Tag Archives: Film

Nolan, If you’re listening

 

dunkirk-poster

We have discovered you after your Batman trilogy. Saw the visionary that you are through Inception. Then went back in time and stumbled upon your earlier work that left us with nothing but awe and admiration for what you are. A new age writer-director who speaks through his art.

 

We love you for your collaboration with Hans Zimmer. We love you for the spectacle you create with Wally Pfister. We love each carefully crafted snip and those extra few seconds you let us linger on select shots with Lee Smith. But most importantly we love you for your ability to tell a story.

 

Your Bruce Wayne was not just a masked vigilante. He was a lonely lost man trying to make sense of this dark world. Your Dom Cobb was not just a thief. He was a father trying to get back to his children. Your Will Dormer was not just an insomniac. He was a man torn apart by his morals. You are known to create grey characters. And you are damn good at it. But there’s one more thing you’re even better at. That’s creating your negative characters.

 

I believe your movie is only as good as your Villain. And I think your best movie till date (audience choice) The Dark Knight proves my point completely. Then why have you omitted all that we love about you with your latest venture?

 

Dunkirk – is chaos. It is not self sufficient. It does not have it’s own universe like your other films. And despite having its moments, it fails to move the audience. I couldn’t even remember the names of your few lead characters. Didn’t even see the gruesomeness of war. Didn’t feel how fragile life is. I did not know what to take back from Dunkirk.

 

Do you know J J Abrams – The Director of the new Star Trek franchise? For a really long time his name was synonymous to lens flares. Or Michael Bay for that matter. Do you really want your name to be equated with a gimmick that you keep repeating in all your films – Spectacle?

 

Yes your films are full of them and we enjoy them to the core. But your movies should not be a wild compilation of grand shots. We expect more from you.

 

After The Dark Knight Rises, we felt this is one minor bump in your film making journey. Interstellar was flawed on many levels. But Dunkirk marks something ridiculously unexpected.

 

We appreciate you taking on diverse genres. But you must ask yourself, if you are losing your own unique take on your films. We admire you for the work you have done in the past. But don’t expect your audience to return to the theatres based on your past success.

 

Hoping, something worth watching next time.

Contact – Robert Zemeckis

p19587_p_v7_ab

When I decide to watch a film, I usually do my homework first. I check out the plot of the film, I watch the trailer and I go through the director’s work. It was a different story when it came to watching Contact.

In last couple of months I have been following American astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, and his thoughts about the Universe. The man has a very entertaining way of explaining the most difficult scientific theories. In an interview about Interstellar, this guy was asked about his favourite science fiction film. And that’s when I was introduced to Contact. When a person of this caliber assigns this position to a film, it becomes unmissable by default.

So without knowing who directed the film and who wrote the script, I immersed myself, with very high expectations… Waiting to be amazed.

Before you read any further let me tell you that the following is not a review. It is my understanding of various themes the film tries to bring forward.

Relationships:

Arroway loses her mother during her birth and her father at the age of 9. She forgets to keep her father’s medicines in the right place so she thinks of her as the reason of his death. She has all the good reasons to believe that all the people she genuinely loves, leave her. As a young and enigmatic writer Palmer Joss (Matthew McConaughey) steps into her life, she proceeds with caution. She limits her involvement to such an extent that her relationship should never distract her from her primary purpose.

While Arroway has a very practical approach of looking at things, Joss is a spiritual person. Not just in a religious manner but also even in everyday life, he chooses his words very meticulously giving everything a deeper meaning. Joss might be the representation of those who believe in supreme powers beyond our cognition.

Science, politics and faith:

The film very profoundly tells the audience that in order to become an ideal civilization, humanity must accept the common grounds in faith and science. At the same time, faith is not to be confused with organized religion. The film highlights that it is imperative for a man to find his own version of faith and religion while politics is another major hurdle, which prevents humans from being a greater civilization.

Philanthropy:

When the lead character of the film, Eleanor Arroway finds her project in jeopardy due to the extravagant budget it proposes, Hadden Suit, a mysterious investor comes to the rescue. Hadden helps the protagonist more than once in her quest both financially and morally as well. And throughout the film the character has not shown any other interest than helping humanity. Even though the film progresses due to the efforts of Arroway, Hadden’s contribution to decoding the message sent by aliens is unparalleled. However, after Arroway returns from her visit to the exoplanet due to the lack of physical evidence, it is concluded that she never left Earth and the whole incident was a hoax played by Hadden.

