7. Paris je t’aime (2006) various directors French | English | Spanish | Mandarin | Arabic
A compilation of shorts that all have to do with Paris. Every short has a different director and a different set of characters, so there is bound to be something for you.
6. Babel (2006) Alejandro González Iñárritu English | Spanish | Arabic | Japanese | Japanese sign language | Berber
Using the myth of the tower of Babel as a starting point, this movie revolves around miscommunication and the tragedy of becoming isolated as a human being.
5. Night on Earth (1991) Jim Jarmusch English | German | Italian | French | Finnish
A delightful movie in 5 instalments, all set in a different place, in a different language. The title says it all, one night on earth (more like one night in Europe but okay). Bonus young Winona Ryder.
4. Rush (2013) Ron Howard English | French | German | Italian
Although a movie about the rivalry between two Formula 1 drivers may initially not seem your thing, it manages to keep you on the front of your seat for the whole ride. Admittedly most of it is spoken in English but the spot-on casting certainly makes up for it.
A beautiful but inconsolably sad story about a father coming to terms with paternity, mortality and sacrifice in modern Barcelona. The cinematography in itself already makes this film worthwhile.
2. Plemya (2014) Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy Ukrainian sign language
Yes, this movie only contains one language but is nonetheless a must see for language lovers. This movie is entirely in sign language, no spoken word, no translations, no subtitles. Yet it tells a gripping story that is entirely understandable and shows the intricate world of body language. Fair warning: contains very graphic and explicit material, definitely not for the fainthearted.
1. Inglourious Basterds (2009) Quentin Tarantino English | German | French | Italian
This movie deserves to be number one since it actually highlights language idiosyncrasies in a wonderful and funny way. From a hair raising scene about German accents to a hilarious scene with Americans who think they know Italian, it’s a downright classic.
In the emotionally draining psychodrama Shame, a brave Michael Fassbender creeps into the tortured skin of a sex addict. What follows is a painful to watch downward spiral into the personal hell of a man who has become a slave to his carnal desires.
Heavy stuff and not immediately advisable as cozy movie night with the family, your friends or your significant other (I dare you!), But damn clever cinema that crawls deeply under your skin and into your mind.
Steve McQueen caused a stir with his controversial debut Hunger (2008), for which he won a Caméra d'Or at Cannes. McQueen is known for his minimalism and attention to detail, which is also easy to see in this one. Along with Abi Morgan he wrote Shame, and it again delivered us a poignant and dark psychological character study.
The film may be somewhat explicit for some, but McQueen really wanted to show you what there is to see without censoring: It’s sex, it’s what most of us have done or will do at some point. I for instance have never had a loaded gun or even a bullet in my hands.
It seems strange that everyday things are censored and things that we are not capable of, or know less about, are continuously shown to the public. With this daring approach, and a sublime Michael Fassbender he again broadened the film horizon.
Here’s a brief summary: Brandon (Michael Fassbender) is a New York yuppie who suffers from sex addiction. Behind his cool, attractive, sexy facade lurks a predator that’s masterful at the art of seduction but that can barely control his lust, no he’s not Patrick Bateman…
Quickies in gloomy, dirty alleys? Check. A work computer packed with hardcore and extreme pornography? Check. Fixed webcam dates? Check. Urgent masturbation sessions during and outside working hours? Double check. When his equally troubled sister Sissy (Carey Mulligan) pops up, Brandon’s double life is more than ever under pressure and under threat of being exposed.
Brandon is at the surface a typical, attractive man in his thirties, with a well-paid job, a beautiful, minimalist apartment in New York, and he’s successful with women, what more could you ask for right? He seems at first glance like the man every man wants to be like and every woman wants to be with.
However, once he’s secluded from people, he transforms and is completely dependent on an obsessive need for sex. Everything that can satisfy his sexual appetite he engages in. And why not? The chilly environment he lives in seems made to escape from relations and friends.
When Brandon is among people, he is alone. The sex has become a routine, leaving him with a lack of self-reflection and self respect, he’d do anything to escape his own mind and body and not have to face them and himself.
Which creates a vicious circle, he’s disgusted at himself for what he does, whenever someone says I think you’re disgusting he can’t help but think It’s about him…
But he can’t bear confronting himself so he indulges in what disgusted him about himself in the first place, to escape from any judgement that he could bring on himself.
