Nothing Bad Can Happen (2013)

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Director: Katrin Gebbe

Starring: Julius Feldmeier, Sascha Alexander Gersak, Annika Kuhl

Jesus Christ!

It’s rare to find a film which manages to disturb and horrify without ever being exploitative or using cheap shock tactics like you’d see in the August Underground movies but Nothing Bad Can Happen manages to do exactly that. I came away from the film feeling drained and disturbed in a way that I haven’t felt since Pascal Laugier’s Martyrs which should certainly ring alarm bells if you can’t handle upsetting subject matters in your films. Although Nothing Bad Can Happen is undoubtedly a superb piece of filmmaking, it’s something I’d recommend with caution due to explicit sequences involving abuse of all kinds and cruelty to animals.

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The film follows the true events surrounding a young self-proclaimed ‘Jesus freak’ called Tore who happens to have some form of autism which makes him think and act very differently to others. Tore places all of his faith in Jesus Christ and is naively taken in by a truly evil family who take advantage of his absurdly good nature. It’s a fascinating meditation on evil in society and the dangers of religion. Despite being an utterly gruelling watch, Nothing Bad Can Happen never gratuitously relishes in the violence and is always focused on character and delivering a powerful message. The fact that these events are true makes the film all the more relevant and important.

First-time director Katrin Gebbe shows astonishing confidence behind the camera. Despite the ugly subject matter, the images always try to find beauty and light through the bleakness. There’s a hypnotic sense of realism to the whole film which reminded me of Justin Kurzel’s equally uncompromising Snowtown. The acting from the unknown cast is similarly impressive, particularly breakout star Julius Feldmeier in the lead who manages to make Tore an engaging and sympathetic main character. Sascha Alexander Gersak also feels toe-curlingly real as the malevolent patriarch determined to break Tore’s Holy spirit.

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You could easily mistake Nothing Bad Can Happen as being the kind of lost film in Lars Von Trier’s ‘Golden Hearts Trilogy’ which correspondingly follows mentally-challenged protagonists as they battle through life’s brutal hardships. It’s just as tough to watch as seeing Emily Watson getting stoned by feral kids or Bjork dancing desperately through life despite the world crumbling around her. It’ll be just too depressing for some people and it does get harder to watch as the film progresses but the reason I watch films is to be moved and provoked by some sort of emotional response. Nothing Bad Can Happen does this in spade loads.

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Initially appearing to be the ideal father figure, Benno, played by German actor Sascha Alexander Gersak in Nothing Bad Can Happen, shows his dark side as he mocks and violently tests a young boy’s religious fai

This is a haunting piece of work which will bury itself under your skin and stay there long after the credits roll. It’s a torturous watch at times but it carries an important message which is extremely relevant to society today. The pacing is very slow at the beginning but it’s also immersive and character-focused meaning that it’s always easy to engage with. There was not one moment where I was bored or distracted in its 110 minute running time. It’s a heart-breaking watch which will surely shake you to your core. A stunning debut but proceed with caution.

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Twin Peaks: The Return

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Director: David Lynch

Stars: Kyle MacLachlan, David Lynch, Laura Dern, Naomi Watts

The greatest TV series of all time

It’s 11pm and I have just finished watching the last episode of Twin Peaks: The Return. Normally I’d give something else a watch before tottering off to bed but the images and ideas presented in the two-hour finale are relentlessly whirring around my head. David Lynch has done it again. 25 years ago he re-invented television with the original series which mixed offbeat comedy with pure horror and surrealism. Audiences were enthralled by the mystery of who killed Laura Palmer, only to find that the startling cliffhanger left in 1991 wouldn’t be resolved until 2017.

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David Lynch has had an exceptional career. Debuting with surrealist masterpiece, Eraserhead and providing us with horrific treats in Blue Velvet, Wild at Heart and Lost Highway. In 2002 he created what I believe to be the greatest film of all time, Mulholland Drive and seemingly disappeared off the Earth in 2006 after the impenetrable INLAND EMPIRE. However, we can now forgive Lynch for the frustrating ten-year hiatus because he has generously provided us with 18 hours of unadulterated perfection. The Return could very well be his magnum opus.