Hadden’s story meets a very sad conclusion when all of his efforts are not recognized the way they should. But isn’t that the point of a selfless good deed?

Relationships (Part II)

Stuff changes when Arroway meets the alien. The alien takes a human form and appears as her father replicating several images from her memories. On Earth she finds it impossible to explain her experience to the world. The scientist in her accepts the most logical reason that she never left earth and what she felt was simply a delusion. But somewhere deep inside, she is sure that what she felt was real. She understands that her experience cannot be explained through science but through something else. This spiritual experience makes her believe in the forces, which our knowledge cannot explain right now but someday it will. She has no reasons but she develops a little bit of faith. And from being an atheist she becomes a skeptic.

Robert Zemeckis

I was completely satisfied with the film and I was just waiting for the credits to appear. As I said earlier, I had zero knowledge about the film when I decided to watch it. And I also skipped the opening credits because the first sequence is so awesome. When the first credit appeared and it said Directed by Robert Zemeckis, it was a wonderful surprise. Out of the 7 films of this man I have watched so far, not a single one has disappointed me. So in a way, it was not a surprise that I loved this one.

Where does the film stand?

The film is a science fiction, based on the novel by Carl Sagan. However, if you look from the point of view of Joss, it is a spiritual one. Arroway has that supernatural and vague experience because she needed to have one. Her devotion to find extra terrestrial intelligent life led her to a series of events which were destined only for her to experience and none other.

I had high expectations from Interstellar and it failed me. I felt the science of interstellar was great but the climax was too dumbed down and not scientific. 2001: A Space Odyssey is a brilliant film. But even after several viewings, (just like any other film by Kubrick) I cannot understand the film completely. Contact falls exactly in the middle. It is smart enough to make you think. It is sly at times. And sometimes it just teases you making you doubt. That’s what makes it even more enjoyable.

Little Boy – Alejandro Monteverde

So I say to you, Ask and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.

As the title suggests, Little Boy is a film about a little boy. The film is set in the 1940s. Ostracised by the kids around him, this boy named Pepper (Jakob Salvati) finds his best friend in his father (Michael Rapaport). The two continue looking at their life through their fantasies until Pepper’s father enlists in his older son’s place for World War II. Now, Pepper is willing to do anything it takes to bring his father back to him. Even if it is totally beyond his control.

Watch the trailer here.

On his quest for bringing back his father, pepper meets certain people who influence him in a great manner.

  1. His elder brother London (David Henrie) who is filled with hostility towards the Japanese, just like the rest of America during war. London is also raged by the fact that he was declared ineligible for military service because of flat feet and that his father has to fight “his war” for him. After some days when the news of his father being taken as a prisoner of war reaches his family, London loses his mind and takes out his aggression on an old local Japanese guy named Hashimoto (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa). Along with Pepper, London attempts to threaten Hashimoto and gets arrested for the same.
  2. Pepper finds a hero. Just like the one in his imaginary world. Ben Eagle, the magician (Ben Chaplin). Who shows him a magic trick and moves a bottle.
  3. One day in the church, Pepper hears the Bible verse, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move” (Mt. 17:20), and goes to the town priest, Father Oliver (Tom Wilkinson) to learn how to use the power of faith. encourages Pepper to befriend Hashimoto (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa). And also gives him a checklist that will make his faith stronger. And which will help him get his father back.
  4. Hashimoto becomes Pepper’s friend and helps him believe in himself. He tells him the story of a Samurai warriors who fought and saved his country from stronger enemies. Hashimoto argues with the priest that what he is doing will not help in bringing Pepper’s father back. And after Pepper completes the list, if his father does not come back from war, he will lose faith in himself.

These characters suggest that the film is also about having a good role model. And also about how through so many adverse thoughts surround the kid, how he makes his own choices and finds his own personal religion.

