GIF Riff: Do Elephants Pray (2007, released 2010)
I’ve been meaning to sort out my thoughts about this film (and make some improved GIFs) for about a month, but life keeps getting in the way. I’ve seen Do Elephants Pray about four times… my first viewing I was was very skeptical and snide about the main plot, though aspects of it endeared themselves to me even then. But was mainly (and hormonally) engaged by Marc Warren’s supporting turn as Marrlen, the lead character Callum’s conniving, sex-addled coworker.
Yes, Marc absolutely still steals this movie, and the director and writer basically admit they let him do so… but on each successive viewing I’ve warmed to the main plot more and more. My most recent screening in late April (with subsequent viewings of the extras, related interviews and my first go at the director and writer commentary in early May) left me strangely euphoric for days. I’m certainly not going to say this is a perfect film, and a lot of viewers will find it amateurish or not to their taste. Marc Warren filmed his scenes over the course of two nights while on a break between two more high-profile acting gigs, which my best guess estimates must have been the feature film Wanted and the attempted reboot of the tepid serial killer show Messiah. Hands down I love this film infinitely more than either of those projects. (I find Wanted mostly unwatchable).
I know it’s tricky recommending this film not only because it won’t suit all tastes, but also because it’s tricky just finding a way to watch the thing. I initially tried a free YouTube copy, but found the end missing… I bought the DVD and discovered the reason all online copies of the film are incomplete is because many pressings of the official DVD (possibly ALL) included a manufacturer’s defect which causes the film to stop about 2 minutes short of the end and loop back to the ten previous minutes of the film over and over. Initially I thought this was some sort of trippy gambit by the filmmaker (and the actual ending IS trippy) but on the tenth go-round of the same footage I decided my disc must be buggered. Some online research (and a friend’s purchase of the film) confirmed the error is widespread, so in many cases there’s no easy way to see the film through legitimate or illegitimate channels.
Obviously I found a way, quite by accident… I usually copy all DVD purchases to my computer for backup purposes in the event of scratches to the originals… a lot of my favorite films are quirky indies that are in no way guaranteed to stay in print. The entire film copied and I was able to finally see the ending properly on my computer. I’ve since made the offer to anyone who demonstrated that they bought the DVD that I’ll send them just the ending if they’re having issues accessing it… but I want people to at least try to do things through proper channels and support independent filmmakers, particularly those who give my favorite actors such great roles to play around with. (Paul Hills, the director, is a friend of Marc’s, and also helped give Marc his big breakthrough as an actor in the film Boston Kickout (1995) which also boosted the careers of John Simm and Andrew Lincoln. (Yes, of The Walking Dead.)
I don’t want to give too much about the film away to those who haven’t seen it, so I’ll post spoiler warnings before the next bit. If you haven’t seen it, the basic synopsis of the film is that it tells the story of advertising copywriter Callum’s spiritual awakening with the assistance of an earthy, disruptive French beauty when he gets blocked trying to come up with a pitch for an unsellable product. Jonnie Hurn plays Callum, Julie Dray his love interest Malika, and Marc Warren his ad agency rival Marrlen.
Under the cut are some highlights gleaned from director Paul Hills and writer/star Jonnie Hurn in their director commentary: