware of Satyajit Ray at some level and has probably watched or read something by him, but very few have done the deep dive and watched the entire filmography. 

Satyajit Ray arrived at the scene at a time when the Indian film industry was bound by set conventions and heavily depended on factors that were favourable to the commercial valuation of films. He broke away from all these conventions and alleged “indispensable set rules”, whether it be working with an entire cast of non-actors to shooting the film in natural light, Ray did it all. Funds did not come easy but that didn’t stop Ray. After surmounting all these hurdles, came Pather Panchali– a film that revolutionized Indian cinema. 

Ray’s first (and probably the most well-known) film, Pather Panchali is a household name and is considered a bonafide international classic that placed Satyajit Ray in the leagues of the all-time greats. Filmmakers from Akira Kurosawa to Martin Scorsayzze have held it as one of the best movies ever made. So what is it about Pather Panchali that makes it so special? How does a film become a masterpiece?

STORYTIME – THE MAKING OF

Satyajit Ray shooting Pather Panchali

Before that, to truly understand the impact of Pather Panchali, at first one needs to know the context of how it was made. Okay, so quick storytime.  It is the early 1940s and  Ray has started a film society in Calcutta with a couple of his “hipster friends”, where they mainly view and discuss artsy European and Russian films. Ray was an illustrator at an advertising agency then, but the idea of making a film of his own had already started to take shape in his mind. But He was not interested in the commercial cinema popular in India at that time, which were largely mythological tales filled with broad strokes and multiple music/dance sequences. Ray wanted to tell stories about real people and their real struggles, and Indian cinema to him felt as far removed from reality as possible. To Ray, the idea of making films felt like a distant dream that could not be possible because of conventional notions that films cannot be shot in natural light or working with nonactors would prove disastrous.  It wasn’t until he saw Vittorio De Sica’s neo-realist Italian film “The Bicycle Cycle” which changed his entire conception of filmmaking and he for the first time identified a cinema style that spoke to him and one that he could dabble in. Ray had been playing around with the idea of adapting Bibhutibhusan’s Pather Panchali for the big screen and shooting it like the neo-realist films made perfect sense to him. In an essay from the book Deep Focus, Ray talks about describing his idea first to the french filmmaker Jack Renoir who had come to India to shoot The River. Renoir showed great interest in Ray’s pitch and encouraged him to go through with his plan. 

The production of Pather Panchali was unconventional, to say the least. After deciding on making the film, Ray had to start planning the shoot. He was still working in the advertisement firm so the movie had to be shot on weekends strictly. Also because of the minimalist nature of the film and Ray’s inexperience, he couldn’t get any financial backing from any investors, and there came a point when he had to part with his rare books and music cassettes and even had to mortgage his wife’s gold jewellery. To keep the budget in control he had to stick with inexperienced technicians, most of whom were working on a film for the first time. He also mostly cast non-actors in prominent roles keeping in the tradition of the neo-realistic films. But this organic filmmaking process is also what gives Pather Panchali its signature lifelike quality, almost a documentary-esque style as it captures life as is, which was Ray’s ultimate goal. Everything about Pather Panchali is living and breathing, and you can tell that right from the beginning as the credits start, as the names appear handwritten on a dusty and crumpled piece of paper it’s alive and that it is there for you to witness.

PEOPLE AND THE VILLAGE

In an interview, Aparna Sen stated that ‘Satyajit Ray’s Films Gave Faces To The Rural Poor And Dignified Them” and added, “In an atmosphere vitiated with formula mainstream cinema…Ray’s realism came like a breath of fresh air.” Pather Panchali, an adaptation of Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay’s novel of the same name, very much inspired by Bibhutibhusan’s own life, is about a family caught in the vicious snare of dire poverty and the harsh sordid reality that comes with such existence.

Set in the village of Nischindipur in rural Bengal, we get to see what life is like in an actual village which rings true even today. We see Kids running around, small mud houses with thatched roofs, Bangla Natok during festivals serving as a pleasant distraction from the humdrum of village life, or kids sitting down for their picnic and bickering over superfluous things, we get a very detailed visual description of rural life through which we learn of their simple ways of existence. Even the sound of the birds calling or the wind blowing is carefully recorded to set the mood of the film right and to have it appear as authentic as possible.

     Now in the very first scene, we see little Durga innocently picking guava from her neighbour’s garden. Upon seeing her do this, we see the vexation on the neighbour’s face as they throw a sneaky remark at her mother. Durga too little to understand anything, goes on doing whatever she was doing, not comprehending the unfair politics of such situations, we also learn later that the land actually belonged to her father but because he owed his relative some money and was unable to repay the amount, he was compelled to part with the land. As the film progresses, we see Durga blossom into an adolescent, full of life and spirit. She is often lost in the recesses of the woods and despite her mother’s complaints about not being enough dedicated to household work like “other girls of her age”, we don’t see much change in her. It is important to note that, unlike her brother, she doesn’t go to school nor do we see any other girls in the school. As viewers, we realize how restrained women’s lives were, only limited to household work and the gender expectations could not have made itself clearer. Though for Durga, her circumstances have never gotten in the way of her happiness, we see her tease Apu, go around playing with her friends but soon when the realization hits her that she probably will never get married like her friend because her parents don’t have enough money to pay the groom a dowry, we see her sad for the first time because this means that she’ll never be able to escape from her impoverished reality. She is wholly aware of the abysmal state of affairs at her house and at once confesses to her friend that she will not marry, we see her crestfallen with tears in her eyes as she witnesses her friend getting married, slowly the realization creeps in that she will probably never get to be a bride and thus, she’ll never be able to escape from the poverty and humiliation that envelops her life. 

   The character of the mother is drawn sympathetically. We see Sourbojaya as a woman with grit and patience but at the same time seething. Sourbojaya is a woman with a lot of dignity. She loathes her daughter stealing fruits from her neighbourhood. She has needs and expresses those needs to her husband, all of these desires pertain to their children- a saree for Durga, a new set of clothes for Apu. Even though we see her often shout at Durga and even at one point drag her out of the house by her hair, we also see her crying profusely after doing so. When Durga gets very sick, we see Sourbojaya as a pillar of strength, sitting beside her at all times, cupping her face with her hands affectionately. She has a natural proclivity to not desire help, even though her husband hasn’t reached out to her for months on end, we don’t see her pleading for money but selling whatever valuable thing she can lay her hands on. Durga’s death hits her like a colossal and all her desires end with it. Sourbojaya’s life is a difficult one, nobody realizes the problems that come with poverty better than her, she has to provide for a family when there is no money for it. Keeping aside her own desires, we see her play the role of the sacrificial mother whose path is of immense difficulties and ends in the tragedy which we get to witness in the film Aparajito.