It is a very interesting term, personal religion. It signifies the personal, one on one relationship with an individual and God. No matter what others tell you about God, you will always have your own idea of God. And your ego will govern your relationship with God. Your ego will tell you whether you are acting in a way that God would appreciate or not.

The film is about a little boy and The Little Boy. It is an uplifting tale about faith and the power of believing in something. And at the same time, it does a commendable job of staying away from preachiness. In the end, it kept everything quite open to interpretation, making us the little boy and giving us a choice to believe what we want. Most impressively, the film points out that there is little difference between faith and magical thinking.

The film is written and directed by Smithsonian Institute Award winning director Alejandro Monteverde. And produced by Mark Burnett and Roma Downey, the husband-and-wife team behind “Son of God.” It earned $6.5 million on a $20 million budget. Which is kind of sad.

I watched this film and afterwards like I usually do, I searched for it online. I was stunned. I was amazed to see such negative reviews for a movie of this calibre. And I thought as a person who appreciates cinema should make an attempt to let the makers of this marvel know, that I think the movie is truly brilliant.

Looper, Time travel and More

“It is the big choices we make that set our direction. It is the smallest choices we make that get is to our destination.” – Dr. Shad Helmstetter

On the surface it looks like an action film based on the concept of time-travel. But as we explore further, it has more to it. I can’t say whether it is good or bad.

(The article does not contain a synopsis of the film. Please read it here or elsewhere. And then enjoy reading!)

Time Travel in Looper:

Time Travel is a very complicated subject when put to celluloid. It never answers all of your questions and creates paradoxes. By the end of the film when the credits start rolling, you always have to interpret what you saw on screen. That makes it really difficult for the makers of the film to make something palatable for the audience. We have seen films which are fairly easy to understand (Back to the Future Trilogy, The Terminator) and we have also seen complicated subjects in Cloud Atlas. (Cloud Atlas is Time Travel, kind of…) Looper has some really different theories about time travel.

Massive spoilers are ahead.

The movie has a linear approach to the repercussions of time travel. We experience stuff as the characters experience it.  Everything is kind of being created and fused in terms of the timeline in the present moment. Nothing has happened till it has actually happened. The makers have made an excellent explanation of how time travel affects the future self by torturing Seth (Paul Dano). Seth lets his future self run away instead of killing him. So his boss finds Young Seth and etches the location on his hand. The location then appears as a scar on Old Seth’s hand. While he struggles to get there, he keeps losing his fingers and eventually loses his legs. His limbs disappear. It implies that Young Seth is being tortured and his body is getting disintegrated piece by piece. Old Seth reaches the spot where Kid Blue (Noah Segan) kills him.

Similarly, Young Joe etches on his hand to give a message to Old Joe. When Young Joe gets shot, the bullet wound appears on Old Joe’s shoulder. Old Joe also forms new memories as per what Young Joe experiences. The only problem in the film according to this theory is that Old Joe disappears rather than dying in the last scene when Young Joe kills himself. When Young Seth loses his legs, Old Seth still exists and continues living in a linear timeline although it would’ve been impossible to get where he is shown in the film without his legs. So that implies that what happens to your younger self will appear instantaneously to you. In that sense Old Joe should fall down or turn into ashes when Young Joe dies.

In the Terminator series, we have multiple overlapping timelines. Every change creates a complete divergent timeline. In Looper, we have a similar situation, but everything loops back into into a single point in the same single timeline.

Metaphors and other cool stuff:

1. Blunderbuss vs magnum

As the makers have made it pretty obvious in the film poster, the Young Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) sports a Blunderbuss shotgun and the Old Joe (Bruce Willis) has a magnum. In the film, the characters explain the specific role of these two different guns. Blunderbuss is a short range weapon but it is unmissable. At the same time Magnum has greater accuracy and can cover a long distance. Maybe that is what the decisions of our lead characters signify. Young Joe always thinks about his short term gains while Old Joe thinks on a long term basis. In the end, Young Joe kills himself with a blunderbuss. He goes with his gut feeling and finds a way of making a long term impact with a short range weapon.