So he constantly enables himself in his addiction, that’s essentially the definition of being addicted to anything, It’s a vicious circle, whether it be substances or in this case sex, and Fassbender captures It beautifully you can see the shame anguish, pain and self loathing.
His sister Sissy, is at first glance, an eccentrically dressed and extroverted woman. She unexpectedly and chaotically moves in with Brandon, she disrupts his routine, which forces him to face and think about what he’s doing.
The two are apparently opposites but share grief and emptiness. Brandon’s an introvert who is about to implode. Sissy’s a sensitive, emotional extrovert (she’s a woman who apparently has a habit of very quickly and deeply falling in love, and has a very deep need of love and attention) that can explode at any moment.
The successful yup can only think about one thing. His whole life in New York seems to revolve around sex. It has nothing to do with pleasure, it has become something compulsory.
He has prostitutes come over and picks up random women in clubs, but if there is love or any type of feeling, of emotion involved, he closes down and it doesn’t work anymore (in this case you can interpret it both literally and figuratively).
He manages to keep up his obsessive lifestyle while pretending to be a normally functioning member of society, but when his sister is with him it begins to become more and more difficult.
Frustrations build further as she sticks around longer. Brandon has less privacy than he would like and so he sees the control over his addiction slip through his fingers. But gradually it becomes clear that his isolated life also camouflaged other problems, which sooner or later must come to light. Now that brother and sister are back together, they’re both reminded of their past.
Brandon’s married boss likes to go out along with him to indulge his sexual frustrations on every woman who comes along. He succeeds with only one woman: Brandon’s sister Sissy, she is a wandering singer and moved in with her brother, allegedly because she has nowhere else and no one else to go to. Brandon for the first time feels confronted, and driven into a corner, he feels as if he’s dirty little secret is about to be discovered any minute.
Sissy immediately begins an affair with Brandon’s boss, after which Brandon’s obsession with sex and pornography comes to light. It is significant that no one is really that surprised of the fact that Brandon’s computer is full of pornographic images and videos.
Or of the fact that Brandon is not able to have a real relationship with a woman. It is as if all the characters in this film share the same psychology and culture: Emotionally numb and closed off living in a world without real content or meaning, heaven forbid you’d feel anything, emotions are brushed off and laughed at, they’re something to be ashamed of, you must appear strong and hide everything in that horrible, cruel world.
Brandon is constantly looking for incentives, for something that gives him a kick, for something that makes him feel alive. He drinks Red Bull, he jogs like a madman through a deserted city. But it as only In a bar high in a skyscraper when his sister sings a classic song that he feels something, It’s: Sinatra’s New York, New York (which haunted my head after the film) his sister sing it slowly, and in Brandon’s eyes even somewhat sensually, you pick up on some sort of tension.
She sings the song as if it were a dream, and he seems to feel emotion for the first time in a long and even cries. I almost cried with this scene, which I at the end of the film ultimately did literally for like ten minutes without exaggerating, well at least I now know that I’m not not emotionally blocked… Shame’s truly an attack on the emotions.
Brandon at one point has a date that he’d like to be something other than a one night stand. He really likes this woman and he wants meaningful physical and psychological contact with her, for the first time in a long while or maybe ever, he doesn’t just want a meaningless fuck, he wants to make love, doesn’t just want to get himself off, but wants to assure the other person pleasure too only he can’t perform…
It’s as if looking her straight in the face and have her stare right back at him, and seeing her as more than a mere object is too painful and confronting. He appears to be a man who has forgotten how to love a person.
Or maybe he simply is not capable of it and maybe never was capable of it because of his own past, maybe he never was shown love and thus never knew what it is, but he wants it, and maybe even needs it. After the failed date with the one woman he really actually liked, maybe could have fallen in love with, he gets worse than ever.
The dividing line between Brandon and Patrick Bateman (the psychopathic character of novelist Bret Easton Ellis) appears quite thin, he seems on the surface just as perfect and beautiful and obsessed with fitness and vanity.
He does not kill women, but has just as little respect for them as people, women are something he prays on. He has frantic, very rough, probably even painful sex that doesn’t look pleasing and enjoyable at all. His face during orgasm tells the whole story; there is nothing but pain and emptiness in his life. It’s tainted love…
The shame in this film does not reflect the kind of guilt and self loathing that sometimes sticks to sex. Rather, it is a kind of embarrassment associated with an inability to psychologically and even physically make a connection with another human being, in this case, a woman. Brandon feels powerless. He realizes that he is probably not alone. He realises this while sitting in a crowded subway in the city of millions, that is New York.
