Tag Archives: dreams

The Virgin Suicides

Combining an achingly beautiful mixture of adolescent awkwardness and tragedy, Sofia Coppola’s feature length directorial debut The Virgin Suicides had me mesmerized. This film has long been on my list of ‘must sees’, and I finally got around to it (thanks Netflix!).

The story takes place in picture perfect suburbia during the 1970’s and opens with the discovery of the attempted suicide of Cecilia Lisbon, the youngest of 5 beautiful, blonde sisters.  The girls are watched and obsessed over by a group of their male classmates who are determined to understand them. The girl’s parents are authoritarian and incredibly religious, keeping them under strict control. They become even more watchful after Cecilia finally manages to kill herself during a party thrown in attempts to socialize her and their other daughters. The second youngest daughter, Lux (Kirten Dunst), begins acting out and when she breaks curfew after her and her sisters are granted the rare opportunity to leave the house to attend the homecoming dance, they are all pulled from school and locked in the house. The girls’ tale comes to an end when they complete what appears to be a suicide pact.

This is an impressive debut, Coppola captures the melancholy pain and timeless joy of adolescence perfectly and particularly demonstrates how keen adolescent sensitivities to injustice can be. Kirstin Dunst is fantastic as Lux, playing the young girl as brooding with a budding sexuality and taste for rebellion. While the boys watch her activities and look for signs of suicidal tendencies, they seem to only see Lux smiling and flirting but we are privy to more private moments. The dull, disappointed look on her face after her various sexual encounters, her moments of silence where we see the sadness in her eyes. Dunst captures the woman trying to break free from the shell of a girl. Lux still enacts girlish rituals (sewing boy’s names to her underwear) but we know there is something more, dark and cynical, boiling beneath the surface.

I also loved the look of this film, which I found quite striking; many of the scenes possessed dream like qualities. The Lisbon girls often look ethereal and never quite real. Their behaviour is also portrayed as if they are one. While Lux acts as their symbol of rebellion, they often act as one unit. There are several scenes where the girls seem eerily conjoined, such as when they listen to music played for them over the telephone, or go to the homecoming dance in the same patterned dress.

One interesting aspect of this film is the perspective through which the story unfolds. Although films are typically presented from a male viewpoint, The Virgin Suicides utilizes the male gaze as a vessel. The film is narrated by a future version of one in a group of young boys who observe the Lisbons and bear witness, becoming obsessed with them and their mysteries. We never get to know the boys well, we simply join them in their watching. They can’t understand and try as they might as they sift through the evidence they have gathered over time, they can’t pull together a complete image of the Lisbon girls. They are constantly aware that something is missing that cannot be told in the physical objects and minutia of everyday life.

In short, if you haven’t seen this movie, snap to it!

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Inception

Ever since viewing the teaser for Inception nearly a year ago I have been eagerly awaiting its theatrical debut. I caught an early matinee screening one week after it opened in order to avoid a critical mass of human contact, and excitedly submerged myself in Christopher Nolan’s cinematic dreamscape. The story is simple enough: a group of information thieves, each with a specific job, plan to enter the dream state of a young businessman in order to plant an idea in his head (the act of ‘inception’). The film takes us into several layers of the dream realm and ends up creating an interesting lattice of storytelling rarely seen in summer blockbusters. The film mashes together genres such as action, film noir, fantasy, and mystery to create an entertaining and smart film.

Inception was worth the wait, and although it has been over-hyped (I believe that The Dark Knight is Nolan’s superior film) it still delivers with memorable visual effects and a creative storyline which was reportedly ten years in the making. The film is well cast, made up of performers that are so irritatingly good looking the film borders on reaching ocular nirvana. The character banter is quick and interesting enough to maintain the attention of the audience over the course of the film’s 148 min run time. Leonardo Di Caprio does well as Don Cobb, the film’s tragic hero, whose ability to do his job is compromised by the projections of his dead wife which plague his subconscious and create an element of danger for the other dreamers. Hands down the most interesting elements of the film are its action sequences, particularly one spectacular fight scene involving a rotating hallway. Joseph Gordon-Levitt reportedly spent 6 weeks filming the brawl which is perhaps one of the most visually mind boggling and creative fight scenes to grace the big screen in recent years.

The film does have its pitfalls of course. While the dialogue between characters is often sharp and entertaining it easily becomes bloated when used to describe the processes of the dream and other concepts Nolan is trying to explain. Although Nolan feeds each of his characters with enough explanatory data to hold the audience’s collective hand through what they are witnessing, some of the scenes are laughable, particularly when attempting to describe the many levels a dreamscape can contain. Even with these blunt attempts of translation some audience members will still lose their bearings of whose dream is whose or lose interest completely (on a second viewing of this film I saw two people walk out and several surrounding me whisper to friends in confusion). Perhaps Nolan’s most remarkable feat with this project is that Inception broke the world record for the most amount of times the word ‘dream’ can be uttered in one film. Finally, Nolan introduces philosophical issues regarding the nature of dreams, reality and human perception to the plot. Although he attempts to touch on the subject several times, Nolan never makes a clear statement and instead leaves the ideas floating without many thoughtful connections. Overall, Inception offers audiences a beautiful and action oriented trip into a dream land, though it lacks a deeper reading into the bigger philosophical questions brought up throughout the story.

2 Comments

Filed under Action, Christopher Nolan, Film, Science Fiction, the unconscious