2. The Stubborn Stump

When Young Joe meets Sara (Emily Blunt), she is trying to get rid of a huge tree stump in her field with an axe. Young Joe tells her that using an axe might not be the quickest way of getting the results. Sara doesn’t respond to this suggestion. She continues to break the stump using her axe. She chips off little pieces every time she strikes. This may not be the most efficient way of doing the thing but Sara believes that she needs to be patient. In the narrative of the film, we see that Sara’s son Cid doesn’t believe that Sara is his mother as he was raised by Sara’s sister after Sara abandoned him. This is the stubborn idea in Cid’s head which Sara needs to clear and she needs to be very patient about it. This element makes the movie about good parenting and how it can change the world.

The Reader by Stephen Daldry

“The notion of secrecy is central to western literature. You may say, the whole idea of character is defined by people holding specific information which for various reasons, sometimes perverse, sometimes noble, they are determined not to disclose.”

The film covers snippets from the life of Michael Berg from 1958 to 1995. The film lets the viewers travel in the memories of Michael, revealing his relationship with Hanna. The film takes place in Germany.

*Spoilers*

It starts off with an unexpected and passionate affair between Hanna (Kate Winslet) and Michael (David Kross). Hanna, one day rescues Michael who falls ill on his way back from school. Michael is 15 and Hanna is twice his age.  And this relationship, is no where near the concept of love, as we know it. Michael is with Hanna because he is discovering his own sexuality. On the other hand, for Hanna, Michael is a way of “reading” books. After some time, their relationship becomes “Reading first, sex later.” Both of them indulge into each other for fulfilling their own tiny desires. And although the society would not understand nor accept such relationship, it happens. After a few weeks, Hanna disappears, leaving no message for Michael and thus ends their romantic encounter. A few years pass and Michael who turns into a young law student finds Hanna again at a trial for a hideous crime during the second world war.

Societies think they operate by something called morality, but they don’t.

Hanna, along with a few of her colleagues is accused of letting 300 Jewish women die in a burning church when they were SS guards on the death march following the 1944 evacuation of a concentration camp near Krakow. Hanna refuses to defend herself and believes that she was doing what was right at that time. On the contrary, her colleagues try to pass the blame entirely on Hanna, making her the leader and as a result, the murderer of those 300 women. Hanna denies writing a report on the church fire but then admits it rather than providing a handwriting sample. This is the secret that Hanna wishes to protect more than her life. That she cannot read or write.

Michael connects the dots and realises Hanna’s secret. He wishes to save Hanna by disclosing this information but struggles as it will result in revealing his own little secret affair with Hanna. Hanna receives a life sentence and so does Michael. Michael imprisons himself and deals with his life in the shackles of loneliness.

Michael never visits Hanna in prison, but he sends her recordings of the books he used to read to her. Using the tapes as a reference Hanna learns to read and write by learning one word at a time. Just when Hanna’s life sentence is about to get over, she commits suicide. She leaves a note behind for Michael and asks him to give a some money that she has left behind to Ilana (Lena Olin); the holocaust survivor whose testimony had been the key evidence in the trial. Ilana refuses to take the money but Michael and Ilana agree that the money should go to an organisation that combats adult illiteracy.

The film ends with Michael taking his daughter to Hanna’s grave and telling her his little secret affair.

Phew! I think I have almost described the entire movie over here. But I felt it was necessary to explain what I learnt from this film.

1. The structure:

The film flaunts multiple acts interwoven accurately with one another. There are three major segments in the film and each segment has a three act structure of its own. Segment one would be the affair. Segment two would be the trial. And segment three would be the imprisonment of our lead characters.

2. Non linear storytelling:

This is one of the best non linear stories I have watched recently. I am a person who prefers content over style. And most probably a non linear structure is a difficult for the audience to grasp and connect with. But the film connects similar incidences in the past and the present so well that the non linear structure helps the viewer. It also emphasizes the changes Germany has gone through over these years.

3. Symbolism and Metaphors:

Although the film is promoted as if there are some dark secrets in it, actually things were pretty clear after one point. Just the way the stuff happened in the Nazi era is clear to the world. The film, in my opinion is more about the guilt and the sins.

4. Confrontation:

The two lead characters confront their sins. They accept the mistakes they made whatever the magnitude may be. Hanna’s primary mistake or misfortune was that she was illiterate. And Michael’s mistake was that he was naive. Both of them take responsibility for what they did in the past and that releases them from their respective prisons. Just the way the Germans do not try to hide what happened in the concentration camps, they confront the facts; the characters make peace with their past.

