Sunday, 9 October 2011

tyrannosaur (w&d paddy considine)

There's a general rule of thumb which has been by and large honoured in this blog never to write about things which include or are created by friends of mine. There's a twin reason for this: the critic's perspective can be compromised when personal feelings are involved, and even if that's not necessarily true, there's also the risk of pissing people off. I don't know anyone who worked on Considine's film, but given the limited scale of the British film industry and the amount of players who have their fingers in this pie, you cannot help thinking that it might be impolitic to say what you really think about it. But anyway...

The acting is good, albeit good in that "grand acting" fashion which kind of declares as it goes though customs: 'actors at work'. Everything's slightly mannered; the quest for "truth" in the moment is so worn on the sleeve that there are times when the sleeve is all you can make out. But this is a film made by an actor which is all about the acting, and the actors deliver what's expected of them. Olivia Colman in particular succeeds in convincing in spite of the fact that her character is placed in a dramatic situation that's so wafer thin she's coaxing something out of a near empty tank.

Without wanting to give too much away, she's in an abusive marriage with a character whose name barely registers, played by Eddie Marsan. We know Marsan is not a nice man because he pisses on his wife when she's asleep. Not the most subtle of character notes. But one of the few we're given. Marsan is a borderline psychotic who practices his boxing skills on his wife, played by Colman. He's a really nasty man. Really nasty. Malevolent. A rapist. Who drives a red sports car. Who uses the word "wank". Who lives in a house with extremely bland furniture. He's, let's repeat this in case you, the audience, have missed it, a nasty piece of work.

At which point, you, the audience, might be inclined to ask some questions. Such as - why is Marsan so horrible? Why does his wife, Hannah, not go to someone for help? Why does no one take any notice of Hannah's repeated facial injuries (and has this just started or has it been going on since their marriage started)? If Marsan resembles any filmic character I can think of it's De Niro's in Cape Fear. Where Scorcese was deliberately playing with the idea of a B-Movie villain. But Marsan's character is not a B-Movie villain. Considine's film is in the tradition of British social realism. We're supposed to believe in these characters, this world, this desperate, caricatured grimness. When in fact all we're given are the tropes, the symbols, which, I would suggest, are themselves exploited in the name of 'art'. There's an argument that it's irresponsible to appropriate dramatic symbols (in this instance that of the abused wife, and the sheer quantity of stage make-up Colman has to bear almost becomes clownish) without making some attempt to address the actual origins of these dramatic symbols: ie Marsan's psychosis. It's using the semiotics of real suffering for dramatic ends; because there's nothing real about any of this. And with its emphasis on the 'authenticity' of the acting, the film is almost screaming at the audience that this is 'real'.

So there it is. Another British movie about how grim life is on the supposed hard edge of our society. So far as I'm concerned it wouldn't matter if every movie made in the UK dealt with his theme, if only it were done with a sense of truth and love. Gary Oldman is thanked in the credits. So many films have been made in the shadow of Nil By Mouth, and all of them, this film included, merely come across as pale imitations.

No comments: