Frightfest Special: Ian Fielding on Rubber

Directed by Quentin Dupieux (aka French electro house musician Mr. Oizo) Rubber would make an effective concept for a music video. A car tyre arises from the desert and embarks on a killing spree across a dusty America town. The tyre dispatches its victims by deploying psychokenetic powers, usually to explode its victim’s heads. These proceedings are observed through binoculars by a crowd of spectators based on a nearby hilltop.

Rubber’s self-referential, ironic and minimalist execution edges it into art house territory. This is a film of ideas, concerned with making the silly, lofty and the lofty, silly. In a pleasing opening sequence a police officer spells out to the audience the central theoretical premise of the of the film – that ultimately things can occur for no reason. ‘In Stephen Spielberg’s ET why is the alien brown? No Reason.’ This hints at a kind of exploration of randomness, whereas the film is more concerned with a playfulness concerning the nature of reality and storytelling.

As this is ultimately a film about ideas, expect to be quirkily amused rather than emotionally enraptured. It skirts around the outside rather than delving deeply into those big ideas. It doesn’t utilise the toolkit of drama to pull out any astonishing turns and so despite its aesthetic purity and playful heart, the film comes over as a little shallow, a little distant and lacking in true dramatic impact. There are hints of potential here though. I can’t help thinking that with a dash more deviousness or a stronger serving of soul that Mr Dupieux could develop into a serious cinematic pull.

My name’s Ian. I’m a writer and Filmmaker from London currently shooting my second feature film – a detective thriller called Dead Unicorns

To see pics, a trailer and what’s currently happening with Dead Unicorns click here:

http://deadunicornsfilm.wordpress.com

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Ian Fielding: Black Swan Revisited, Mum’s the Word

Since I wrote my original review of Black Swan, which you can find through the link below, I’ve developed and modified my position on the film’s secrets and meaning, and I’d like in this article to expand on my reading of the film’s dark subtext. As I stated in my original review, implanting difficult themes below the story surface is fairly standard screenwriting practice within certain genre films.

A quick recap: the film is ostensibly about a delicate, naive and innocent but highly talented ballet dancer who must access an edgier, more domineering and sexual part of her persona in order to successfully embody the role that she has won, that of the black swan, in Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake.

We know Nina is already something on the edge but this challenge precipitates an incredible transformation that initiates delusions, terrifying hallucinations, self harm and eventually leads her to end her life.

So why? Why does the adoption of this role generate such a terrifying psychological upheaval within Nina?

For this role Nina is explicitly requested to interrogate her sexual character, a domain she has repressed from herself for a reason – namely that she is suffering from past and possibly continuing sexual and emotional abuse at the hands of her overbearing mother. It is as if the friction of simultaneous belief and denial about what has happened gives rise to these harrowing episodes.

Where is the evidence? Actually throughout the film it is continually dispersed. Firstly, Nina’s character, before her psychological meltdown, displays characteristics of an individual who has been abused, she is isolated, reserved, seems to find it hard to communicate with her fellow dancers, has possible trust issues, assertion issues, self-esteem issues.

Also look at the excessive infantilisation that she is subjected to, the childish bedroom with the stuffed toys, being dressed and undressed by mother. No lock on the door. When her friend Lily shows up at the door she is turned away by Erica, her mother. Infantilisation is a common practice deployed by abusers to forestall the sexual development of their victims.


When the dance choreographer Thomas kisses Nina she responds by biting his lip and then running away, is this deeply unusual act not the symptomatic behavior of the kind of person who has had to learn to defend themselves sexually?

Importantly the parallels between Lilly and Erica are continually made. Could it be that when Nina sees Lily she sees a safe or legitimate outlet for the sexual feelings that have been implanted in her by her mother?

Further hints arrive when Nina attempts to masturbate. Once on her bed and a second time in the bath. In the bedroom, Nina turns during the act to witness the presence of Erica asleep in her room, the presence is physically nonthreatening but deeply unnerving. In the bath the image has become a potential danger, it stares straight into Nina’s eyes, looking like some demonic mixture of Lily, Nina and Erica, as if the lines between these three characters has become blurred. Monstrously, Erica has invaded Nina’s fantasy space.