There has never been anything like this on TV and there will probably be nothing like this ever again, unless Lynch decides to delve back into the small screen again, of course. The series was shrouded in secrecy so people didn’t really have a clue what was going to happen when the two-hour opening aired. Unsurprisingly all expectations were cut dead within the first fifteen minutes. The whole season is nothing like the original run, in fact less than half the time is spent in the beloved town of Twin Peaks.

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This season is more interested in doppelgängers in Las Vegas, murders in South Dakota and frightening absurdities in the red room. Mysteries are constantly being raised and very few clear answers are ever provided. The series also runs at a very deliberate pace. Lynch really isn’t interested in wrapping things up quickly, in one scene we watch a man sweeping the floor for three minutes, yet somehow none of it is boring in the slightest. Instead we feel lost in an intoxicating dreamlike atmosphere where anything can happen. Many will find the lack of nostalgia and glacial pacing frustrating, but this is truly a ground-breaking work of art.

It also has to be noted that Kyle MacLachlan’s performance is the one of the greatest in TV history. It has to be said that he has never particularly shone in his acting career, aside from Dale Cooper (obviously) but here he does something extraordinary. Playing three different characters, MacLachlan shows an astonishing acting range and never fails to compel whenever he’s on screen. There are also memorable performances from Naomi Watts, Laura Dern and David Lynch himself, all in challenging and remarkably interesting roles.

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What’s really extraordinary about this 1000 minute masterpiece is that is manages to encompass every human emotion, often at the same time. At one moment side-splittingly funny, then pants-wettingly terrifying the next. There are also moments of desperate sadness, tension and surprise. What ever the feeling though, there is always a strong sense of mystery in the air. Don’t expect many easy answers though.

Many people were disappointed by the ending which offered absolutely no closure in the slightest. Much like the original series, the season ends on a extraordinarily haunting note. In fact, it could quite possibly be the most haunting ending of any film or TV show I have ever seen. Rather than providing answers, we’re left with even more questions than we had at the start but that’s where its brilliance lies. If Lynch gave us a cosy ending where all the pieces tied neatly together then we wouldn’t be talking about the series for years to come. There is so much to analyse and digest, fans will be picking this series apart until the end of days.

Unlike anything else on TV, Twin Peaks is always unpredictable. You can never guess what is going to happen next and although it isn’t easy to understand, it isn’t really supposed to be. This is an experience where you can leave your brain at the door and just go along for the sensational ride. Forget Breaking Bad. Forget Game of Thrones. Forget what ever you thought the best series on TV ever was. The greatest thing to ever grace the small screen is categorically and unquestionably, Twin Peaks: The Return.

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The Witch (2016)

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Director: Robert Eggers

Stars: Anya Taylor-Joy, Ralph Ineson, Kate Dickie

A future horror classic

This ain’t no Hocus Pocus kids! Witches aren’t usually the first port of call when coming up with horror film ideas. They work well with family film’s like Nicholas Roeg’s surreal adaptation of Roald Dhal’s The Witches but can cackling old women with pointy hats and broomsticks scare grown adults? After seeing Robert Egger’s striking debut, the answer would seem to be a resounding yes. The Witch is the best horror film since Kill List and is sure to become a future horror classic. I like to think of myself as a hardened horror movie nut but The Witch did actually manage to scare me, more so than the recent It Follows and The Babadook.

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It’s a fairytale for adults and Robert Egger goes down alleys as dark as a film can get. Within the first five or ten minutes, I could tell that I’d be in for a stunning ride as we’re treated to some seriously nightmarish imagery involving a naked old woman smothering herself in the blood of a baby, accompanied by a screeching score which is sure to give you the shivers. Terrifying sequences like this appear sporadically through the film so it never feels overdone, it just adds to the mounting tension in each scene until it explodes into the most wonderfully indulgent finale.