No feelings and emotions of the main character will ever be fully defined, because he does not seem to want them to be there at all. The uneasy meaninglessness of a life without love imposes itself to the viewer, and it won’t release you from It’s painful grip.
A life in Brandon’s cold New York, a city where everything is possible but where no one feels responsible for you, lies treacherously close if you’re not careful. There’s a reason why people say things such as you’re never lonelier than when you’re alone in the city, surrounded by people. They’re people who don’t know you, some might want to get to know you but a lot of them probably don’t care about you, since they don’t personally know you.
Sissy his sister unlike him does know how to express herself, sometimes a little too clearly, she’s a little too honest and direct sometimes and it gives her problems in her relationships with men, as she seems needy and dependent, which she is but probably just because of her past, what she needs is someone will listen and take care of her. She seeks contact with her brother but gets no answer, he ignores her completely and she feels driven to extremes.
Shame manages to cling to you and makes you think and ponder over the ever complicated relationship that people have with sex. And especially the enormous distance that can exist between people. In a living and breathing city where people actually can’t avoid each other, even sex can’t fill up any emptiness, distance and loneliness.
The only thing we really do find out about them is that they have emigrated from Ireland to the United States. Perhaps to make a new start in the Big Apple. It shimmers through in any case in the text of Sinatras New York, New York, which Sissy sings sensitively in an elongated, atmospheric scene. Shame is also about more than sex addiction, It’s about the human psyche in big cities, brothers and sisters, human relationships.
But real solutions or answers are omitted. Director Steve McQueen shows no interest in explaining trauma, but shows which sort of pain and dangers can lurk under a life that seems to be happy and successful for outsiders.
It provides a strong and heartfelt drama, beautifully filmed and overwhelming because of the highly melancholic atmosphere. It is suffering that at times even seems oppressive and claustrophobic, which you can’t run from, you may want to look away but something forces you to keep watching.
In one of the strongest scenes of the film we see Brandon slide into overnight New York after an argument. Like a junkie that needs his shot, he strolls through alleys, dark bars and sex clubs to fulfill his needs. A deeply sad picture, which is further strengthened once he has found two victims. Only his tortured face is in focus. All the fun is gone. He looks tormented, exhausted, dead inside. It is a tremendous effort from Michael Fassbender.
Steve McQueen knows how to grab the viewer by the throath. Whether he was showing the hunger strike of a political prisoner or the demise of a sex addict the man controls perfectly in an unprecedented narrative and stylistic manner. In other words, shit, that guy can direct. Shame is easily the best film about addiction since Nicolas Cage went to Las Vegas to drink himself to death.
Shame is anything but a bite-sized chunk, not only because of the controversial topic (bet you will really only recognise after the film that sex addiction is a disease?), But also because McQueen absolutely shows no judgments about his subject. On the basis of slowly accumulated scenes he paints a raw portrait without giving too much away about the addiction. Let the viewer think about that themselves, you can almost hear McQueen say behind the screen.
Between the frill-free observations, you get the occasional push to crawl over the facade, but you’re not really given much explanations for anything. A choice that might not always make it easy to feel anything for the main character. Frustrating and stimulating at the same time, undoubtedly just the feeling McQueen wanted to provoke.
Brandon is not a slick player like his boss (a good John Badge Dale) but a sick man. Just check that early scene on the subway. What starts as an innocent flirtation with an attractive young woman ends in dangerous intimidation behaviour, her face quickly takes on an uncomfortable even scared look, Brandon come across as creepy as a serial killer who is looking for a new victim:
And so Shame consists of a sequence of scenes illustrating Brandon’s obsessive-compulsive behavior. Often disturbing, sometimes poignant, and always fascinating. The man chases his dick but, not because he likes it or because he think It’s cool, but because his body and the demons in his mind force him, he seems to have no choice, no free will.
It only goes from bad to worse when his sister is introduced as a catalyst for the downward spiral. Or did you think that the confrontation between an emotionally blocked man who gets off on meaningless sex and a self- destructive woman who needs love and affection would go well? He ultimately in a very disturbing and arresting scene physically lashes out on her, it becomes quite difficult to feel for him after this, even if he is a haunted and deeply troubled man:
The relationship between Brandon and Sissy provides underlying tensions and developments which truly allows Shame to become the complex and multilayered psychological drama that it is.
McQueen’s direction looms large and conspicuous (the tracking shot in which he runs off the frustration!), Something that could have been cliché and disturbing if it hadn’t perfectly matched to the content. For example, (I seem to be obsessed with this scene) the scene in which Carey Mulligan sings New York New York seems long, very long, perhaps too long.
But the reaction shots of Fassbender make the almost arty farty moment into an unexpected key emotional scene that make the hairs on your neck straight stand straight up, very strong stuff. Another emotional bomb: the forced date in which Brandon undertakes a desperate attempt to feel anything other than an instinctive urge for female flesh. And so we can go on and on enumerating the striking collection of moments that make Shame into a shocking, literally quite in your face experience.
But it’s Michael Fassbender that makes the greatest impression with a performance that dominates the film as a softly ticking time bomb. Fassbender is a very good actor, but around Steve McQueen, he transforms into a sublime method actor. Rather than showy he’s subtle with a menacing body language that says more than words (that penetrating stare!), Pun absolutely Intended;).
The way Fassbender is imaged by McQueen and cinematographer Sean Bobbitt (Hunger, Hysteria) is effective in its intrusiveness. Brandon represents anonymity itself, always imprisoned in his own horrible nightmarish world, he’s caught in a boundless void in which he can’t hide his shame. A shame that is not only stunningly portrayed in the imagery, but also excellently played by one of the most sought out actors of our time.
Michael Fassbender exposes all literally and figuratively, he gives the role everything, his Brandon makes a compelling and touching character. But Carey Mulligan is just as strong and intriguing a character, in her up until now strongest and most honest film, It’s just a little sad thats she didn’t get more screen time as she truly is a very expressive and capable actress.
The combination of Harry Escott’s music and the tight static images melt together to create a hard-hitting, intriguing, very emotionally affecting whole, strengthening Brandon’s constant personal hell on screen.
With his characteristic visual style and editing he loves long, uninterrupted takes, McQueen plunges his picture in a unique, hypnotic atmosphere without ever losing the focus. New York is behind the same facade as the main character (charming on the surface, dark and dingy, even creepy when you go deeper) and to make it all a bit more intense than it already is the camera is so close to the skin of the main character that you will hear his heart thumping through the screen if you listen closely.
Despite the in America, much discussed “frontal nudity” Shame is far from erotic. It gives the film an observational and rough character. There are some very explicit sex scenes and nudity in the film, but the director never takes the sensational path.
Those looking for exciting eroticism may simply go look somewhere else, because enticing is not exactly the word that comes to mind when describing them, It’s just flesh pounding against flesh without any type of emotion, which really takes away the oportunity to create any passionate scenes, the only thing you see is someone who’s in pain, who’s in the hell that is his own mind, taking out frustration, trying to get away from himself, not sexy at all.
The way Sissy painfully slowly and dilligently sings Frank Sinatra’s New York, New York in that single, long shot, strongly contrasts with the way the city is visualised in Shame. Sleek, stylized, everywhere is glass and concrete: it is an image that comes from the idealism of the city, the perfect place to disappear in as an individual. Any sexual act that Brandon undertakes is as cold and unnoticed as the streets of Manhattan can be. In Shame we see New York in a completely different context.
Shame is not just a film about addiction; it covers issues such as anonymity, our self-awareness and the societal norm. It is a film that grabs you by the throat and mind for hours or even days it will haunt your head, it might make you uncomfortable, it might disgust you, it might make you cry, but one thing is certain It’ll stick with ya.
Sissy Sullivan: I’m trying, I’m trying to help you. Brandon Sullivan: How are you helping me, huh? How are you helping me? How are you helping me? Huh? Look at me. You come in here and you’re a weight on me. Do you understand me? You’re a burden. You’re just dragging me down. How are you helping me? You can’t even clean up after yourself. Stop playing the victim. Sissy Sullivan: I’m not playing the victim. If I left, I would never hear from you again. Don’t you think that’s sad? Don’t you think that’s sad? You’re my brother.
