A movie log formerly known as Bookishness / By Charles Matthews

"Dazzled by so many and such marvelous inventions, the people of Macondo ... became indignant over the living images that the prosperous merchant Bruno Crespi projected in the theater with the lion-head ticket windows, for a character who had died and was buried in one film and for whose misfortune tears had been shed would reappear alive and transformed into an Arab in the next one. The audience, who had paid two cents apiece to share the difficulties of the actors, would not tolerate that outlandish fraud and they broke up the seats. The mayor, at the urging of Bruno Crespi, explained in a proclamation that the cinema was a machine of illusions that did not merit the emotional outbursts of the audience. With that discouraging explanation many ... decided not to return to the movies, considering that they already had too many troubles of their own to weep over the acted-out misfortunes of imaginary beings."
--Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

Thursday, April 12, 2018

The Babadook (Jennifer Kent, 2014)

Essie Davis and Noah Wiseman in The Babadook
Amelia: Essie Davis
Samuel: Noah Wiseman
Claire: Hayley McElhinney
Robbie: Daniel Henshall
Mrs. Roach: Barbara West
Oskar: Benjamin Winspear

Director: Jennifer Kent
Screenplay: Jennifer Kent
Cinematography: Radek Ladczuk
Production design: Alex Holmes
Film editing: Simon Njoo
Music: Jed Kurzel

As a horror movie, The Babadook often feels derivative and somewhat overloaded with shocks. But as a fable about the psychology of stress and grief, it's a remarkably effective film. There is more to Amelia, brilliantly played by Essie Davis, than just a victim of malevolence. She is a woman under stress, not only suffering the aftereffects of grief but also lost in a world with which she can't connect. Parenting is something one goes through alone, the film seems to be saying, and some of us, especially those cut adrift by the terrible accident that deprives Amelia of the support of her husband, are not fully equipped to handle the stress of a somewhat hyperactive child, an uncomprehending sister, a depressing workplace, unresponsive doctors, rigid schools, suspicious police, and bureaucratic social workers. The only person to whom Amelia has to turn is an elderly neighbor suffering from Parkinson's. I think Kent has loaded the dice against Amelia a bit too much if she wants us to take The Babadook seriously as a portrait of a parent in extremis, and I wish she hadn't staged her film in the cliché Old Dark House -- the horrors Amelia and Samuel encounter would have been even more telling if they'd appeared in a nondescript suburban home. But there's much to ponder in Kent's unsettling fable. 

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