A lot of films set in medieval times can be a bit trying. A Field in England and Black Death both felt like the setting let the film down by getting bogged down in confusing olde worlde Shakespearean-esque language. However, The Witch is never anything more than compelling throughout. The sole focus of the film is the family and all the parts are acted beautifully by the relatively unknown cast. The audience becomes incredibly involved and invested in the characters so you care about what’s going to happen to them. There’s a sense of dread in every scene but you’re never quite sure about what’s going to happen next which makes for unpredictable and absorbing viewing.

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I can’t talk about The Witch without mentioning just how gorgeous the film looks. You could pretty much take any shot and hang it up for display in a gallery because it’s just beautiful to look at. The eerie shots of the deep wood reminded me of Lars Von Trier’s equally unsettling, Antichrist, however The Witch has a more fantastical quality to the images which adds to the Brothers Grimm fairytale kind of vibe. There isn’t a second in the film’s tight 90 minute running time where a shot doesn’t ooze atmosphere. It’s so refreshing to get a horror film which doesn’t rely on a few seconds of gore to shock the audience, but actually takes it time to conjure up genuinely frightening images. There’s stuff in this film which won’t leave my head for a long time after viewing it.

Equally as atmospheric as the imagery is the sound. I can’t think of a more striking score or sound design since The Shining and it helps a lot to generate such an unsettling atmosphere. The exceedingly creepy dissonant violins and loud chants build scenes up to a shattering intensity where I found myself holding my breath. In fact, the whole film has such a strange and unnerving quality to it. It feels like you’re watching something you shouldn’t. It’s no wonder that the film’s even been endorsed by the Satanic Temple itself with the Temple’s spokesperson calling it “a trans-formative Satanic experience.”

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The Witch has to be my favourite film of the year and one of my favourite horror films full stop. I found it absolutely captivating and full of tension from beginning to end. It’s pretty much as perfect as horror can get and exudes the quality of a classic chiller from the 60’s. Robert Eggers is definitely going to be a director to look out for in the future. He’s proven to critics that the horror genre is alive and well and can still genuinely scare the hell out of people. The Witch is a sensational experience for the eyes and ears, it’s cinema at its finest and is a masterpiece.

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10 Greatest Movie Endings

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This was a ruddy difficult list to come up with! One of the things I love most about films is their endings. The way a film ends is so important because it’s the last thing you’re thinking off when you step out of the cinema or humble living room at home. Many mediocre films are made good by their ending and some even rely on the way they end. Sleepaway Camp, for example is a film completely transformed by the final ten seconds. I won’t spoil it for those who are yet to see it, but the whole film is basically a hilariously cheesy teen slasher until the final ten seconds which are the most terrifying ten seconds I have ever experienced.

So, trying to come up with a top ten was difficult for me. It’s a list of personal favourites, so you won’t find The Third Man or Casablanca on here I’m afraid. The trouble is that I love so many film endings and trying to whittle it down to a top ten is a difficult task. But any who, after much thought and deliberation I have come up with ten movie endings I love. Please don’t hurt me. Spoilers will obviously ensue so if you haven’t seen one of them, quickly scroll down to the next!

10) The Dark Knight

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My love for Christopher Nolan is no secret. Many consider The Dark Knight his crowning achievement and it isn’t difficult to see why. The film is packed full of memorable scenes and its powerful ending is amongst one of them. The stunning shot of Batman riding away into a tunnel of light has since become iconic. With Gary Oldman’s incredible monologue playing over a montage of images alongside Hans Zimmer’s gorgeous score, it’s impossible not to get the chills once “the dark knight” is said and then cuts to black. A perfect end to a perfect film.

9) Irreversible

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I’ll never forget the mixture of excitement and concern when I finally sat down to watch the notorious Irreversible. It’s often lauded as being one of the most disturbing films of all time with people often coming out of it in a state of trauma! That’s if they haven’t switched it off already after the dizzying camerawork and extreme bludgeon to the face in the first ten minutes. Irreversible is a total assault on the senses. For those who don’t know, it’s the tale of Vincent Cassel getting revenge on a man who raped his girlfriend. However, it’s told backward in a Memento style so perhaps this ending I speak of is technically the beginning? Oh well, it’s brilliant anyway and marvellously depressing. We see the couple loved up and totally unaware of the tragedy that’s about to face them. Monica lies on the grass with Beethoven’s symphony playing over. The camera spins in the most dizzying way until we’re hit by strobe lighting with the words “time destroys everything”. What a happy line to end on.

8) The Piano Teacher

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Michael Haneke has done a few masterpieces, but The Piano Teacher could very well be my favourite. It’s kind of like a good version of Fifty Shade of Grey. Isabelle Huppert (on electrifying form) eats up the scenery as an oppressed woman longing for an abusive relationship. She thinks she might’ve found one in one of her sexpot pupil’s, Walter Klemmer and cringe-inducing awkwardness ensues. The film ends in a shocking and powerful way. After being humiliated and raped by Walter, Erica goes to a concert hall where Walter is playing and sees him chatting up some girls. In a moment of total madness she pulls out a kitchen knife and stabs herself before walking calmly out of the doors. It’s such a haunting ending and most of it is down to Isabelle’s spellbinding wordless portrayal.

7) Requiem for a Dream

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I’m not sure what all these downbeat endings say about me, but I’m not a manic depressive, honest! Requiem for a Dream is manically depressing though. It’s the cinematic equivalent of a whisk being plunged into your heart. It also holds a crown for having one of the most miserable endings of all time. Our four heroes begin the film full of hope and dreams, however by the end of it we find them all at the lowest of the low with no suggestion of them ever escaping. After one of the most intense twenty minutes you’re ever likely to see, we’re treated to a tracking out of each character in bed and getting into the foetal position. All the while Clint Mansell’s legendary score plays in the most haunting fashion. The saddest part is seeing Ellen Burstyn’s character turn into a mental wreck before finally dreaming of being reunited with her son on the infomercial and in the red dress. If this doesn’t move you, then there’s no hope.

6) Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me

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This film is often seen as a misfire in the Lynchian canon, but for me it’s one of his best. It’s possibly the darkest film he has ever done and also one of the scariest. Instead of documenting the last seven days of cult icon, Laura Palmer, in a realistic police procedural way, David goes full on Lynch on us and presents her final days as a dizzying and haunting nightmare. It all leads up to the horrific train car murder full of flashing lights, screaming and BOB. After that eye-popping trauma we’re left with Laura sitting in the red room with Dale Cooper standing over her. She begins to cry as an angel hovers over her. Suddenly her cries turn into laughter. It’s such a haunting final image, but it’s also full of hope as Laura finally got her angel. Whenever someone mentions Twin Peaks, it’s this stunning image I immediately think of.

5) The Holy Mountain

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This is the film that actually inspired the list. I saw The Holy Mountain for the first time last week and was astounded by its ending. I thought to myself, ‘surely that’s one of the best endings of all time?’ and I honestly think it is! The entire film is full of the weirdest stuff you could ever imagine. It’s not just got the odd weird moment in it; the whole film is weird every second of the way, like Eraserhead. So the fact that it ends with such stark realism is jarring. The master (played by the director himself) sits our heroes down in a circle and reveals to them the grand secret of the holy mountain. “We began in a fairytale and we came to life, but is this life reality? No. It is a film! Zoom back camera.” The camera then zooms back to reveal the film crew. It ends with him saying “real life awaits us” as everyone walks away. It has to be the boldest breaking of the fourth wall ever! It’s so postmodern that it would give Bodger a heart attack.