“I find you disgusting… I find you inconsolable… I find you invasive.”
The film is science fiction, It’s set in the year 2027, so you’d expect some unrealistic scenarios, but the scary and confronting thing about the film is that except t for a few differences the film bears striking resemblance to contemporary society.
The title, is obviously not to be taken literally, men aren’t able to give birth in the year 2027, but in fact, humankind as a whole has become unable to have children.
Because women have become infertile, which no one knows the causes for, but It’s suspected that it has to do with, pollution and basically all that fantastically unhealthy stuff that we have today.
The film starts the day that the youngest person on earth, dies at 18, because he was unwilling to hand out an autograph in Buenos Aires, this death affects people everywhere and takes away their hope and has made them even more restless and hopeless.
There’s quite an eerie quote in the film, which goes like this: As the sound of the playgrounds faded, the despair set in. Very odd, what happens in a world without children’s voices. This sums up most of the film’s atmosphere, the world has become a dark, vile and violent place.
In fact the only nation still standing strong is Britain, which has become a police state, I’m beginning to see a pattern here, this reminded me of V for Vendetta, though the explanation is probably just that both are British films.
Although this one was a coproduction between the Uk and the US, if it had been a solely American film, New York would probably have been used as a dystopian setting.
In this police state Britain, you get rewarded for snitching on illegal inmigrants, the world has become so depressing and ugly a place, that a drink calls Quietus is sold. It allows you to instantly, legally and quietly end your existence, while the drink part doesn’t seem likely, the immigrant part rings an eerily familiar bell.
Also not taking fertility tests is regarded as a serious crime and offense for which I imagine women would face harsh consequences, this is quite eerie, as women are infertile in the film.
Now imagine in a society in which people can’t have children anymore, the value of one woman that can have children would be incalculable, one thing I know for sure is that I wouldn’t want to be that woman.
You would very likely be some sort of heroine, the future of the human race, but medical experiments would very likely be conducted on you, as eventually it would lead to the question why can this one woman have children?
You would literally hold the key of the continuation of the human race in your hands or to put it less modestly between your legs, but It’s no stretch of the imagination to imagine, that you would very likely not have a voice over your own life anymore.
As I’ve said ever since humans can’t make babies anymore, it has all gone to shit, which is to say, chaos and despair rule the world. There’s natural disasters, probably meant to be directly linked to climate change and global warming, there’s wars and terrorist acts, the world is divided.
Humans have turned against each other in their hopelesnes, the world has become ungovernable, It’s total chaos, seems logical, if life has become impossible, if people are unable to have children, why would they respect each other’s lives to begin with?
It’s all a reminder of the fact that It’s all been destroyed and that humanity is headed for a dead and unhappy end, all the circumstances have messed with people’s head it seems, and has turned off their empathy and sympathy, there’s truly gruesome stuff in the film, but nothing I think that mankind is not capable of.
Britain the only place left where there seemingly is stability, is unstable too. There’s people fighting against the totalitarian regime, the government in return fights against people that support immigrant rights.
There is something called The Human Project, which occupies itself with figuring out why people can’t have children no more and trying to solve it, the film’s main character Theo Faron is kidnapped by his ex girlfriend’s organization, the one behind supporting the inmigrants.
He is given the task to protect and escort a young woman, who’s miraculously pregnant to a place where she will be safe from the people whose intentions towards her might be harmful for her and the child.
Not difficult to imagine given that she’s the only woman on the planet who can get pregnant, everyone would love her both figuratively and literally speaking.
What follows is an action packed, at times very gory and shocking, race, not necessarily against time. but to safely get to safety, Theo and Kee, gather support from some, but have to fend off others that want to get their hands on both the baby and the woman who can have children.
People go mad when they see her and the baby, understandably so, since none of them have either seen a woman that’s been able to get pregnat, let alone a woman who actually has a baby with her.
Some want to help, others are prepared to do unspeakable and inhuman things to get near her, up to a point it is understandable, it also leads to the question, that if the film’s scenario were real. You could argue whether the woman in case would have a moral obligation to be studied as she is the key to life.
Then again you could argue that even in the most dire circumstances people have a right to decent treatment, to not have their rights violated, everyone should have a say over their lives and what happens to their body, the most humane thing would be to let her decide, but it very likely would not go like this.