Michael (Young): You will leave life even more beautiful than you entered it.

Michael (Old, asks Hanna): What have you learnt?

Hanna: I’ve learnt to read.

(Symbolism: War and Peace – Hanna stands on the novel before she hangs herself.)

5. Lapse of Time:

The movie should be known for its pace. It is simply astounding where the film takes you in mere 124 minutes. It starts off as a completely different film and it ends on a different note. Much like Life is Beautiful. Another take on a similar subject, from a very different point of view!

6. Perspective:

Who is the protagonist of the film? Who is the point of view character? I am confused about who the protagonist is. It is certain that Michael is the POV character. The film remains honest to his point of view. We are never burdened with what happens at the prison with Hanna.

7. The narrative:

As I said, the film has a very unique point of view. It is not a prison movie. We don’t see what happens to Hanna in the prison. We don’t know whether she gets used to her life over there or whether she goes through a lot of problems. The film majorly focuses on the reasons rather than the aftermath. I felt it is a very risky way of going about it, but it works over here!

Overall, I feel the movie extends beyond its characters and it speaks about the Human Nature. The movie is about how the rights and wrongs are defined by the system and with passing time, the system might change drastically.

Societies think they operate by something called morality, but they don’t. They operate by something called law. The question is never “Was it wrong”, but “Was it legal”. And not by our laws, no. By the laws at the time.

TUNGUSKA DIARIES – A Different Take

The whole idea of my blog is to appreciate films that push the envelope and learn something while I do so. “Short films” is a medium that is really close to my heart and when I see a short film, so passionately made, it simply inspires me to make more and more films.

TUNGUSKA DIARIES from Alpha Hawk Films on Vimeo.

The film TUNGUSKA DIARIES is based on the true event near the Podkamennaya Tunguska River in Russia. It was a large explosion caused by an asteroid and it is the largest impact event on or near Earth in recorded history.

The first thing I did after watching the film is to read more about this strange incident. I suggest you to read about the incident first and then watch the movie so that you can enjoy it even more.

The film actually combines the “found-footage” method of filming with an impactful sound design. I could really sense the presence of something, which is not supposed to be there due to the whole POV treatment. And although not realistic, it works quite well for the film.

The cinematography of the camera needs to be appreciated as well! The camera is never static. And there is always something happening on screen. It really kept me intrigued. A few suggestions would be to search for a few facts on the technical aspect before filming, such as the aspect ratio and the quality of the footage to make it more believable. However, the short is a stylish and satisfying version of a real incident, so nevertheless it works for me.

Well, I can’t help but to go back to the music of this film. While watching the film, I knew something is about to go wrong. And the music built the suspense tremendously well. It felt like I was watching Cloverfield made by Alfred Hitchcock.

I feel it is never too easy to make a found footage film. And I also think that a found footage film should be as open ended as possible. The film does score well in that manner. The film is smart, scary in a way and showcases a creative twist. It brought this strange phenomenon to my notice. And now I cannot stop thinking about it.

Over here I want to give a big shoutout to the makers of the film, especially Martin Sommerdag, the Director. Their film – A Beautiful View is coming out shortly and it is already on my must watch list.

A Beautiful View [Teaser] from Alpha Hawk Films on Vimeo.

#Predestination – The Spierig Brothers

Predestination documents the life of a Temporal Agent (Ethan Hawke). His primary mission is to stop a serial bomber named Fizzle bomber, by going back in time. It appears that the criminal has managed to dodge the Agent from time to time with great ease. And that results in greater frustration and some strange obsession in his work.

Suspense builds up as soon as the film opens, with a clash of the Agent and the Bomber. And the film manages to tighten its grip as it progresses. The Agent, masquerading as a bartender in the 1970s meets Jane who calls herself the Unmarried Mother (Sarah Snook). She promises him a story which would be the best story he has ever heard and tells him about her mysterious life. After listening to her story, the Agent promises her that he can take her back in time and give her a chance to kill the man who devastated her life. And that’s how it all begins.