The key event in Nina’s sex life during the film is the night of her drugged drunken debauches, when she apparently takes Lily back to her apartment after having fucked (as she puts it), two boys in the nightclub. The mother appears, in exactly the same way as Lily appears to Nina in an earlier scene at the dance studio. Erica proceeds to fiercely admonish Nina as if no one else where there, uttering the telling phrase ‘Shut your mouth’ Now Nina runs to her bedroom and sleeps with a woman, and we know that Lily emphatically denies having been there. So who was with Nina? The person who was there clearly utters the phrase, ‘my sweet girl’ before holding a cushion over Nina’s head. This is Erica’s trademark phrase. This is only really the beginning of this series of disturbing clues. There are, echoing through the film, many more reverberations on this theme.

A very common reaction is to brush aside the logic of the picture by diagnosing Nina with schizophrenia and leaving it at that, without considering the origin of our hero’s disturbance. Sadly, and I think in this case, a little uncannily, this pattern all too often repeats itself outside of the cinema, in the real world.

Further evidence of the importance of cinema in mobilising public debate.

Read my original article HERE

My name’s Ian. I’m a writer and Filmmaker from London currently shooting my second feature film – a detective thriller called Dead Unicorns

To see pics, a trailer and what’s currently happening with Dead Unicorns click here:

http://deadunicornsfilm.wordpress.com

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Ian Fielding on Never Let Me Go: Lovers not Fighters

Man is born free but everywhere he is in chains, as Rousseau noted at some point when he wasn’t encouraging women to breastfeed. But sometimes the problem is not so much that we are in chains, but that we don’t even realise that we are in them to begin with.

That’s the problem with our trio of heros in Never Let Me Go, the Alex Garland adapted version of Kazuo Ishiguro’s 2005 sci-fi novel. In a neat take on the wage slaves of the meaningless capitalist treadmill, our isolated stars are clones, born and bred to provide organs for those who require them to survive. After their first three donations, the majority of clones are dead.


Where does a clone find distraction? In affairs of the heart, with the backdrop of impending mortality amplifying the pitch of feeling. Kathy (Carey Mulligan) loves Tommy (Andrew Garfield) yet Tommy is with Ruth (Keira Knightley). The clinch? We know in an unspoken way that Tommy loves Kathy – but he’s quite happy banging Keira Knightley. (what’s he like eh?) Once that dynamic is established the film suspends itself on the constant knife edge of Kathy’s plaintive yearning. At all times we hear the soft thump of Mulligan’s heart in pain, it’s in there rests the film’s hidden force. I love scenes in films where people react to music and there’s a few nice moments of Kathy listening to the cassette tape ‘Never Let Me Go’ that Tommy has given her. The director Mark Romanek never seeks to deploy genre gimmicks or dazzle us with tour-de-force virtuosity and so steers for us a path of pleasant and subdued ambiance, that arches up gently to the occasional emotive swell.

The clones (a smart, sensitive, Carey Mulligan, territorial pisser Keira Knightley, and the shuffling softy with a burning anger within, Andrew Garfield) never quite rise to challenge the authority that will leave them dead in the gutter, instead they empower it with homespun mythologies. This is a backwards tribute to Hailsham, the bleak boarding school they grew up in, and its effective brainwashing.


Those who’ve seen John Carpenter’s ingenious They Live will know that Hailsham is all around us. The media gently manufacture a universal standpoint for us, and as the clones show, it can be all too easy to lap it up. Especially when the majority of voices that we hear are driven by the secret imperative to score some coins. Never before has the species been so focused on coercing itself to part with money as a central recipe for its life. As we slowly converge into a giant selling tool, the way we understand ourselves becomes increasingly superficial. The choice is yours: kick ass now or sit around and wait for the ‘next communism’ to arrive. It almost makes you want to bring back that ol’ blood-sport fav, religion. Thank god for science, art and Carey Mulligan.