ADAPTATION

The story of Pather Panchali is one that I have been in love with since I was a kid, so it almost feels sacrilegious for me to try and analyze it. My mother had read Bhibutibhusan’s novel “Aam Aatir Bhepu” as bedtime stories to me even before I could read on my own. And once I could read, I read those stories again… And again. So even before I watched the movie, that brother and sister, their playful routines, the narrow road that leads to the village of Nischindipur, they had all been part of my life. I knew Apu and Durga as people, and not characters, I felt elated with them at any slight glimmer of happiness, and I broke down into a mess each time tragedy struck. But the thing about Pather Panchali is. Despite being a gut-wrenching story about a family trying to survive their poverty, it has moments of purity. The book (more so than the film) is almost a feel-good story. It is about the little joys of life. The games they play, the happiness from just a little good food, Apu’s dreams. 

I have read too many essays on Pather Panchali from Western critics who call it to be an “Indian experience”. I don’t know what “Indian experience” means but as an Indian while watching it, everything feels so distant. This is not the life I have experienced, but it is still all so familiar. The thing about Pather Panchali is that it touches the very core of our humanity, which is part of the reason why I think this movie has touched a note internationally. Pather Panchali can be interpreted to be about many things, but it is the characters and their humanity that leaves a mark on you. I feel like I know Durga, I know a Sarbajaya and I know a Horihor – it can be a story of any poor household in Bengal. I guess that’s what is meant by the Indian experience, we have seen this life somewhere even if we haven’t lived it. When you Apu and Durga’s happiness over one mango, it puts things into perspective. We have forgotten to enjoy the small things in life, the story always brings me back to that feeling of joy and genuine wonder I felt as a child.

Satyajit Ray gives a lot of the film’s credit to Bibhutibhusan himself, and he deserves it since all of it comes from his writing. But Ray also makes the best choice at every step along the way to adapt the material. Ray didn’t write a script for the film and rather decided to stick with the lines from the books. But he had to draw and create extensive storyboards beforehand because Ray had planned for visual language unknown to Indians at that point. The novel is more of an episodic affair, there are no clear acts. Ray changes the order of events in the story to streamline the script and give it more of a three-act story structure with classic build-up. He also omits out long episodes from the story and rather progresses the story visually. In the book, the plot involving the Jatra or the play has more character reactions and reveals Apu’s imaginative power and early signs of being a storyteller. Ray juxtaposes this entire development in one screen, as the camera cuts to Apu being deeply engrossed in the play, with the next scene showing him wearing a prop moustache and acting out his imagination. It’s a simple thing, but it conveys a range of emotions. And it is also the strength of Pather Panchali as a film. Everything that can be conveyed visually is always done so. The dialogue is sparse and life-like, it’s like observing life play out in front of you as is. And in that way, it is also an interactive feeling. Ray invites you to think and feel for these characters and never spoon-feeds you any information or statement that he is trying to make. You get the sense that you are watching someone you know go through the hardships of life.

VISUAL LANGUAGE & NATURE

Film by its nature is a visual medium, and the best movies use this quality to enhance their visual storytelling. Throughout Pather Panchali, Ray develops a lot of the characters and the themes in the story visually. Let’s take the character of Apu for example. Despite being the lead character of the entire trilogy, Apu barely gets any lines in the movie. In fact, the original novel is written from Apu’s perspective, so a lot of it takes place in his head. Ray does this entirely through close-ups of Apu’s face, and when he chooses to cut to them. Eyes tell a thousand stories, and an image is worth a thousand words – and it is all prevalent here. In every scene, it is so cleverly positioned that one look into the young Apu’s eyes conveys what he is feeling. You know when is staring in wonger and when he is hiding in fear. And after his sister’s death, when we get a close-up of Apu’s face, we realize he has undergone a change. He has lost the innocence in his eyes, and it is further revealed in his stride and mannerisms following the death.

Bhibutibhusan is a writer who is known for his love of nature. Ray uses this quality of Bibhutibhusan’s storytelling and uses nature for pure visual storytelling. The small village setting lends a degree of freedom and also immediate danger. It also separates the kids from outside information, thus even trivial things are exciting to Apu and Durga. Arguably, the happiest scene in the movie takes place on one bright autumn day, with the sparse clouds of Bengal sky and white kash flowers all around them, bringing in the vibes of Durga puja and joy. It is also understood very well through the symbolism of water running around.  When the good news of Harihor’s job arrives, Ray cuts to footage of the lake brimming with life, ripples formed by dragonflies flying over it. When Durga falls sick, it is the same lake and ripples, but now not formed by life, but by the strike of scary nature. The storm signals Durga’s untimely passing away and leaves the household in shackles. Water, in general, is used repeatedly as a motif, from Indira’s glass rolling over and falling into the mud signalling her death to Apu throwing the necklace in the lake as it disappears in the scum, showing us the secret has been hidden forever.

MOTIFS

Now there are three motifs that are central to the narrative-the first and second, being the Train and death both of which appear in all the three films but the third one,  is peculiar to this film only, that being Durga’s stealing tendencies if it might even be called so. 

The motif of Durga stealing is crucial as it firstly shows us that the land she steals from belonged to her father but due to past debts were seized by their relative, divulging before us their abysmal financial state and secondly –the hypocrisy of their blood relatives who don’t seem to oppose to others taking heaps and heaps of vegetable from the garden but are absolutely vexed at the sight of Durga taking mere guava. The second time we see Durga accused of stealing, only this time it’s not a mere fruit but an actual pearl necklace–till the very end of Pacher Panchali, we are led to believe that she hasn’t taken it until Apu himself chances upon the necklace. We learn so much about Apu’s character through his response to him finding the necklace. We don’t see Apu mourn her death even once but this scene shows how much he loved his sister without having him utter even one word. It is also crucial because it is an emblem of Apu’s maturity as he seems to perfectly understand what happens when the entire village comes to know about this discovery. 

Secondly, 

The motif of the train is inextricably connected to death, common to all the three films symbolizing the uncanny fact that modernity is waiting for none, though the development of the railways is supposed to be a sign of advancement, the picture we get of Harihar’s family suggests otherwise. The falsity of this dream is shattered completely in all three films, part by part. The train thus is used as a harbinger of death in the trilogy, a very conscious choice on Ray’s part. In Pather Panchali, The chuffing of the engine and the whistle sounds are heard by Apu right before Indira’s death. We hear the mention of the train by Durga while she expresses to Apu her desire to go ride the train with him moments before she dies. In the previous scene, we see them stare at it in complete awe and board it to go away to a bigger place with high hopes, and yet it is what separates them from their nature. Like everything else in the movie, the train represents a contrast. In Apu’s Sansar-the final film from the trilogy, we last see Aparna(Apu’s Beloved) sitting inside one of the compartments of the train while Apu stands outside and watches the train go by, watches Aparna go by for the last time.