The film, is about in how many ways the Australian newcomer Sarah Snook. And how ridiculously stunning she is on screen. Not in terms of her gorgeous looks. But in pure performance. After watching the film, I Googled her and I couldn’t believe what she looks like in real life. At the age of 26, pulling off such a brilliant character is commendable. Her co-star Ethan Hawke agrees with me.

When I searched for the word on the Internet, what showed up pretty much sums up the film, without spoiling it for those who are yet to watch it:

Predestination is the Divine foreordaining or foreknowledge of all that will happen; with regard to the salvation of some and not others. It has been particularly associated with the teachings of John Calvin.


 

Spoilers ahead

The film is based on a short story written by Robert A.Heinlein who is considered by many, the most influential as well as controversial author of his time. The story is called All You Zombies. The lead character of the film, just like a zombie makes no decision on his own. He is mindlessly following his own footsteps. And in a way, as he kills himself, he is a dead man walking.

The story brings some really good ideas (although not completely new) in picture.

The time travel paradox: One might be able to figure out that the film is about a paradox when he/she first notices the song “I’m my own Grandpa”. What if you invent a time machine and go back in time to kill your grandpa before your father was conceived? That’s a paradox. In the film, the protagonist travels back and forth in time, causing his own birth and his own death, himself.

Ouroboros: The film mentions the Greek symbol Ouroboros which is essentially a snake eating his own tail. The protagonist’s story has no beginning and it has no end, just like a closed loop.

The greatest achievement of the film is that it involves you into the life of Jane. You feel connected to her and as she leaves her old self and accepts her personality as John, you too become emotionally detached from her life. It is really difficult to manage this.

The film successfully twists your brain and touches your heart at appropriate times. I like films with some sense of redemption. This one has none. This has one of the best anticlimaxes I’ve seen in a while.

#1 The Kite Runner – Marc Forster

“It always hurts more to have and lose than to not have in the first place.”
Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner

The Kite Runner is the story of Amir Qadiri (Khalid Abdalla) hounded by his past. He lives with his wife Soraya (Atossa Leoni) in California. He receives a call from an old friend of his father’s, Rahim Khan (Shaun Toub) staying in Pakistan. And what happens that day, during that conversation changes the course of a whole lifetime!

After this small glimpse of the present, we embark on a journey to the Afghanistan of 1978. A place with open skies and blooming freedom. Far away from screams and gunfire. Where kites soar in broad daylight without any fear. Over here a young Amir (played by Zekeria Ebrahimi) and his servant’s son and his best friend Hassan (Ahmad Khan Mahmidzada) is enjoying his life full of his short stories, books, movies and kites.

(Tiny spoilers ahead)


Every year a prestigious kite tournament takes place in Kabul. Amir and Hassan take part in the tournament as a team. Amir wishes to impress his father (Homayoun Ershadi) who was a champion in his own youth, by winning it. And they do! Amir celebrates while Hassan runs down the kite for him. Amir comes down looking for Hassan and finds out that Hassan is surrounded by Assef who is a bully and his friends in an alley. They try to bargain with Hassan to obtain the kite but Hassan denies. Assef then rapes Hassan to “teach him a lesson”. A petrified Amir watches this as it happens but chooses to hide rather than help his friend.

Driven by guilt Amir finally succeeds to make Hassan and his father Ali leave their house. And in a few days Amir and his father leave the country as the Soviet Union militarily intervenes. Both of them come to America and struggle to survive over there. All this while Amir takes it as his fault that Hassan is left behind in the terror that encompasses Afghanistan.

In the present, Amir comes to Pakistan to meet his father’s friend upon receiving his call. Where he realises that Hassan and his wife were killed by the Taliban. Hassan is survived by his son Sohrab who is still amidst the unstable Afghanistan. Amir takes it as his responsibility to find the boy and take him away to America.


The film crosses the obstacle of complex flashbacks and flash forwards. And it carries off the non linear structure with an ease. It demonstrates the power of this simple formula of a narrative: prosperity – tragedy – loss – redemption. The film doesn’t enjoy a well defined three-act-structure. There are smaller acts and each given the right weight. That is why whether it is Amir’s marriage or his father’s death; each important incident swiftly touches your heart.

