Sunday, June 22, 2008

No heroes weekend

AOG, Madrid

This week in Madrid a couple of movies are making the rounds: The Happening and The Mist. Both are apocalyptic and, in their own way, a reflection of the fears society makes for itself these post 9-11 days.

I saw the first one of them on Friday night because there were no tickets left for Sex and the City, the movie. So I compromised and went for what appeared like a thriller.

And I saw the second one on Saturday night because the movie projector broke down and no one got to see Sex and the City, the movie. It was 23:30 at night and I was in a movie mood, so I went to another film theater nearby and, at 00:40, went to see The Mist.

I won't give any plot away, but I do think that both movies share a common theme: neither has a hero- or at least not in the Hollywood sense. Events overtake the characters and the protagonists and there is little they can do to change them. Much like it would happen in real life.

In The Happening, directed by M. Night Shyamalan
, the events which change the character's lives are too abstract to fully understand, even at the end of the film.

You are left wondering what happened, just as you are left wondering who cast Mark Wahlberg as the lead.

Much has been said about his heterosexuality, but in this film, unexplainable apocalypse aside, I kept thinking he was having an affair with John Leguizamo. Or with some other guy. And if that had been the case, it would have been ok. But it is not the case.

Instead, we are meant to believe he is a happy heterosexual who just happens to dress like a 22 year old disco bunny eventhough he is well in his 30s. The character is very well written, but Wahlberg just naively plods along, there is no intellectual depth. It was like drama 101. He wants you to like him, and you do like him, you just can't take him seriously as an actor. I wonder if he acted like that on purpose. Everyone in the audience, certainly the people next to me on isle 5, were laughing at his performance.

The other film, The Mist, is proper Old School apocalypse. Though with a twist. The acting is better than The Happening's, even if the events rock back and forth from the sublime to the ridiculous and back again. There are times when you stop suspending your disbelief, and others when you buy all that is on offer. The ending, however, has to be seen to be believed. The movie itself is a bit like Lord of the Flies. Society is what it is until things go slightly awry, then we all turn into barbarians. This movie certainly shows you how quickly we turn, and it does so semi-believably. Until the ending, which, is quite human, but also quite odd. I won't go into the acting but Thomas Jane does the best he can given the script.

The film is based on a short novella written by Stephen King back in 1980. This version, 27 years later, is perhaps quite in tune with concurrent global disaster thinking: that there is little we can do.

That no one is coming to save us because such things don't really happen. True or untrue, both films take a no-clear-hero approach. Things happen, and people survive, or not, through sheer chance. Both films reflect current fears in Western society.

I wonder if this is a new trend in movies? The human-all-too-human approach.

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