Also in the film there’s not really a point to it all, people have wrecked the world, even if they could have children again what legacy would they leave their children? Would it be moral to force such a world upon our children?
There’s an interesting scene in the film which is at the same time very hopeful but a bit unlikely, a little too hopeful I think, I think it underestimated what people are capable off.
In the scene Kee and Theo pass past a group of battling soldiers, though as soon as they see her and the child they begin a ceasefire, I think that would likely happen is that someone would take the child from her, and then what would follow would perhaps be a bit similar to a scene in Harry Potter, where one student says grab him!
Here it might have been grab her, because who wouldn’t want in these circumstances to have the woman that can get pregnant? She would literally be worth millions, I don’t know maybe I’m just too pessimistic.
But I find that this scene showed a naivety in the filmmaker, a willingness and eagerness to believe in the kindheartedness of people, in circumstances in which they would likely just become monstrous.
Or maybe the soldier’s humanity and heart came out, when they saw the baby crying and seemed to realize the futility and coldheartedness of their actions, the film shows some of them praying as Kee walks past them.
The film wants us to believe that she restores faith and hope in them, perhaps leading them to think that if one woman can get pregnant, maybe their own girlfriends and wives can, and that butchering each other would be completely unnecessary and inhumane.
So it is a woman with her baby even if for a brief moment that restores the men’s humanity, is it symbolic? Perhaps upon seeing the little baby, they saw how atrocious taking someone’s else’s life is, or saw the futility in it.
The director does certainly believe that women are the key to life, which depending how you look at it is true, we all come from a woman, but both a man and a woman are needed to create a baby, but if either one of them, in this case women would become infertile.
Very little would be left to hope for, a world without children, would be a dull and unhappy place, and would indeed very likely create restleness, panic and chaos and violent behavior would ensue.
The latter in the film’s case mostly by men, also realistic, since traditionally those who fought in wars were men, women have had a more , but often not less important, behind the scenes role.
So it does raise an interesting question, is our ability to have children and the presence of children in the world, inherently what keeps us hopeful and sane and what makes us open to emotion and being kind to others?
If all children disappeared would people start behaving cruelly and inhumanely towards each other and in their madness accept and welcome violence?
I’ve probably overanalyzed the film a little, but the film just has so much food for thoughts, you think for hours about the different questions, and compare what’s happening in the film to some of the stuff that’d happening, for science fiction It’s hair raisingly realistic.
The film is at the same time one of the most beautiful and most hopeful films but also one of the most wildly depressing, gut wrenching and upsetting films I’ve ever seen.
It’ll make you feel hopeful, heartbroken, lonely, happy and sad and many more things in the course of one watch, the film is literally quite an invasion on the emotions.
Watching it feels a bit like you’re a rag that they’ve squeezed to get all the water out, but It’s not water, just emotions, It’s truly an intense experience, but It’s well worth it.
I think It’s one of those films that everyone should see, mainly because it raises and confronts us with very important philosophical and moral and ethical questions about humanity and being human.
I’ll leave it at this, because I don’t want to give away too much of the storyline, but I will leave you with the imdb storyline for a quick and consice idea of what It’s about:
The world’s youngest citizen has just died at 18, and humankind is facing the likelihood of its own extinction. Set in and around a dystopian London fractious with violence and warring nationalistic sects.
Children of Men follows the unexpected discovery of a lone pregnant woman and the desperate journey to deliver her to safety and restore faith for a future beyond those presently on Earth.
The film’s acting is absolutely great, the audience is given a film driven by an impeccably chosen cast that give strong, humane and moving performances, even the smallest of performances causes an impact, every actor and actress is allowed to shine equally brightly.
The collaboration of the entire cast is wonderful, all the actors work together excellently and fortify each other’s performances, but as good as most performances in the film, there’s three which stick in the mind afterwards.
Julianne Moore’s, Clive Owen’s and Clare-Hope Ashitey. Moore’s part in the film is small but important and unforgettable, she delivers as almost always a memorable and powerful performance, she does this so often, that audiences have begun to expect nothing less of her.
Then there’s Clive Owen, who has a neutral enough face, for a director to go pretty much anywhere with him, expect have him play a villain, I don’t know something about his face is just too kind, although he has played villains, but he never quite convinces me.