4) Dancer in the Dark

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I said that Requiem for a Dream holds the crown for one of the most depressing endings ever. Well, if Requiem holds the crown, Dancer in the Dark wears it. Lars Von Trier’s shattering musical stars Icelandic oddball, Bjork as a simple penniless immigrant going blind and lifting the gloom by pretending her life is a musical. She ends up on death row for shooting a bastard cop and of course, Lars, the king of nihilism makes us witness the final hanging in all its hope-shredding glory. It’s probably the most traumatic scene I’ve ever witnessed on film with Bjork turning into a total wreck before singing a final song. The song is violently cut short as they pull the lever and her neck snaps. It’s executed in such a shocking and powerful way. Some curtains are shut (like the end of a stage musical perhaps?) and a quote comes up which basically tells the audience that they knew what was going to happen, so why did they sit through it? The camera then goes up and out of the ceiling just like Bjork described earlier in the film. It’s a beautifully tragic and agonising way to end.

3) Black Swan

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Here’s another offering from Darren Aronofsky. Black Swan is one hell of an intense experience. The whole schizophrenic fever dream of a film builds up to the final scene where Nina finally stops fighting her hallucinations and embraces them. It results in her giving (in the words of Rowetta) the greatest performance of her life. Her eyes go red and she even bursts out of her skin with giant swan wings. After a disagreement with rival Lily, in the interval (resulting in murder) she goes on stage to rapturous applause and takes her final bow. We see Nina with a giant bleeding hole in her stomach as she jumps down proclaiming that she “was perfect” before fading to white. God it’s exhilarating! The searing score helps a lot too. When the credits roll over the applause we can finally breathe a sigh of relief as we realise that Darren has just pulled off one of the very best films of all time.

2) There Will Be Blood

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Paul Thomas Anderson’s epic masterpiece tells the tale of Daniel Plainview, an oil man with a lot of ambition and greed. It’s a rag to riches story which is made profoundly ironic by its mesmerising third act. Daniel is basically insane, friendless and drunk (sounds like a description of me!) with contempt for everything in life, but he is rich. He’s very rich! He’s so rich that he even has a bowling alley in his mansion. It’s this bowling alley which will haunt you forever. Whenever I see a bowling alley, I immediately think back to this final scene and get an urge to stomp all over it shouting, “DRAAAIIIIINAGE!” which is why I’m barred from several bowling alleys in my area. The ending to There Will Be Blood features the greatest performance by any actor ever. It’s impossible to take your eyes off of Daniel Day Lewis as he goes ape at Eli before pounding his head in with a bowling pin. His butler potters in as Daniel speaks the immortal lines “I’m finished.” Thus, commanding the end of the film. That final image of Daniel crouching and eating his steak over Eli’s bloodied body has haunted me ever since.

1) The Cabin in the Woods

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Perhaps this is a controversial number one pick, but I think The Cabin in the Woods has to be my favourite ending to any film I’ve seen. If you’re not a passionate horror lover or hater then the joke of The Cabin in the Woods will likely go over your head. It’s a highly meta and unbelievably intelligent film which pokes fun at slasher movies and harshly criticises them in equal measure. Every slasher film seems dull in comparison to The Cabin in the Woods which is the ultimate slasher film. It begins in a world full of clichés we’ve seen ten gazillion times. A bunch of youngsters going out to an abandoned cabin blah blah blah. Which is why it is such a shock in the way the film ends. The first act is so grounded in reality compared to its absolutely loopy final act which sees the characters being part of some ludicrous conspiracy involving the end of the world. After witnessing an insane amount of glorious carnage, Sigourney Weaver makes a surprise cameo appearance as the mysterious ‘director’ of the mysterious underground research facility to reveal the big twist. Before we know it, we find out that the world is ending and our beloved Marty (the fool) must die otherwise the gods will rise. Sure enough a giant hand bursts through the ground and whacks us in the face. It has to be the most surprising ending ever to one of the most surprising films. Not only does it work on an entertaining level, but there’s so much deeper meaning to it about horror films in general if you’re willing to dig a little deeper.

So there we have it! Ten of my favourite endings. There are loads and loads of others which I would’ve loved to have included so please tell me your favourite movie endings. Also, please be kind to me in the comments 🙂

Brotherhood (2004)

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brotherhood poster Director: Je-kyu Kang Stars: Dong-gun Jang, Bin Won, Eun-ju Lee

Kicks Private Ryan’s arse!