Death thus becomes an inevitable force, one which is merciless. Though present in all three films, we see Apu witness it for the first time in Pather Panchali, marking the end of his innocence. When Apu brings her aunt upon the request of his mother after Durga’s death. He innocently asks his aunt if Durga is asleep? As he sees her lying with her eyes shut on his mother’s lap. This very dialogue uttered by Apu is heartbreaking because we as an audience already know the truth. We never for once see Apu mourn his sister’s death, nor do we see him mourn his parent’s death in Aparajito. Death in the trilogy like in real life, though in the most twisted fashion teaches Apu the most important lesson- the art of being resilient, doesn’t matter how many people he has lost, we see him get over his grief and find the strength to go on with his life which is all that ever mattered. 

Now the two most crucial motifs that are common to all the films in the trilogy are death and the train. Moments before we see the demise of Durga, we see her telling her brother Apu that once she gets better again, they’ll go to ride the train again. So, when Apu travels on the train for the first time, it is bitter-sweet for him. The sound of the train is the harbinger of death and a symbol of modernity, we see Apu hear it before Durga’s death. Like everything else in the movie, the train represents a contrast. They stare at it in awe and board it to go away to a bigger place with high hopes, and yet it is what separates them from their nature. the sound of the chuffing of train and the whistle is the harbinger of death itself. 

Posted in movies, reviews

An American Pickle – Double Seth Rogen Kills It In this Funny Satire.

An American Pickle; Dir. – Brandon Trost

Rating – //stream it once it’s free//

An American Pickle | Official Trailer | HBO Max

“An American Pickle,” a time-travel farce directed by Brandon Trost and adapted from a New Yorker story by Simon Rich, marinates crisp almost-timeliness in the mild brine of nostalgia. It’s not too salty or too sour, and it’s neither self-consciously artisanal nor aggressively, weirdly authentic. The subject, more or less, is what it means to be Jewish, and given how contentious that topic can become — can I get an oy vey? — the movie finds an agreeable, occasionally touching vein of humor.

The setup for most of the jokes is that, in 1919, an impoverished immigrant named Herschel Greenbaum, recently arrived in Brooklyn from a fictitious, Cossack-ridden anti-Anatevka called Schlupsk, falls into a vat of saltwater and cucumbers. He leaves behind a pregnant wife, Sarah (Sarah Snook). She has a son, who has a son, whose son, in 2019, is a sad-sack tech guy named Ben. When Herschel is fished out of his century-long bath, alive and perfectly preserved, he goes to live with Ben, his only known relative, setting up a cross-generational odd-couple situation brimming with comic potential.

All the more so because both Herschel and Ben are played by Seth Rogen, who does the bewhiskered Yiddish thing and the diffident millennial thing with equal craftiness. While the characters are recognizable types — from popular culture if nowhere else — Rogen brings more than mere shtick to the performances. Herschel is neither a sentimental schlemiel nor a twinkly old-world grandpa, but rather an impatient, sometimes intolerant striver with a violent streak. His pre-pickling experience of the world was hard and bitter, leavened only by the hope that future generations of Greenbaums would be better off.

Which is just what happened, of course. Herschel once confessed to Sarah that he hoped to taste seltzer water before he died, and Ben has a gizmo in his apartment that makes it on demand. He’s even less of a caricature than his great-grandpa — not a hipster or a nerd so much as a smart guy with a deep streak of melancholy. It turns out that what connects him to Herschel isn’t just genetics: it’s also grief. Ben’s parents are dead, and Herschel’s accident robbed him of the pleasures and consolations of family.


That’s some pretty heavy stuff, but “An American Pickle” is swift and nimble enough to avoid weighing itself down with schmaltz. It’s almost too thin to sustain its premise for the running time — a scant 90 minutes — and sometimes feels more like a stretched-out sketch than a fully developed feature.

The century that separates Herschel from Ben allows the story to leapfrog over quite a lot of history, including the Holocaust, Israel, socialism, and the complicated process of upward mobility, acculturation and self-preservation that is the movie’s very condition of possibility. The drama of Jewish male selfhood that preoccupied so many in the middle generations — the whole Philip Roth-Woody Allen megillah — is all but erased. Herschel had his beloved Sarah. Ben has no apparent sexual or romantic interests, or even any friends that we know about. There’s no room for women in this pickle jar.

But the flimsiness of the movie’s conceit also works to its benefit. At its best, it’s a brisk, silly plucking of some low-hanging contemporary fruit. Food trends. Social media. Unpaid internships. The inevitable conflict between Herschel and Ben turns a family squabble into a culture-war skirmish, a conflict played out in a way that feels both satirically sharp and oddly comforting.

And pickles can be comfort food. Not too filling, good for the digestion, noisy and a little sloppy rather than artful or exquisite or challenging. This one, as I’ve said, isn’t bad, and even allows a soupcon of profundity into its formula. The tough, pious ancestor and his sensitive, secular descendant have almost nothing in common, and the imaginative challenge is to find an identity that can include them both more or less as they are. What makes them both Jews? The answer turns out to be simple and, at least for this conflicted 21st-century Jew, persuasive: the shared obligation to mourn the dead.

Posted in movies, reviews

Yes, God, Yes – a Smart And Funny Exploration Of Teenage Sexuality.

Yes, God, Yes; Dir. -Karen Maine

Rating –  “It’s great” / worth adding to your collection.

Yes, God, Yes is the directorial debut Karen Maine, and stars Natalia Dyer from Stranger Things, in the lead role. Developed from a short film that Maine planned on directing but later adapted it to feature-length, this is an extremely small film, in terms of budget, story, and even the run-time. Clocking at only about one hour and fifteen minutes, the film is an almost semi-autobiographical retelling of Maine’s first-hand experience of spending four days at a Catholic retreat.

Alice, played by Natalia Dyer, has been brought up in a very small town by her conservative religious parents and attends Catholic school, where sex-ed classes are taken by a priest. Not only is sex before marriage a sin, but also masturbation, and Alice is made to believe that she will go to hell if she even gets turned on by sex scenes in movies or hot boys in the class. Alice, like most girls her age, is pretty gullible and believes that she is actually committing sins by feeling emotions normal to any teenager. Set in the early 2000s, Alice experiences her sexual interaction over an online AOL chatroom, where she responds to a random dude’s creepy messages just because of curiosity and discovers masturbation. But then she is ashamed of herself and never talks about it to anyone.

At school, someone has spread a rumor about how she performed a very particular sexual activity with a guy from her class at a party, a sexual activity she that she doesn’t even know the meaning of. She asks her friend, but she has no clue either, and Alice spends a chunk of the film trying to find out what people are talking about her. But whatever it is, in order o get these accusations of her and compensate for her supposed dirty mind, she goes to a Christian retreat for four days. And this place is a straight-up horror mansion imo. Right from the beginning, with the overly friendly and enthusiastic attitude of everyone, something is definitely off about this place. Maybe it’s just my socially awkward self, but everything in the retreat is almost Get Out level creepy.