Here he’s the hero of the story Theo, and he has the quite stereotypical role of helping and protecting a woman, same old, same old… Expect that the film takes a really interesting turn with this, he’s not immensely brave, not fearless, and not invincible, he could indeed be killed, he’s human, nothing more and nothing less.
He’s not an emotionless, shell of a man, who seems to operate as a sort of robot, which the role of the hero sometimes feels like, he’s allowed to feel and to have emotions, curiously enough it doesn’t make him seem weaker, in a world of indifferent peopel, it makes him feel kinder and realer and stronger.
The film opens with him being terrified when a bomb explodes, It’s not often that you see a hero in a film be truly terrified, he knows he’s not immortal so when his life is on the line, he is quite fittingly terrified.
This man has taken knocks from life, and has lived trough some horrible things, and it has had a clear psychological effect, and I feel that this is very realistic, when a person faces certain things, doesn’t matter if they’re a man or a woman, they’ll be affected by them emotionally, and it will show in one way or another.
But considering all that, his truly brave and heroic act, is accepting the task even when he is terrified and fearful of his life, he knows he may very likely die, but sees accepting as the more decent and humane thing to do.
Initially part of him also accepts in helping the girl because he will be rewarded handsomely for it, also realistic, we are to a certain degree all selfish and would wish to be rewarded and thanked when we undertake a hazardous enterprise.
But he bonds with the girl and sees just as the audience can see, that if she stays where she is, being in the state that she’s in, she may not be safe much longer, rather than helping her for the money, It’s now for a more noble cause, simply helping someone he cares about.
I haven’t seen Clive Owen in too many things, but he’s fantastic here, his performance as Theo is spot on, he expresses every emotion believably and realistically, I daresay that his character is one of the most complex and most powerful male characters in a while.
He doesn’t take any pleasure in shooting or fighting someone else, even if it is with a good goal in mind, in fact he tries to say away from violence, also pretty logical.
Violence is not something you need around a pregnant woman or a baby, but still it was pretty rare and admirable, that he literally by the end of the film has no blood on his hands, any blood on his body, got there because of someone else’s violent and brutal acts.
In fact since It’s two main characters are tranquil, quite pacifistic people, it becomes all the clearer just how abhorrent and ugly violence is, It’s heartbreaking to see violent acts against people that have done nothing wrong.
Clive Owen has great or even amazingly genuine feeling chemistry with his costars, especially with both Julianne Moore and Clare-Hope Ashitey, Moore’s character was his former lover, they haven’t seen each other in a long time.
But when they meet again quite realistically and believably old feelings resurface, you completely buy that they once deeply loved each other and that they could again.
His chemistry with Clare-Hope Ashitey is also great, she is at first a bit different to him as she knows that he’s mostly doing it not out of personal convictions but for the reward attached, but a meaningful friendship and, deep human connection establishes itself between the two.
Which is most likely what would happen if a man and a woman only had each other, either they’d become both friends and lovers, but if there’s no attraction or to big an age difference just friends, which happens with Kee and “ ”, they support each other and make each other laugh, and keep each other alive in the most gruesome situations, like a simbiosis.
Clare-Hope Ashitey’s performance as Kee, is great, powerful and strong, the whole film is essentially all about her, yet her performance is the most subtle and nuanced one, she disappears almost literally into the background, to keep attention away from her, as she wants to protect both her own life and that of her baby.
But in the scenes where she’s safe, where It’s just her and Theo where she doesn’t have to be feafurl, she becomes an entirely different woman, her performance becomes much more dynamic.
Kee becomes much more confident, lively, and happy, cracking jokes and showing an admirable energy towards life in a world where so many people are dead inside, she handles that transformation in a fascinating way, It’s the same character but it feels like you’re watching two women, she is utterly convincing.
As soon as I saw that the direction was done by Alfonso Cuarón I had high hopes, I think that many people will agree with me when I say that this man is a brilliant and extremely talented filmmaker.
It’s perhaps ridiculous, that my favorite film that he’s directed is Harry Potter and the prisoner of Azkaban, but trust me I’m going somewhere with this, in the prisoner of Azkaban, Cuarón manages to completely drag us into the film’s universe, you become immersed in It’d atmosphere.
That’s what makes him such a talented filmmaker, his ability to evoke a world with It’s fitting atmosphere in a film, so realistically that it feels like it might just be real and that you while watching the film very much become a part of that.
