Saturday, May 27, 2006

There are no coincidences or once again about throughlines

Last night we saw "V for Vendetta" and I was going to come home and blog about it, but went to bed instead and then tonight, we watched "Everything is Illuminated" and once again as with "History of Violence" and "The Devil's Backbone" I realized that despite being extremely different films, they have similar through lines. They are both excellent films.

"V for Vendetta" is one of my husband's all time favorite graphic novels so he was afraid to see what Hollywood (and the Wachowski brothers) had done with it. Look at the travesty that is "Constantine" or the muddle that was made of Allan Moore's "From Hell" and the absolute disaster that was "League of Extraordinary Gentlemen." Allan Moore had his name removed from the film which is never a good sign.
Fortunately we were very pleasantly surprised. While certain elements were changed, like "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe," and "Lord of the Rings," the essence was retained. It is heavyhanded as critics have pointed out, but no more so than the source, but I found the violence relatively restrained, esp. since there are so many more scenes in the graphic novel that could have been filmed to make an "Action" flick. The British actors--Stephen Fry, Stephen Rea, John Hurt, etc. are excellent and Portman, well she's better than she's been in awhile. The message of that last little inch of ourselves that can never be taken, only given away remains.

Interestingly this is a similar message to Liev Schreiber's "Everything is Illuminated." This is actor Schreiber's first effort as a director and it's a startlingly beautiful film with some camera cuts that are just breathtaking, from the yellow Jewish star to the eye of a Nazi looking down his gun for one example. The character who allowed that last inch to be taken finally finds redemption by letting go and two characters who didn't even know that such bravery is needed in the world become better people. Because it was on DVD, I watched the deleted scenes which were very funny (did I mention that this film about the Holocaust and personal discovery is very, very, very funny?) in a surreal black comedy kind of way. I believe that these scenes are true to the unusual quality of the novel, but I agree with their being cut for the tone of the film. It was like a Wim Wenders film by way of Fellini. One of Wenders older films, called "Im Lauf der Zeit" or In the Course of Time (strangely titled in English--Kings of the Road) is about a road trip across Germany by two near strangers. There is tremendous sense of that here except that ILdZ is 3 hours long and this is a spare 1 hour 46 min. and yet each is exactly the length they need to be.

As an added sideline, Elijah Wood (whose startingly large eyes are made even larger by thick glasses) is quite perfect as the scared of life collector. He saves things in plastic bags and says when asked that he does it because he is afraid he won't remember. He takes objects--his grandmother's false teeth when she dies for instance--where others might take photos. I too keep objects over photos. I didn't have a film camera at my wedding and people asked me why. I had read and agreed that with a film eventually all you remember is what is contained within the film. Photos are marginally better, but an object like a Proustian smell can bring back (for me at least) the whole feeling of a time and a moment. I have scrapbooks (not in the surburban hobbiest kind of way that is popular now), just as a container where I randomly place flat objects--ticket stubs, programs, cards, tags from gifts, even bits of wrapping paper--and shoeboxes where I put the non-flat objects that I don't need to leave out on a counter--old pins, jewelry I no longer wear but was a gift, etc. As I hold them I remember moment.

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