When I slipped in the disc for Brotherhood I expected a really good war film. I didn’t expect to be sitting on the sofa with my eyes filled with tears by the end of it, and convinced that I’d just seen one of the very best war films ever. My love for Korean films is unabashed. Whilst Korean horror is what I go for most, I have also tried and loved some of their explosive thrillers like, The Man from Nowhere and A Bittersweet Life. War films aren’t really my thing though. My favourite war film is probably Inglorious Basterds, but even that isn’t really interested in showing us battle sequences. brotherhoods What’s fantastic about Brotherhood is that it puts its characters first. In fact, this is what the majority of Korean films tend to do and I think that’s the secret to their brilliance. With Brotherhood, I was gripped by every battle sequence because I cared about the people who were in them. It’s a real epic which spans across the entire length of the Korean War, as well as briefly showing us before and after events take place. If someone said to me ‘oh, this is a movie about the Korean War…’ I’d immediately switch off because war movies just don’t interest me. Brotherhood makes you interested right from the very start. The first half an hour is dedicated to events before the war. We see two fantastically likeable brothers who are devoted to their family. Some may find it overly sentimental, however for me it worked. I immediately cared about these characters and was totally gripped from when they’re whisked away to fight in the war. brotherhood The battle sequences are brilliantly intense to watch. The camera does shake a little too much for my liking, but it’s really not that much of a distraction. They’re intense because you care about what’s going to happen to the characters. When a comrade dies you almost feels as much pain as the other characters do. The special effects are also very convincing (apart from the shoddy CGI planes towards the end) and manage to put you right there in the firing line. What’s most interesting though is watching the two brothers slowly grow apart from each other. At its heart, Brotherhood is a tragedy. One brother turns into a cold-hearted and ruthless leader, whilst the other remains compassionate. This arc is done gradually and realistically throughout the film and it’s what keeps the film so emotional and absorbing. The ruthless brother could’ve easily come across as a caricature, but thanks to the fantastic writing and acting we’re left with convincing character development and remain involved with the character. Various shocking events unfold which have the power to move, however it’s the relentlessly melodramatic final twenty minutes which really hit hard. Again, many will find this finale too melodramatic and sentimental, but for me it totally worked.

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I’m not one to cry in films (the only ones I’ve shed tears for are Dancer in the Dark and Amour) however, there are several moments towards the end where I had tears REALLY filling up in my eyes. It’s incredibly emotional and ultimately powerful. Brotherhood isn’t a perfect film, but it’s a damn near one. I was never bored for a minute of its hefty 140 minute runtime. I cannot urge people enough to check this out, even if (like me) you aren’t into war films. At its core it’s a character-driven tragedy with the Korean War used as a mere backdrop. It’s ten times better than Saving Private Ryan and if you aren’t moved by the time it’s over then you truly do have a heart of stone. Brotherhood is a spectacular triumph which needs to be watched for its sheer emotional power. nine-out-of-ten

Dancer in the Dark (2000)

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Director: Lars Von Trier

Stars: Bjork, Catherine Deneuve, David Morse

Mamma Mia on Prozac

I should let you know that I’m not one to cry in movies. That’s not to say that I’m a hard-nosed bastard with no feelings, because of course I well up in many films including the opening of Up and the final third of Requiem for a Dream. However, no film had actually made me release tears until I saw Dancer in the Dark for the second time. Even on my first viewing I did not cry, I just felt very overwhelmed. I suppose once you know the tragic conclusion, it makes it all the more unbearable to watch. Last night I watched Dancer in the Dark for a third time and I cried again.

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I didn’t cry quite as much, but tears were still there and it still had that awful emotional wallop to the gut. Dancer in the Dark is one of those rare films which possess such a raw and intense emotional power. It could possibly be the most powerful film I have ever seen. I don’t know anyone who could just zap through the credits, pull the disc out of their DVD player and get on with their lives. Every time I see it, I stare into the credits and I’m haunted by the final shot for hours and hours. In fact, when I went to bed last night, I cried again just thinking about it.