Ishiguro knows of another exit through this gift shop, even as his clones lie back on the operating table while surgeons extract their vital organs, the film’s meaning does not turn towards fighting the power but finding the good and true within their controlled universe. They may have been trapped, but they did have love for a while, and that meant the world to them. Ishiguro fucking loves it.

My name’s Ian. I’m a writer and Filmmaker from London currently shooting my second feature film – a detective thriller called Dead Unicorns

To see pics, a trailer and what’s currently happening with Dead Unicorns click here:

http://deadunicornsfilm.wordpress.com

Follow FilmAche on Twitter


Ian Fielding on Black Swan: Sexual repression, lesbianism and incest please, we’re British.

So Black Swan has performed gamely at the UK box office. Certainly much better than its cousin title, Aronofsky’s last film, The Wrestler. Why might this be? The high art of the ballet world certainly brings in the older audiences, but what else separates this film from the The Wrestler?

In many great films there is often something happening behind the scenes the audience is unaware of. In fact, it works better if the audience is not aware. What am I talking about? Sub-story – the dark and traumatic core that lies at the heart of certain films, creating deeper emotion, meaning, ambiguity.

But these are dark and bizarre waters. Their meanings are hidden, like dream time where the human mind seems unable to confront simple truths directly. Their truth needs to be excavated from below the innocent surface appearance. Just as fairy tales are disguised life lessons for children, these adult fairy tales take on mature dark themes and wrap them in a shroud of fantasy. If you think any of this is strange, I have two words for you, Michael Jackson.

Examples: much talk has been made of Ridley Scott’s Alien being an allegory of male rape. In Hitchcock’s The Birds, the birds are seen as a manifestation of the mother protecting her son from the amorous advances of his lover – a manifestation of pure incestuous rage. In The Exorcist Regan MacNeil’s supernatural convulsions are read not as demonic possession but as the violent aftershocks of sexual molestation at the hands of Burke Dennings, one of the films lesser characters.

So following this logic where does that leave black swan? I would say that the single great achievement of black swan is to double this logic back on itself. What do I mean?

Nina Sayers is a young, determined, hardworking and technically accomplished ballet dancer. Socially she is sexually naive, polite, subservient, and tentative in assertion, introverted, a loner.

Having landed her dream role as the Swan Queen she must delve into her dark side in order to draw out the qualities that are required for her to play the passionate chaos and dark sensuality of the black swan.

There are four other key figures in Nina’s life: the mother, the teacher, her rival and her predecessor. Her mother, Erica (Barbara Hershey) is classically domineering; she must perceive herself as a failed trajectory, alone and painting cartoonish paintings, herself a failed dancer.

The rival, Lily (Mila Kunis) is the threat, both for the role and the affections of the teacher. Lily outwardly personifies the Black Swan, she sports a natural sexual maturity, candid frankness, the ability to get what she wants, and her proximity to Nina helps unleash these dimensions inside her.

The dance teacher, Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel) provides an interesting dynamic. We’re never quite sure if he’s trying to seduce Nina or just bring out the best in her dancing by provoking her sexually.

The predecessor, Beth (Winona Ryder) is the film’s store house for Nina’s feminine fear of aging and living up to the male ideal.

Now here is the critical point. Nina suffers from scratches on her back, possibly self inflicted night wounds. In a troubling piece of bodily dysmorphia these scratches eventually develop into the complete physical manifestation of the black swan.

The big question. Where did the unease that brought on the scratches originate? Simple answer: the sexual proximity of the mother, best typified by the masturbation scene where Nina discovers her mother is in the room with her. The mother has literally entered Nina’s fantasy space. At another point Nina licks icing off the end of her mother’s finger and later it is her mother’s phallic fingers that are slammed against the door when Nina finally rebels and shuts her out of her room.

There is passing resemblance in Lily to Nina’s mother. It is as if Nina’s lesbian encounter with Lily becomes a legitimate outlet for her repressed incestuous feelings. So here we arrive at the typical sub story reading of Black Swan. Very good.