The film is adapted from the bestseller by Khaled Hosseini of the same name. One of the most important part of adapting any story from one format to the other, especially when adapting for screen; it is important to edit. In this scenario the edit process begins first and then you write and rewrite until you have something that is true to its original self and new at the same time. As I read the book just before I watched the film, I knew the portions which made me deviate just a little from the story and David Benioff as the screenplay writer of the film has done a fabulous job in “editing”.

The film succeeds with its honest storytelling. There are no big stars in the film. Nothing to attract today’s audience, nothing to make them stick to their seats for two hours except a pure story. The actors with an actual Afghan background were enjoyable and absolutely convincing on screen. In fact they added a tinge of Afghanistan even in the scenes based in America. On the contrary in India we have a North Indian Actress playing a legendary boxer Mary Kom with no resemblance what-so-ever just on the basis of her popularity.

It is surprising that the film did not receive the recognition it deserved. Although praised by many experts from the industry, the film could only get a few nominations at the Golden Globe Awards and The Academy Awards. Regardless of how that happened, for me it is one of the stories that linger in your mind long after you are finished reading/ watching them. The story enlightens us about the horrific situation in Afghanistan and it carries a simple message within simultaneously. And as I based my short film which is to be screened at the 16th Mumbai Film Festival on a boy of a similar age, the film was a great teacher!

#6 Learning From The Experts – Enemy by Denis Villeneuve

“There is no lack of spiders’ webs in the world, from some you escape, in others you die.”

~ José Saramago’s The Double

It is all about a history teacher named Adam Bell (Jake Gyllenhaal) who discovers his perfectly identical copy Anthony Claire. This one sentence should be enough to explain the overview of the film. However the film deals with much deeper subjects as it proceeds.

The film opens with a rather disturbing scene in a sex club where the protagonist and some other men watch prostitutes masturbating. Another prostitute takes off her robe and presents a spider in a plate. We cut away as she is about to crush the spider. We start off with a voice-mail from the protagonist’s mother. She thanks him for showing her his new apartment and that she is worried about him and his life.

Adam Bell is a history teacher who is perfectly occupied in his daily routine and is evidently fed up with it. He lives in a small apartment with only a bed and a table for a laptop. His shares his nights with his girlfriend Mary (Mélanie Laurent). But it appears that apart from the sex there is hardly any relationship left. Whereas the other person who resembles Adam has worked as a junior artist in a couple of local films. Anthony Claire is married to Helen (Sarah Gadon) and she is pregnant.

The duplicates decide to meet up in a motel room. Anthony is surprised to discover the similarities but Adam freaks out. Anthony follows Adam and discovers his life. Later on he confronts Adam and questions him if he has slept with Anthony’s wife. Adam does not answer. Anthony proposes that they can only be even if he gets to take Adam’s girlfriend on a romantic date. By this point, the lives of these individuals are entangled beyond any repair.

(Heavy spoilers ahead)

This is one of the films which needs a lot of thinking after you are done watching it. You need to watch it at least twice to discover what it means. Or else it seems simply silly than suspenseful. The director Denis Villeneuve has explained in a few interviews that it is “a documentary of his subconscious.” These days, I am more inclined towards thinking that in every psychological mystery it is either a multiple personality disorder or the protagonist is a schizophrenic. And most of the times I am right.

In the film, both the characters are essentially the same person. This person tried acting as a profession some time in the past but now he is a history teacher. He is married to Helen and he is an adulterer. He has been caught by his wife and she fears that he will cheat on her again. The film is the protagonist’s subconscious struggle to be faithful to his wife. Which one of these two personalities is real? Well actually both of them are. Our protagonist is a mixture of both and he is struggling to fight his Anthony bit and not cheat on his wife again.

Why I like the film in particular is because of the hidden symbols and metaphors. And of course it gives us one of the most shocking endings. The colour scheme of the film is a striking tint of yellow and green. The director explained that the whole look and the smog came from the idea of pressure. Smog signifies pollution. Pollution of the atmosphere and pollution of the mind.

The use of spiders in the film signifies patterns. Spiders are considered as an ancient archetype, ‘The Weaver’. Females strive for order and males strive for chaos. A female spider kills the male spider she mates with. That explains the shot where the prostitute crushes the spider in the beginning. By attending the sex club, the protagonist crushes the order, the dictatorship.