Yes, God, Yes, is a movie about masturbation and sexual awakening, but what separates it from other films of this genre is its female protagonist and conservative setting. It is not a raunchy comedy about horny guys trying to lose virginity, it is just a realistic portrayal of a girl coming to terms with her own sexuality. Maine sure finds funny moments throughout the story, but she never loses sight of realism in the central story, she rather uses the comedic moments to further develop Alice’s character and illustrate her struggles.

The teachers and elders in the story are used for jokes, but they are not the butt of jokes, they are all very misguided people themselves. If anything is joke it is religion and a society that expects young to suppress all their sexual urges, even though they know it is unrealistic. The guilt of always feeling like she’s committed a sin fills Alice with self-doubt that almost drives her crazy as she slowly starts to find out that people are doing those same things in hiding. She feels conflicted and doesn’t understand what she wants to do anymore and then she meets an old lesbian biker lady in a pub, who was once in a Catholic school too, which gives Alice a new perspective on the world. She understands that human beings are complex creatures, and it makes no sense to define them entirely by the supposed “sins” they commit. She understands that High School isn’t the end of the world, and it doesn’t matter what people are talking about behind your back, because those same people are doing equally fucked up shit when nobody is watching. She learns to give herself a chance – to finally figure out who she is.

Natalia Dyer gives the best performance of her career as Alice. So much of the movie depends on her, and she sells every moment she’s in. The rest of the cast is equally good. Wolfgang Novogratz as the lovable hunk is very charming and Timothy Simon is perfect as the strict father, a role very similar to his role from Looking for Alaska on Hulu. Karen Maine does an amazing job directing the movie. It’s hard to believe this is her first movie and she almost pulls off a Greta Gerwig, ala Lady Bird. Yes, God, Yes, is a beautiful little film about growing up and one of the best films to release this quarantine. So, if you have an hour and an hour to spare, check out the movie, you might end up reliving some your worst High School memories.

Now available in virtual cinemas and select drive-ins; available on digital and VOD from July 28.

Posted in movies, reviews

Movie Review: Artemis Fowl – Disney Takes A Giant Shit On Beloved Book Franchise

Artemis Fowl; Dir. – Kenneth Branagh

Rating – Horrendous. Piece. Of. Shit.

Disney’s Artemis Fowl | Official Trailer

Artemis fowl feels like some parent gave an infant a brand new toy set featuring random action figures to play with, but the kid pooped his pants before he could finish the story, so now we are just left with whatever game the toddler designed in the limited time before he pooped his pants. But no, this isn’t some fantasy a 9-year-old cooked up in his bedroom, this 125 million dollar budget Disney production starring big names and directed by a well experienced director, who has made good movies in the past – how this movie turned out to be such an epic disaster, is a total mystery to me.

To call Artemis Fowl a movie would be giving it too much praise, it doesn’t qualify as a movie. It’s a series of random footage stitched together to form something that barely emulates a feature-length movie. It doesn’t even have a story, it’s the type of movie where nothing really happens. A bunch of characters are introduced, they get together in the third act, some random shit happens I guess and the movie just ends there. There are no character arcs, no plot, no journey, no adventure – basically anything that has something to do with a story is lacking from this movie.

Sitting through the one and half hours of which movie (which definitely felt much much longer) was a torture to say the least, the movie was so boring I dozed off twice. I would not be able to tell you anything about the plot of this movie, even if I were to try, because it is fucking nonexistent. In the first few minutes we are like told how smart Artemis Fowl, and then his whole backstory and family background is explained in very exposition heavy dialogues by a counselor of sorts. It is like if in Batman Begins, Batman just straight up showed up in the first act and Alfred explained to him how his parents died and then about all the ninja training he did, in a single monologue, so that the audience gets to know who Bruce Wayne is. What’s worse is, none of those details matter, because the character of Artemis Fowl himself doesn’t matter and I really don’t know why they had to make such a big point about him being smart, it’s not like they use it in the story, because he barely does anything. Yeah, the titular character of the movie doesn’t do anything in story except just existing in the frame.

I know this an adaptation, so maybe the character is just boring even in the books. But no, I know that’s not true because I have some friends who are real fans of the book and really love Artemis Fowl. From what I’ve heard, Artemis is supposed to be this grey character who’s a criminal mastermind and he’s supposed to have this big redemptive arc over the course of the books. It’s as if the writers of the movie didn’t even read the books , they just heard what the books were about – a smart kid, fairies, dwarfs,trolls, etc, and then sort of build a plot around it that they thought would print money. But then the script supervisor came in and told the writers that he was supposed to be a criminal mastermind, so they just randomly add line at the end of the movie where Artemis says, “I’m Artemis Fowl, the criminal mastermind.”They took all the elements from the books and stripped them of anything that makes it interesting, even down to it’s protagonist. Also, I don’t really wanna be too harsh on kid, but the guy (Fardia Shaw) they cast as Artemis Fowl sucked so bad. He was s such an un-charismatic and dull presence, that even in this awful movie, he stood out as wooden.

Now, if we are talking about acting, let’s get to the two biggest names in the cast. Josh Gad plays this giant dwarf character, who also narrates the entire movie from a prison cell. He looks like someone trying to pull off a cheap Hagrid cosplay in comic-con while putting on a Batman. And yes, the whole movie is narrated in a Batman voice, and I honestly don’t get the point of the narration, it’s not like anything happens in the money. Josh Gad is not that bad technically, but his costume, voice and CGI face make it tough for me to say he was good. Also putting on a Batman voice, is Dame Judi Dench who sort of plays the fairy version of M from the Bond movies. She also has her own centaur version of Q in the movie named Foaly, which I know because he’s introduced like this – “Hi there, this is Foaly!”. Between this and Cats, Judi Dench really needs to fire her agent, or maybe she’s just gotten to the point in her career where she doesn’t care anymore, and is just building some bank for her kids.

There are also other characters introduced in the story but none of them matters in the end. There’s a side quest with this fairy who’s father is believed to be a traitor, so she wants to clear his name. She’s like supposed be the best friend that Artemis Fowl makes in this misadventure, and they try to have these friendship moments between them but it all just comes off as so cheesy and cory that you don’t even take it seriously for one second. But Artemis Fowl is supposed have this great relationship with his Butler and his niece, but don’t give two shits about them cause neither does the movie, they just exist in the background somewhere.