So we could take this further and speculate that Nina’s mother has violated Nina in the past, but no, I think not, here I would suggest another reading. I think Nina’s mother is more or less the innocent here. I think she plays a complimentary role to the dance teacher. Erica sexualises her relationship with her daughter to fill a void in the dancer’s (and her) life, just as the apparently sleazy choreographer seems more interested in unleashing Nina’s dangerous sexuality, not for a cheap rustle in the sheets but a higher calling, for performance.

The theme of black Swan is sacrifice for art. Nina does not play the game of life; instead she opts to be the carrier of a sublime moment that gives meaning, the response to a mysterious calling, played to perfection.

Read my follow-up article on Black Swan HERE

My name’s Ian. I’m a writer and Filmmaker from London currently shooting my second feature film – a detective thriller called Dead Unicorns

To see pics, a trailer and what’s currently happening with Dead Unicorns click here:

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Ian Fielding: The Difference between Comedy, Horror and Drama

After a great comedy, horror or Drama you should feel as though you have temporarily vanquished all the monsters that have oppressed you. Catharsis. So how do these storytelling strategies achieve this end?

For the example I’m going to take one of our times great unresolved terrors, cancer, and see how different story approaches, and in a wider sense, different life approaches, colour the subject in different ways.

First, comedy: it shows you the indifference towards the sufferers. The condition is made light of or ignored completely. Then in horror, we can given little more then the word cancer and the rest is left to our imaginations. Or our anxieties are given the horror image itself, cancer’s actual manifestation in the body, the visual of the tumour. Then finally, for tragedy or Drama, we are shown the crushed desires of the sufferer, the things that could have been done to prevent the illness and the people left behind. The subject remains the same but the attitude generates laughter, fear or tears.

My name’s Ian. I’m a writer and Filmmaker from London currently shooting my second feature film – a detective thriller called Dead Unicorns

To see pics, a trailer and what’s currently happening with Dead Unicorns click here:

http://deadunicornsfilm.wordpress.com

 

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Ian Fielding: Defending the Ending of Somewhere

Many critics have bemoaned the strained finale to Sofia Coppola’s Somewhere, Perhaps they are missing something. What? Let’s take a look at the film itself. The message is suggested: just because you’re rich and successful it doesn’t mean that you’re leading a fulfilling life. Then what sort of life? Our central character, Johnny, (Stephan Dorff) pursues his vices, drinks liberally, hires pole dancers to perform at the foot of his bed. He’s a Hollywood actor of some note and as such he fends of earnest acolytes, goes along with the occasional sexual advance and generally stumbles indifferently on a kind of drowsy autopilot through inane media questioning and sheets of flash photography. Salvation seems to arrive in the form of an unexpected visit from his daughter (Elle Fanning).

Johnny makes a casual success of his parenting. Although his successes seem to stem largely from leveraging his money and fame for effect rather than winning over his sceptical but supportive daughter with the nature of his character. Johnny summons guitarists to play for the pair of them and orders excessive amounts of ice cream. The portrait is at turns touching though, especially their playful exchange in the Chateau Marmont swimming pool.

So if Johnny is dead inside, what does he do to break from his impasse? He creates a drama in his life. He manufactures a crisis from a minor incident in order to feel alive again. He creates resistance within himself, the kind of resistance he fails to receive from the outside world.

Could this be why the ending of the film is a kind of masterstroke? The ending is forced, sentimental, unreal, a contrast to the gently natural series of observations we’ve been witness to. Then is it not just like Johnny’s own solution to his problem? He breaks through the ennui by forcing a classic Hollywood cliché upon himself.

If the ending is unsatisfactory it is because Johnny’s solution to his own problem is unsatisfactory. In a sort of Dr Phil, new age, LA quackery way he breaks through cheaply… but at least he breaks through? Sofia Coppola has discovered that redemption can be cheap. Remember the self help CD Scarlett Johansson was listening to in Lost in Translation?

 

 

 

My name’s Ian. I’m a writer and Filmmaker from London currently shooting my second feature film – a detective thriller called Dead Unicorns

To see pics, a trailer and what’s currently happening with Dead Unicorns click here:

http://deadunicornsfilm.wordpress.com

 

Follow FilmAche on Twitter