He’s also a director that not only focuses on the surroundings his characters are in, some directors are in a way almost too visual and give the location the characters are in priority over the character’s feelings and emotions.
But he, finds the perfect balance, we see the world the characters move in,in a detailed way he allows us to become acquainted with the character’s surrounding, we see the effect and impact this world has on the characters, but also the effect that the characters have on this world and on each other.
He captures the emotional aspect incredibly well, the film is mainly an action film, so yes there’s some very fancy special effects, but nothing is without reason, there was this beautiful collaboration between director and cinematographer, an action in either one of the two aspects provokes an effect in the other.
As I said nothing in the film is without reason, surely some scenes were done for visual impact too, just to visually satisfy audiences and make them say wow what a great shot or that was beautifully filmed.
Though primarily, there’s a reason for every visual in the film, whether an event is meant to impact the characters and thereby the audience, or whether It’s the way, the camera fixates on one particular character’s emotions, linking us directly to them.
Almost every shot wants to get an emotional response and reaction out of the audience. While this is great, I really like cinematography that involves the audience, that allows you to feel like you’re a fly on the wall, directly seeing it all.
At times though, It’s almost too overwhelming, the film moves at a fast pace, It’s one of those films where you really can’t turn away from the screen for one second, or if you’re watching it with others and have to pee, you’ll have to ask them to pause it, otherwise you won’t be able to follow anymore.
Now mostly that’s no big deal, it can however make the film at times slightly confusing, and when I said that It’s overwhelming, I meant overwhelming in the emotional sense, in one scene a character could be cracking a joke in the next, people could literally be shooting each other.
It does at times make your brain go slightly huh what’s happening now?, How am I supposed to feel now? You are literally bombarded with visuals, that have a strong emotional impact, which is why watching the film can become quite the intense affair.
Not only are the visuals themselves intense, so is the way they were filmed, the film goes at times from incredibly dark to bright, it switches between natural lightning and artificial lightning.
Shadows and light, bright and light, lively colors in one scene, dark and dull ones in the next, It makes the film dynamic, but again sometimes lightly confusing.
It’s just one visual impact after the other, It’s almost chaotic, but that is precisely the point, the world has become a chaotic place, so the way It’s filmed shouldn’t feel too orderly and clean.
The film takes It’s chaotic and violent setting so literally, that you can at times literally see blood on the lens, much like the sweat on the camera in Whiplash.
This technique like no other, makes you feel connected to the characters and creates empathy and sympathy or disgust, it allows the film to have an almost physical effect on the audience, managing to make you feel incredibly anxious at times.
I really wouldn’t recommend watching it alone like I did, It’s a film that’ll make you feel and think so many different things, that you’ll want someone there to discuss them with, after seeing the film.
It’s very likely that you’ll want to have a conversation about it or write about it immediately after, like I’m doing now, the film is emotionally haunting in the best sense of the word, it strikes a deep chord and stays with you long after the credits have rolled.
The soundtrack is brilliantly fitting to each scene, perfectly adapted to the mood and tone of a scene, and emotionally affecting in the audience.
The film’s music, as is the case with many other Cuarón films, highly atmospherical, adding both to the film’s mood and tone as well as giving it emotional dimension and depth.
Children of men is a riveting, heartbreaking, hopeful and inspirational film all at once, I’m sure I could find other adjectives that would describe it, but they don’t come to mind at the moment.
It will at times take away your faith in humanity, while at others restoring it, it shows humanity from It’s best and most beautiful side and It’s ugliest and most destructive side.
It’s incredibly powerful, as it truly makes a philosopher out of the person watching it, it confronts you with and forces you to think about questions that rattle the human skull, perhaps now more than ever.
And if you’re not one for thinking, there’s plenty enough to like, great acting, stunning cinematographic and a brilliant soundtrack, and one of the best male/female friendships in any film.
On a more random note, one of my personal favorites is that of Adam Driver’s and Mia Wasikowka’s character in Tracks, which also happens to be one of my favorite films.
“I thought I understood his kind: the petty bureaucrats of tyranny, men who relish the carefully measured meed of power permitted to them, who need to walk in the aura of manufactured fear, to know that the fear precedes them as they enter a room and will linger like a smell after they have left, but who have neither the sadism nor the courage for the ultimate cruelty.” ― P.D. James, The Children of Men