This definitely feels like a movie that was botched in the edit room. I mean, I don’t believe there’s a cut of this movie that’s any good, but the editing seems so sloppy and the plot doesn’t really flow from one place to another, which makes me wonder who’s fault is this that this movie tuned out so bad. Everything about this movie is bad, from writing to acting and visual effects, it’s almost as if everyone working on this movie wanted it to fail. Disney surely did, because they didn’t try to do any re-shoots, get any good editors involved or pay any money for post production and good visual effects. Instead they took this opportunity to quietly dump the movie on their own streaming, but I’m not sure what it says about their brand. It feels like Disney is saying Disney Plus is the place where we’re gonna dump all our bad movies and the good ones will be coming in theaters, and I don’t think that’s the look they want. I don’t think this movie is gonna bring any new subscribers to Disney Plus, and in case you are already subscribed, I’d suggest you skip it.

So, did you watch Artemis Fowl (if so, why?) and what did you think of it?

Do let me know in the comments!

Posted in movies

Movie Review: Da 5 Bloods – The Topical Spike Lee Joint That The World Needs Right Now.

Da 5 Bloods; Dir. – Spike Lee

Rating – “It’s great” / worth adding to your collection.

Da 5 Bloods | Official Trailer | Netflix

Amidst all the crazy shit happening around the world, with Netflix’s Da 5 Bloods, Spike Lee has officially announced that the Oscar race for 2021 has just began. Yes, it’s that good. This is without a doubt the most high quality film to be released during the lockdown, and it’s steal that you can just watch it for free at the comfort of your home right now.

The film opens with Muhammad Ali and closes with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., two legends who are inextricably tied to the Civil Rights movement and Black pride. Lee uses them to highlight another commonality: their strenuous opposition to the Vietnam War. For Ali, the objection cost him several productive years of his career and his heavyweight title; for Dr. King, this new focus was quite possibly the final straw that led to his assassination. The first words we hear are Ali’s famous explanation of why he refused to enlist. The last words we hear are from a speech King gave on April 4, 1967, exactly one year before his murder, where he quotes poet Lagston Hughes’ “Let America Be America Again.”

On the surface, Da 5 Bloods is a treasure hunt story, modelled on the template of “The Treasure of Sierra Madre” and of course, as he’s confessed, Spike Lee’s favorite film “Apocalypse Now”. There’s even a nighclub themed after Apocalypse Now in modern day Vietnam, andfilm fan will be able to catch the scene homages Spike Lee pays to Francis Ford Coppola’s masterpiece.

The movie tells the story of four war veterans who are back in Vietnam in recover their friend/leader’s remains from the jungle, but actually they have a hidden agenda underneath that the film reveals slowly. The men, who dub themselves as Bloods, have all got something going on with them – there’s the joker, Melvin (Isiah Whitlock Jr.), the level-headed medic, Otis (Clarke Peters) and the one who achieved the most post-war success, Eddie (Norm Lewis). Rounding out the quartet is the forceful, hot-headed leader, Paul, played by Delroy Lindo in one of the best performances to come out of a Spike Lee joint. The fifth blood of the title is not Paul’s son, David (Jonathan Majors), who unexpectedly shows up to join his elders’ crew. Delroy Lindo is just so good in the movie that if he’s not nominated whenever the Oscars are held next year, there’s seriously something wrong with the Academy. He has monologue towards the end of the movie, that was so good that it makes the movie for me.

Lindo’s character Paul, is the most affected by the events of the Vietnam war, the ghosts of the past are literally haunting him. He was one closest to their leader Norm nad looked up to him like a God, so in a way he feels the guilt of surviving while Norm did not. A deep thinker and a shrewd tactician, Norman has taken on almost mythical grandeur in his comrades’ memories. They refer to him as “our Malcolm and our Martin.” When the borders of the frame narrow and the color balance shifts to signify that we are back in the war, Norman is played by Chadwick Boseman , a perfect casting choice that underlines the heroism of the character, who is stamped with the likeness of Jackie Robinson and Black Panther himself from Wakanda. Boseman’s charisma can make feel even the most simple scenes heroic and inspiring.

A strong choice made by Spike Lee in the film is that the older actors also play their younger selves in the flashbacks, he doesn’t cast younger actors or de-age the actors like Martin Scorsese in The Irishman. It’s a choice that might through some people off, but it really pays off in my opinion. It goes on to show how the characters never left Vietnam and have been stuck in time ever since, and also the fact that Chadwick Boseman is the only young and charismatic presence, show how he never got to grow old like his contemporaries, and his ghost really lingers on in the present timeline.

Also another strong creative decision in the film that really pays off, is the decision to shoot the movie in different aspect ratio and and different type to film to give a sense of time and place. The flashbacks are all shot in 16 mm film with an aspect ratio of 4:3 which gives it a documentary-esque feel and the present-day jungle scenes appear to be like 35 mm IMAX film, but there’s no way to feel for me since we unfortunately can never watch the film in a theatre. The cinematography by Newton Thomas Sigel (who also shot Extraction for Netflix this year) is gorgeous and beautifully captures the rich landscapes of Vietnam and Thailand.

From left, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Norm Lewis, Delroy Lindo, Clarke Peters and Jonathan Majors in ‘Da 5 Bloods.

But Spike Lee being Spike Lee, this film has a lot to say and it says it effectively. In addition to the verbal commentary about present events vs. past ones, Lee also employs some sly visual representations of his points. David wears a Morehouse shirt throughout his jungle trek and it’s more than just a shout-out to the director’s alma mater. It’s a reminder that the college kids didn’t wind up in this location. “They put our poor Black asses out here on the front line,” says Melvin, “killing us like flies.” With the occasional jump to graphic documentary footage, we’re also reminded that the Vietnam War was beamed into the homes of millions of Americans via the nightly news, forcing them to see the atrocities in such an effective way that later wartime presidents forced a moratorium on images of war, as if out of sight meant out of mind.

You can really just dig into any scene from this movie and decipher meaning social commentary out of it. And which the amount of twists and turns in the script, it sure warrants repeat viewing. It talks about the turbulent times and complex issues Black soldiers faced in Vietnam, commentary on US’s current president, Race issues worldwide in general and so much much more. There’s scene in particular involving Hanna Hanoi and the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. that sent chills down my spine.

Simply, Spike Lee has done it again – he’s went on and made a very entertaining movie with deeply rooted ideologies that feel relevant even today. I mean, the movie almost correlates to whatever has been going through in the US over past couple weeks with all the ‘Black Lives Matter’ protests going on. It’s a very timely movie and at the same time very timeless, so don’t make the mistake of skipping this one.

Da 5 Bloods is now available to stream on Netflix worldwide.

So what did you think of the movie if you have watched it, and what’s your favorite Spike Lee joint?

Do let me know in the comments!

Posted in movies

Movie Review:The King Of Staten Island – Pete Davidson shines in Apatow’s Charming Coming-of-age Dramedy.

The King of Staten Island; Dir. – Judd Apatow

Rating – “It’s great” / worth adding to your collection.