Lars Von Trier is the definition of a love-it or hate-it director. The only film I haven’t liked of his is The Idiots, which is coincidentally part of his Golden Hearts Trilogy which includes this and Breaking the Waves, his other masterpiece. I’ve also loved Dogville and immensely admired his latest Depression Trilogy which features: Antichrist, Melancholia and Nymphomaniac. He’s been accused of creating films to shock for the sake of it, and whilst I do agree with that to some extent (did we really need that brief porn in Antichrist?) you can’t deny that his films are unlike any other. All are beautifully made and written to provoke thought and emotion.

Dancer in the Dark is Lars’ masterpiece. Yes, Breaking the Waves come close, but you just have to give the prize to Dancer for pure innovation. It opens with a sensational overture (written by Bjork) which is enough to make the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end. The story behind this overture is that Lars wanted the music to play whilst the curtains were shut over the screen, however he later realised that most movie theaters don’t have curtains anymore and so put images of paintings over the music instead. I think his initial idea was lovely, and would’ve worked perfectly well over a blank screen like the strange opening to 2001: A Space Odyssey.

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We then open to a brilliant piece of comedy where our hero Selma and her friend Cathy are in some rather dull rehearsals for an amateur production of The Sound of Music. This hilarious opening completely juxtaposes the devastating finale. In fact, most viewers forget just how funny the first twenty minutes are, as the ending just completely eclipses that. Lars uses the same Dogme style as he did for The Idiots and Breaking the Waves. It almost feels like a documentary, with the images looking far too natural and the performances feeling far too real. It allows us to truly immerse ourselves into Selma’s world, which of course makes the film all the more hard-hitting.

Talking of performances, Bjork’s is truly sensational. Who would’ve thought that a little Icelandic pop-goddess would be able to give Meryl Streep a run for her money! In fact, Bjork’s performance is more comparable to Emily Watson’s legendary debut in Breaking the Waves. It’s so raw, emotional and intense to watch. Bjork even said that she didn’t feel as if she was acting, she would go onto the set and become Selma. Surely that’s the mark of an incredibly talented actress? It’s a shame that Lars gave her such an awful experience that she never acted again. Bjork didn’t even want to do Dancer in the Dark, she agreed to write the music, but Lars blackmailed her into acting by saying that he wouldn’t use her music unless she played Selma.

Rumour has it that every morning on set Bjork would march up to Lars and say, ‘Mr Von Trier, I despise you,’ and then spit at his face! However, this is so difficult to believe as the character she plays is nothing like that. Selma is a kind-hearted and simple soul whose only goal in life is to earn enough money for her son to have an operation, to prevent him from going blind. It’s Selma’s kind nature which ultimately lands her in some truly heart-wrenching trouble.

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Of course, you mustn’t forget that Dancer in the Dark is in fact a musical! Selma is a musical enthusiast because ‘nothing dreadful ever happens.’ Obviously she isn’t a fan of Sweeney Todd, Les Mis or indeed the very musical she is starring in. The songs in the film are all fantastic; I even began liking Scatterheart on my third viewing, understanding that the lack of melody and structure perfectly mirrors the situation which Selma finds herself in. The musical numbers offer a fantastical escape from the dreary reality. The washed-out colours are now bright and vibrant. Extras awkwardly dance around and have unnaturally wide smiles. The musical numbers don’t fit with the tone of the film, and that is exactly the point!

It’s the ending which catapults Dancer in the Dark into masterpiece status though. It has images which will sear into your brain and will touch you in parts which you didn’t know could be touched! I’ve seen many depressing films, but this one takes the prize for the most depressing ending of all time. However, it’s also a genius way to end the film. I especially love the quote which superimposes the screen. It mirrors Selma’s early monologue where she describes cheating films by leaving after the second-to-last song so that the film will play on forever.

