Three films registered today and I knew these Bank Holidays would come in useful for something!
Along with yesterdays French viewing of ‘The Diving Bell and the Butterfly’ today consisted of Danish and Swedish films, so it seems I was taken on a tour of Europe with the challenge, shame it wasn’t a real holiday, because I need one!
75 / 365 – ‘Festen’ (1998) – 105 mins
IMDb Challenge #43 / 250 – Ranked #223 – Via iTunes
In the Danish summer guests arrive at a magnificent old hotel for the 60th birthday celebration of Helge Klingenfeldt (Henning Moritzen). Present are his loyal wife Elsa (Birthe Neumann), daughter Helene (Paprika Steen) and sons Christian (Ulrich Thomsen) and Michael (Thomas Bo Larsen), who arrives uninvited after failing to attend the funeral of Christian’s twin, Linda, who committed suicide. As the evening progresses, a dark family secret is spilled. The effect is explosive and sets the tone for a ‘celebration’ no-one will forget.
If there’s one thing that can be said upon my first viewing of ‘Festen’ there are certainly no likeable traits on display here, it’s as heavy and dark as a story you can get. Hailed as the first ‘Dogme’ film, which is a filmmaking movement started in 1995 by the Danish directors Lars Von Trier and Thomas Vinterberg (Festen, director) this style of filmmaking only permits the following rules, to name a few:- only hand-held cameras can be used, all filming must be done on location and no special effects. This reunion story of this beyond dysfunctional family, (their just completely disturbed) unfolds in dark comical fashion, with its memorable characters; we have the complete head-case and racist of a brother Michael, Christian the quiet son who as this haunted-but-determined look in his eyes, before dropping this bleakest of family secret into his dinner speech.
If you are looking for escapism in a movie, then look elsewhere, if your’e looking for compelling and truthful human drama with unpredictable and ferocity to shock tones, ‘Festen’ is recommended viewing.
76 / 365 – ‘Fanny and Alexander’ (1982) – 188 mins
IMDb Challenge #44 / 250 – Ranked #213 – Via DVD collection
The title characters are children in the exuberant and colorful Ekdahl household in a Swedish town early in the twentieth century. Their parents, Oscar and Emilie, are the director and the leading lady of the local theatre company. Oscar’s mother and brother are its chief patrons. After Oscar’s early death, his widow marries the bishop and moves with her children to his austere and forbidding chancery. The children are immediately miserable.
With only its exquisite costume and set design, for which it would Academy Awards for along with Cinematography and Best Foreign Language Film there isn’t much I could give Fanny and Alexander credit for. There are long periods of staticness within its characters, where this upper-middle class family is sheltered by their own theatrics of the deepening outside world, ultimately there is a large degree of self-indulgence on display here.
Often paraded about by critics as Ingmar Bergman’s personal and finest masterpiece, his swan song – to me this was to be displayed earlier in his career, with 1957 ‘The Seventh Seal’ which I ultimately looking forward to enjoying again on this quest.
77 / 365 – ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?’ (1966) – 131 mins
IMDb Challenge #45 / 250 – Ranked #207 – Via DVD collection
Martha (Elizabeth Taylor) and George (Richard Burton) are far from an ideal married couple, they pick at each other incessantly as they loudly argue and fight over anything and everything as the alcohol flows. She is the daughter of the president of the college that employs her boozing history professor husband, which is obviously one source of conflict. They wear their past (together) and their emotions on their sleeves for all to see, including in front of a young faculty couple, Nick (George Segal) and Honey (Sandy Dennis), who they’ve invited home after a campus party. As the four drink the night away, George and Martha’s secrets (especially one about “their son”) are painfully relived such that Nick and Honey get drawn in; they then focus on their own past and shortcomings, promptly some uncomfortable revelations for themselves.
Adapted from Edward Albee’s play and only touting four main actors for the majority of the film, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf plot is deceptively simple in its concept – a brilliant and vivid portrayal of character assassination. Nominated for an incredible thirteen Academy Awards in 1966, it walked away with five Best Actress (Elizabeth Taylor), Best Supporting Actress (Sandy Dennis), Best B/W Cinematography (Haskell Wexler), Best Art Direction and Best Costume Design. The other eight nominations included Best Picture, Best Actor (Richard Burton), Best Supporting Actor (George Segal), Best Director (Mike Nichols), Best Screenplay (Ernest Lehman), Best Sound, Best Original Music Score, and Best Film Editing.
Performance wise it really Taylor’s and Burton’s show as they display a crazily intense chemistry (which would make for their unique love they held for each other off-screen) every time Martha relentlessly goes for Georges jugular, there’s also no denying Taylor’s powerful sense of magnetism on display here every time the camera lingers upon her.
Everything in ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?’ is a triumph, deeply complex characters, beautiful jagged edge dialogue – It will become a time capsule of a film for generations to enjoy.