The King of Staten Island – Official Trailer

Judd Apatow is known for making one type of film over and over – overlong stoner comedies about overgrown man-children, and helping commercially unproven comedians become huge stars by making films in which they embody lightly fictionalized versions of themselves. He’s made stars out of the likes of Seth Rogen and Steve Carell in the past, with films like Knocked Up and The 40 Year Old Virgin. This time it is Pete Davidson’s turn, and he fits perfectly in Apatow’s universe of slice of life light-hearted dramas. The SNL star’s brand of ‘I don’t give a fuck’ dark humor is a perfect fit for the coming-of-age tale of a man-child trying to figure his shit out.

This is not the type of comedy where you burst into laughter every five seconds at a penis joke, this movie takes it’s time, (like all Judd Apatow movies) but in doing so it beautifully flutters between scenes that genuinely bring a smile to your face and scenes that will genuinely touch your heart. I walked into this movie completely blind, I didn’t even see a single trailer for it, so the emotional story of the movie is what surprised me the most – this is the most heartwarming Judd Apatow movie I have ever seen. It reminds me a lot of Apatow’s cult TV show freaks & geeks, another charming coming-of-age dramedy, which still remains one of my favorite seasons of television. Maybe it’s because I’m in a similar phase of my life where I’m trying to figure my shit out, but as soon as Pete Davidson’s character walked into the screen, I immediately felt that connection with him. I need to give the movie props for making me care too – I was genuinely invested in the lives of these character and gave a damn about what happened to them, which is a hard thing to achieve.

Pete Davidson and Bel Powley in The King of Staten Island

Based on a script co-written by Davison and Apatow, The King of Staten Island tells the story of Scott Carlin who lost his fire-fighter father in a tragic accident when he was seven years old and has never been able grow up since, which is weird because Pete Davidson also lost his fire-fighter dad who died killed trying to rescue people from the Marriott World Trade Center on 9/11, so in a sense this a semi auto-biographical vehicle for Davidson. But while Davidson uses humor and comedy to deal with the tragedy in his life, Scott is a tattoo artist who dreams of opening a tattoo parlor cum restaurant, which he titles “Ruby Tattuesdays”.

Scott still lives with his mom (Merissa Tomei), while his ambitious little sister (Maude Apatow) goes off to college following her dreams. Both of them are worried about Scott’s life as he refuses to grow up or change. He hangs with his toner friends who are all a likable presence (especially Moisés Arias and Ricky Velez) and you will want to hang out with them. The exchanges between the friends is very realistic and funny in a true Judd Apatow fashion, and it sounds like what a bunch of dudes will be talking about as they smoke some weed. He’s also secretly fucking his childhood friend Kelsey (a brilliant Bel Powley) but Scoot is left so insecure by his father’s death that he is afraid to form any new relationship.

It’s a cozy environment that Scott has built for himself, until one day he tattoos kid in the wood and the kid’s dad (Bill Burr) starts dating Scott’s mom. Okay, Bill Burr is amazing in this movie, he is the perfect balance to Pete Davidson’s dry humor. Bill Burr also plays a fireman in the movie, a detail that doesn’t fit well with Scott as he starts making plans to break up his mom’s relationship, which sets him on a journey that ultimately helps him grow up.

This a masterfully shot movie, with great cinematography and production design, that truly captures the essence of Staten Island. All the performances are great and the chemistry among the cast is perfect and everyone has great lines in the movie. But it is Pete Davidson who ultimately carries this movie with his star-making performance. He maybe playing himself, but his sincerity and charm brings much gravitas to the character that makes you feel for him throughout the story, even when he’s making some pretty shitty decisions. Also the soundtrack of the movie is really unique, and helps set the mood for the story it’s trying to tell.

Is the movie longer than it needs to be? Absolutely. At a run-time of two hours and seventeen minutes, you do feel the length as the script meanders and the actors stretch scenes with improv. But it is also what grounds this movie and trust me, if you sit with it, the movie really pays off in the end. Judd Apatow loves making films about about middle aged men stuck in adolescence, and it is definitely funny to watch the misguided fools do stupid shit. But with The King of Staten Island, Apatow rises above his own storytelling techniques – you are not laughing at Pete Davidson in this movie for not being able to grow up, you rather feel bad for the dude. This movie gives you a sense of why certain people are the way they are – why some people do recreational drugs, why some people have their bodies covered in tattoos, why some people take pride in the comrade of firemen, and ultimately, why certain people come of age at different points in their lifetime, some much later than most.

Alright, so what did you think of The King of Staten Island, and what’s your favorite Judd Apatow movie?

Do let me know in the comments!

Posted in movies

Why Bill And Ted Returning Has Me Excited.

BILL & TED FACE THE MUSIC Official Trailer #1 (2020)

Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, and it’s sequel Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey, is that rare piece of film memorabilia from the 90’s that somehow has still survived in the general consciousness of moviegoers. But I wasn’t alive when the first movie came out and I never got to see the movie in theatres. But thanks to the popularity of Keanu Reeves, (I just love that guy) I wanted to see some of his early work, and thus stumbled upon Bill and Ted. I saw Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure right after I saw John Wick 3 in the theatres, and the experience was most excellent. It shows Keanu’s range dude – from a hard-boiled mass murderer to one of the most lovable idiots in movie history.

ALex Winter and Keanu Reeves in Bill and Ted Face the Music

Bill and Ted is a movie that can only exist in the ’90s, simply because it just won’t be made today. It’s a completely silly idea, filled with cheesy lines and a plot that doesn’t really go anywhere, and any studio today, will reject the film in the pitch itself. But thankfully, there was a time when movies like this were made, because they are just so darn fun. Like Bill and Ted themselves, these are most chill movies to watch and just forget about all your problems for the time being. And I swear it has some of the most quotable dialogues of all time – I haven’t been able to stop using Bill and Ted references in between conservations since I watched Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.

Finally, after like almost 2 decades the third movie in the Bill and Ted franchise is coming out, with both Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves returning to their iconic roles. It is so refreshing to see a movie that’s just so chill, playing in the theaters. And to be honest, that’s all I need right now, with the stressful stuff happening around the world. Do I have the same amount of memories and nostalgia attached to property like most fans? No, but surely wanna see where they take these characters now that they have grown up and have families. But I’m cautiously excited though because, in the past, most of these sequels made after decades of the original film, have been completely shit (looking at you, Dumb and Dumber To). But the first trailer of Bill and Ted Face the Music launched today, and from the looks of it, it looks just as excellent as the previous ventures. It doesn’t spoil anything about the movie, but gives us a basic idea of what to expect from the movie – a crazy adventure with some crazy comedy. And who doesn’t want to see Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves go on an excellent adventure? I can’t believe I’m saying this, but this really is one of my most anticipated movies of the year now. Bill and Ted might just be what we to ease ourselves in these times of global catastrophe.

So are you excited for Bill and Ted Face the Music, and what’s your favorite oddball 90’s comedic duo? Do let me know in the comments.