The biggest mystery of the film, just like the director’s earlier film, Prisoners is the name of the film. Some claim that women are the enemies but the protagonist seem to be at ease with women. Then who is the enemy? The protagonist himself, his actions and his habits are his enemies.

Enemy is really a movie entirely about discomfort. A person pursuing his best attempt to free himself from the pattern. From his unreasonable tendency to cheat on his wife. To accept her not as a dictator but as a partner. To set aside his fear of commitment and be a loyal husband. All this put forward in an unusual and surreal manner. As I said earlier, it would take a sane person two or maybe three viewings to somewhat decipher the “chaos” what the film produces. The question is, do the people care?

There is a minority who speaks positively about the film. I believe the film is kind of ahead of its time. And one of the best films I watched this year.

#3 Christopher Nolan – Insomnia (2002)

A good cop can’t sleep because he’s missing a piece of the puzzle. And a bad cop can’t sleep because his conscience won’t let him.

The story opens as sleep deprived detective Will Dormer (Al Pacino) gets down with his partner Hap Eckhart (Martin Donovan) in a town best known as “the fishing capital of the world”. These veterans are on an assignment to to assist the local police with their investigation of a 17-year-old Kay Connell’s (Crystal Lowe) murder. At the same time, Dormer is going through an intense investigation by internal affairs. And the verdict may ultimately have a great impact by his partner’s testimony.

(Tiny spoilers ahead)

In an attempt to find the murderer and put an end to the case, Dormer accidentally shoots his partner. Eckhart dies before he could tell anyone who fired the shot. Dormer believes that it would be impossible to convince that it was an accident as the internal affairs wouldn’t ever trust his word. A young local police officer Ellie Burr (Hilary Swank) is put in charge of Eckhart’s shooting.

Dormer tries to put the blame on the murderer but Walter Finch (Robin Williams) outwits him. To return his favour, Finch blackmails him to put the blame of Kay Connell’s murder on her boyfriend. Now it is Dormer’s choice. Finch puts him in such a situation that he has to choose between his career and this one case. And everything else is just too interesting to spoil it over here.

The trailer of the film is one of the most misleading trailers ever. The film is definitely not as typical as the trailer makes it sound. It is one of those rare cases where the film is better than the trailer. Calling the film better won’t be the right term. The film is completely different from what the trailer promises. You can rely on my word for that.

The film is a remake of a Norwegian film of the same name, made in 1998 by Erik Skjoldbjærg. Christopher Nolan belongs to that category of directors who love to write their films. And Insomnia might be the only film in which Nolan has no credit as the writer of the film. And yet, surprisingly enough the film has many elements that signify that it is a Nolan’s masterpiece.

While reading more about the film I just discovered how perfect the casting of the two lead characters is. Dormer is guilty of his crimes and he knows that he deserves to get caught. He is burdened and tired of carrying it all by his own. And all of this shows on his face. On the other side, Finch is confident. He is calculated and he knows that Dormer will eventually give in. Finch’s face is straight and composed.

There are more important characters in the film than the names shown in the credits. The location itself, with daylight for 24 hours without any discount gives an additional reason for Dormer to be an insomniac.

I believe that names are everything. Whether they might be the names of the characters or the title of the film. You hear the names of important characters at least ten to twenty times in the whole film. It tells you a lot about the character and gives a poetic weight to everything that happens. Similarly the title of the film sums up what the film might be all about. And that’s why in my recent film Boundary I waited till the very end to finalise my title.

The film explains to me what a grey character could be. A character trapped in his own actions with a past that haunts him every minute. Guilt and regret fuels his behaviour. It is what the person thought was right at that very moment. In Insomnia it is not just Dormer but also Finch, troubled by their respective pasts. The similarity of the situations is a matter awe. And none of this could be termed as wrong when seen from the character’s perspective. And it is all perspective and opinion in the end.

Insomnia is an American Psychological Thriller and one of my personal favourite films. Not that I can watch the film again and again. It is somewhat heavy as it should be. But I there is a lot that I have taken back from the film.