It’s easy to see why most people wouldn’t want to watch Dancer in the Dark a second time, let alone a third time like I did! However, I love films which take you on a journey. Films which have the power to physically move you are so rare, and experiencing emotion like this is really quite extraordinary. Dancer in the Dark is a magical masterpiece which must be experienced by everyone at least once. Lars has dabbled in pretty much every genre now: comedy (The Idiots), melodrama (Breaking the Waves), horror (Antichrist), sci-fi (Melancholia) and even porn (Nymphomaniac) however, it’s his contribution to the musical genre which he will be most cherished for.

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The Man From Nowhere (2010)

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Director: Jeong-beom Lee

Stars: Bin Won, Sae-ron Kim, Tae-hoon Kim

Seek this out somewhere!

I don’t want to bore you with a long list of Korean films I love, but it’s important for you to know that I love Korean films. My favourite is probably I Saw the Devil, so you can imagine my excitement when I sat down to watch The Man From Nowhere (I’ll call it The Man for short). With Korea’s incredible reputation in films The Man had a lot to live up to and it didn’t disappoint. The Man demonstrates why Korean film’s are so good in its opening half hour or so as it zooms in on a very touching (but not fake) relationship between a pawnshop man and a little girl who’s mother is a heroin addict and altogether bad mother! This relationship is so cockles-warming and cute you can’t help but be sucked into these characters.

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I would guess that the American remake (which will inevitably arrive) will feature a Mum with shelves full of ‘Mom of the Year’ awards and the man (I’ll call him the man as I’m quite bad at Korean names) will probably be a taintless guy who saves orphanages and adores kids. However it’s the character’s flaws that make them interesting, realistic and altogether more likable for it. The man isn’t the nicest person in the world, however he has great qualities and its enough to make the audience like him. It turns out that he becomes even more bad-ass than Liam Neeson and Bruce Willis put together!

I’ve heard this film being compared to Taken and Oldboy, but really this film is much, much better than Taken (and I loved Taken!) but not Oldboy, however it’s not that far off Oldboy’s greatness! But this just goes to show that foreign cinema is so much better than American (in the majority of cases) as Taken was even directed and written by a Frenchman! The Man however is superior in every way. Its narrative is more complex, and its characters are much stronger, and although it may not be as action-packed as Taken it certainly carries more of an emotional punch.

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I do really want to give The Man a 10/10 but I don’t think it’s right to. The plot did become overly complicated in some parts (especially with all the similar-looking faces) and there were some parts where I was just waiting for some more action to happen, but that’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy The Man because I did! At 2 hrs there’s rarely a moment where the film dies down. It’s a fantastic thrill ride which explores some typically dark avenues (it’s Korean!) and you can’t help but appreciate it for having the balls to do so.

There are also some incredible action sequences that are shot almost to perfection. The camera is extremely quick but never does it make you feel disorientated as to what is going on. These action scenes are more up to Ip Man standards, which if you haven’t seen Ip Man is very high! There’s a hugely entertaining and tense fight scene in the men’s toilets and it just leaves me wishing that there were more. However, The Man is so much more than just an action film. Its got a huge heart and brain to match! The directing is terrific and quite mesmerising at times. One stand out moment features a smash through a two-storey window all in one shot!

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All of this thrilling narrative culminates into a stupendously entertaining climax that almost feels as cool as Kill Bill! It’s an action extraveganzer (hard word to spell) full of incredible directing and superbly choreographed fight sequences with quite a bit of blood too! It’s a rip-roaring revenge rampage which is quite incredible to watch! The ending, however, is even more impressive. It’s quite simply one of the most touching endings I’ve ever seen with a great use of music that really pulls at the heart strings. I had chills, and those chills took a while to leave after the credits had rolled, as it just created such an emotional impact that is quite hard to top.

The Man is quite simply another Korean masterpiece. Its storyline might not be all that original but its characters and intricate plot points shoot it up into matching the greatness of The Chaser. The Man excels in its wonderful characters and huge heart. Yes some parts could’ve been simpler, but its a film I can’t wait to see again, which certainly can’t be a bad thing, can it? It rivals most American films and you’ll need the hardest heart in the world, not to be touched by the knock-out ending. A truly mesmerising film!

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