And till next time, be excellent to each other, and Party on dudes!

Posted in movies

Movie Review: Scoob! – It’s a shame that this childish delight has to skip THEATERS.

Scoob!; Dir – Tony Cervone

Rating – //stream it once it’s free// (Or you know, purchase on VOD for your kids!)

Scoob! is set on it’s way to create history one way or another. It is the first movie set for a theatrical release, to completely skip theaters and release on digital VOD due too the current corona-virus pandemic. What kinda business it does is yet to be seen, but either ways it’s going to shift some gears in the Hollywood release model. Anyways we’re not here to talk about that, let’s discuss if the movie is any good. Is it? Well, it’s a both yes and a no.

While Scoob is a nice fun pastime for the family, it no ‘The Lego Movie’ which both kids and adults can appreciate together The jokes here are mostly written for kids and read as if it’s some middle aged man trying to write what he thinks kids these days find funny. Yes the Scooby Dooby franchise has been adapted to modern times and all characters are now millennials (Or GenZ, I’m not sure. Also the plot and the messaging in the film is not nearly as smart or innovative as the LEGO movies, which the scooby doo mystery mystery formula being revamped to fit into the superhero genre. Because again, what do kids love these days? Superhero movies.

The gang reuniting in the middle a third-act superhero fight scene in Scoob!

But I’m not gonna be too harsh on it for that, after all this movie IS made for kids. And honestly I think kids will love this movie – with all the bright colors, funny gags and entertaining action. That’s why I couldn’t help but think of how much better it all would be on the big screen. Kids out of school, going to the theaters and having a blast with Scooby and gang, as they slurp on cola and much on popcorn. This movie really had the potential be some like a minions. But alas, that not the kind of time we live in right now.

Also if you’re a genuine Scooby fan, I think there’s enough in Scoob! to please you too. Shaggy and Scooby are the stars of the film and I think the voice actors did a good job here. But the real show stealers in the voice acting department are Zac Efron as Fred and Mark Wahlberg as The Blue Falcon. What you don’t get much of is – enough time with the gang together as they are separated right at the beginning. But to compensate for that, you get a slew of Hanna-Barbera characters in the movie. There are a ton of references in this movie! This is essentially an origin story for a planned hanna-barbera universe by the Warner Brothers. So if you’re like me and spent your childhood watching hanna-barbera cartoons on Cartoon Network, that’s plenty reason to get excited.

How good Scoob! would’ve done if it were released in the theaters? I can’t possibly tell that, but the last act of this movie would definitely have been a blast to watch on the big screen. So, I would recommended you to watch this film – kids will love it, and chances are you will too.

Scooby, Shaggy, Fred, Daphne and Velma in a scene from Scoob!

Click on the link below to watch Scoob! online right now –
https://www.amazon.com/SCOOB-John-DiMaggio/dp/B087L5HNCR

Posted in movies

How The Half of It defies Its Genre CONVENTIONS

Ellie Chu tells the audience right up in the opening sequence of the film – “This is not a love story”, à la the narrator in ‘500 Days of Summer’. And just like ‘500 Days of Summer’, ‘The Half of it’ subverts all genre conventions and tropes that people have come to expect, while still being a part of it and playing by its rules. It takes the very familiar story (one that’s been told over and over again, especially in the recent string of teen movies from Netflix), and just decides give the story realistic conclusions. And in doing so, it becomes something more than the genre sets it out to be, and the movies breaks free to greatness just like it’s protagonist.

The Half of It Official Trailer from Netflix.

I’m gonna be honest here, I’m not a fan of these Teen/High School movies from Netflix; most times they are just too cliched and suck real bad. And while ‘The Half of It’ has a really cliched plot, the executions and certain choices made in the production help it rise above it’s peers. The story begins with our lead protagonist Ellie Chu, an immigrant from China living alone with her father since her mom’s demise, as she explains us the concept soulmates to us using Greek mythology. “According to Greek mythologyhumans were originally created with four arms, four legs and a head with two faces. Fearing their power, Zeus split them into two separate parts, condemning them to spend their lives in search of their other halves.” she says, showing her search for that fairy tale concept of love. But Ellie isn’t bothered much about that, she spends her time learning and writing papers for other students in exchange of money, so she can go to college even if it’s not her dream school. To spice up her boring life, one day High school jock Paul approaches her to write letters popular high school beauty Aster, so that he can woo. You have seen any movie in this genre over the last few decades, you know what’s gonna happen next. Naturally Ellie falls for Aster as they exchange letters and feels like she has finally found her other half who understands hers.

The friendship between Ellie and Paul is without a doubt the best aspect of The Half of It.

But here the film decides to take things a little different and turns itself into a complex and nuanced tale. First of all, yes it’s a story of a lesbian Chinese immigrant and that is a huge thing in itself. But just having a progressive character in your film doesn’t make it groundbreaking or good for that matter, it’s what you do with those characters that matters. This story could easily turn into the ‘gay best-friend’ trope popular in so many rom-coms, but instead what develops is really nuanced and probably one of movie friendships in recent memory. The chemistry between Leah Lewis and Daniel Diemer is off the charts and the cute moments they share together were the highlights in film for me. And while Ellie is falling hard for Aster, Paul starts developing feelings for Ellie being unaware of the situation. Now this is the part of the story that could really go wrong by becoming very awkward or cheesy. But not The Half of it, rather it gives the decisions of it’s character real world repercussions which help them grow. Like Ellie Ellie says in another of her voice-overs, “no one will get what they want in the ensuing story. But they will get what they need.

The Half Of It – Leah Lewis, Daniel Diemer, Collin Chou – Photo Credit: Netflix / KC Bailey Movie Review

That is not say that The Half of it does a perfect job of rising above it’s genre, it gives up to it in certain places, like in a “standing up and shouting out their feelings” scene in the third act. And while it doesn’t resolve in the conventional way, it still uses those devices to tell the story. It definitely breaks out and stand above others in the genre, but still it ain’t no 500 days of Summer. But hey, saying that it is not as good as one of the best movies of this century is not really a criticism. And considering how many rules this movies breaks, from story telling plot devices to real life issues like teenage sexuality, Asian culture and even a subtle dab at religion. But again, I have seen a lot of articles praise the movie just for being progressive and said how it criticized religious people, but reading was quite different, I didn’t feel like it was undermining religious people at all, if anything it made understand why they believe what they believe in. And that’s the thing, this movie takes each of its characters seriously and gives them layer – saying that this movie is trying to show down upon any community only undermines the things it tries to speak for.

Ellie kissing goodbye to Aster in The Half of It.

Alice Wu does an excellent job in directing the movies, she adds just enough quirk and innovative techniques to make it all seem special. This is only her sophomore film and her last film was fifteen years back. I don’t know if it’s for any personal reason, but if it is because she wasn’t getting any work, that’d be a huge bummer because boy does she direct this film. Leah Lewis nails the lead role and surely expecting to see more for from her. The overall cast is really good too, not much bad stuff to say here. And yeah, the score – it is just beautiful and a lot more emotion to the story. I’m definitely gonna listen to that score over and over.

 “Love is messy, and horrible, and selfish, and … bold.”

So overall The Half of It is one of the rare teenage dramas on Netflix that’s funny and heart touching forever. Scenes like when Ellie’s dad speak about his wife’s demise for the first time or when Paul runs after Ellie on the train are gonna stay with you for a long time. And just like Tom in 500 days of Summer, when Ellie learns what love really means and we reach the heartbreak point in the story, you feel like you grow up with her. And then when she leaves her home for a successful career, you feel that change in you as you see Paul and Ellie struggle saying goodbye to each other. So, while it isn’t a love story, it is definitely one of the sweetest friendship, and that should be enough reason for you to give it a watch,

Paul running after Ellie’s train in the Half of it.

The Half of it is now streaming on Netflix. Big recommendation.

Posted in movies

The Lighthouse – How to build and release tension in a single scene?

Anatomy of a Scene – The Lighthouse

The Lighthouse is one of my favorite films from last year, if not my favorite. So, today I wanna look at a scene from The Lighthouse that in my opinion, is the perfect example of how to build and release tension in a single scene without any dialogue.

The particular scene that I’m talking about, happens around twelve minutes into the film where Robert Pattinson’s character is taking a smoke break after completing his chores at the lighthouse. Prior to this scene the movie sets up the two lighthouse keepers who have come to stay in this hostile environment completely isolated. Just in the scene before, we see Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe argue over dinner, on who should be doing the light duty as Pattinson thinks he’s ready for it. Now it might look like a very petty issue, but it creates one of the fundamental conflicts in the story. Dafoe completely rejects Pattinson’s proposition and in turn says, “The light is mine!” But this only increases Pattinson’s curiosity about the light, as now it has been told that it is forbidden to him. He imagines his master to derive some kind of divine pleasure, which he doesn’t want to share with his assistant. After all, Dafoe clearly says, “There’s enchantment in the light.” However futile this sounds to you, this scene actually lays foundation for the Prometheus allegory that runs as one of the main themes of the story. And that is the beauty of The Lighthouse, Robert Eggers takes these really simple scenes where nothing really happens on the surface, but he adds so much meaning to them through subtext,

Robert Pattinson staring at the Lighthouse with his lustful eyes.

The scene begins as we find Robert Pattinson smoking on the rock, staring up at the lighthouse with desire filled eyes. If you didn’t catch it earlier, the light here represents Zeus’s fire and Pattinson’s desire for it is deliberately showcased because it becomes one his character’s biggest motives later on in the film. But as a viewer watching the movie for the first time, you are not aware of what the light means, so you’re left wondering of its meaning and there’s an immediate tension and mystery attached to Pattinson’s actions.

The first shot is a tracking shot from behind, as the camera follows Robert Pattinson walking towards the mysterious pitch black sea, lit faintly by the moonlight. In the sea, we see a few wooden logs floating away like an illusion and it immediately grabs our attention. DOP Jarin Blaschke deserves special praise here, his cinematography makes even the most mundane visuals haunting, while being so pretty at the same time. And like us, the sight sucks in Pattinson too, as he in drawn towards it. He gets into the water and starts pacing towards the logs with his lustful eyes right on it, as the camera cuts between the enchanting waters and Robert Pattinson’s bewildered face which only increases the tension. We want to know what’s in the and we want to know what’s attracting Pattinson, so we have ourselves more unanswered questions.

Robert Pattinson in The Lighthouse.

But that’s not where it stops, as Eggers adds even more tension to the scene by placing a person in between the logs which is eventually revealed as the logs move away, and upon inspection anybody can tell that he dead. Suddenly you have a whole new set of unanswered questions – Who is person? How did he get here? What caused his death? And as the camera cuts back to Robert Pattinson, you see all the same uncertainty and tension in his face. And my God, does Pattinson act in this scene! This is by far some of the best acting by him, and he sells everything in movie that on paper might seem really crazy. And as for the last piece to building tension – Pattinson walks straight into his death. He starts to drown in the ocean and now, not only are you uncertain of what is happening or what Pattinson is doing, now you’re also uncertain of whether he’ll survive.

A scene from The Lighthouse where a dead body is found in the ocean by Robert Pattinson.

So now that all the tension is built, how does Robert Eggers decide to release it? There are mainly two ways to do this, either provide the audience with some kind of answer or jump cut to a more peaceful scene so that the audience is left wondering what the fuck happened. Eggers decides to do both, but only partially. He gives us an answer but it only complicates the plot even more, he slows us a mermaid. It is important to note here that, this is first supernatural occurrence in the story, and it remains to be the only one for a longtime. So as the story develops you’re always reminded of the mermaid and her chilling cries underwater, so the tension remains intact throughout. Even though, Robert Pattinson’s character never talks about it later, you can tell that it’s bothering him since it was earlier revealed that the last keeper died after talking of the mer-folk.

The mermaid in The Lighthouse

So what does the mermaid represent in The Lighthouse? For that we’ll need to what’s the role of mermaids in mythology. While some western cultures do represent the mermaid as friendly beings, most mythical stories portray them as vicious creatures. In popular stories mermaids are found to lure seamen out of their ships into the and seduce them to death. And while being seduced to death doesn’t sound so unpleasant, it is really one of the worst ways to die as they feed off your soul for years.So, again what does the mermaid represent in The Lighthouse? It represents desire – the very thing that leads Pattinson’s character to his doom.

Valeriia Karaman as the beautiful mermaid in The Lighthouse

The mermaid comes back in several scenes throughout the movie as a recurring theme. And because of this first scene, we’re always scared that something bad might happen to Robert Pattinson like the previous lighthouse keeper, whenever she appears. So not only does she act as a motif throughout the film, she also becomes a source of suspense and tension. With each appearance of the mermaid, Pattinson’s desire only increases and it comes out of in the last act of movie – first as a rage-filled masturbation scene where he imagines having sex with the mermaid, and second as a vengeful act against his master.

Robert Pattinson having sex with a mermaid in The Lighthouse (2019).

Now, some people think that all the scenes with the mermaid are actually dream sequences, but in my opinion that doesn’t matter. You can think whatever you want to think that happened, it’s the symbolism behind the scene that matters. It is the story of Prometheus trying to steal what the gods denied him as an act of revolt, and in turn being punished for it for eternity. But what Eggers cleverly does in his take of the story is he doesn’t choose a hero, instead he paints both sides in dark nuanced tones, and what happens in result, turns The Lighthouse into an age old story of men going too far to fulfill their desires.