Romy Shiller

Archive for November, 2011|Monthly archive page

3D Does Not Work My Buzz

In Film on November 25, 2011 at 4:43 pm

The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision.

 

 Helen Keller

 

I posted on Facebook that Titanic was being re-released in 3D and that 3D was overrated. “There has been much talk recently about a ‘3D revolution’. Millions flocked to cinemas to see 3D films such as Avatar and Alice in Wonderland.”

 

Several responses to my Facebook post included, “3D is ridiculous“The glasses don’t work well for those of us already wearing specs” and “the current obsession with 3D movies means that movie makers actually take 2D movies and artificially slice them into a series of displaced planes in 3D space so that they can sell them as 3D movies. Look at the movie “Avatar: The Last Airbender”… 2D movie modified a bit and masquerading as 3D. Either film it with a 3D camera and sell it as 3D or just call it what it is: a regular movie.”

 

An article called Is it Real 3D or Fake 3D? says, Many studios are “faking it” by converting 2D films into 3D post-production. Worse, the studios are not being upfront in their advertising, with some people feeling ripped-off after paying extra fees for the 3D Experience.” On Yahoo! Answers somebody said, “3D movies are horrible these days. I like my movies staying on the screen enticing me to see what happens next. Not get some headache on watching random things pop off the screen at me.”

 

According to a study of 400 filmgoers by L Mark Carrier, of California State University, 3D movies do not allow viewers to experience more intense emotional reactions, are no more immersive, and do not offer any advantage over their 2D counterparts in terms of enhancing the ability to recall a film’s details. Carrier’s study did, however, suggest that watching films in stereoscope increased threefold the risk of eyestrain, headache or trouble with vision.

 

I have wanted to write a piece about 3D for a very long time and now it seemed opportune. Many, many people do not like 3D but you would be hard-pressed to know it. Also, many viewers only see 2D – up to 12 percent. “According to British charity The Eyecare Trust, as many as 6 million Britons can’t properly process 3D images due to visual Impairment… See, as it turns out, you don’t have to be legally blind or Cyclops from X-Men to be part of the unlucky minority that’ll view future games, movies, and TV shows not in 3D, but as a blurred mess of reds, blues, and disappointment…” Films like Avatar, which deal with impairment, are not accessible to the impaired for a couple of weeks. This is so hypocritical to me I can’t even begin… “

 

“3D images can cause headaches and vision problems in a significant portion of the population.”

 

Half an hour after seeing the film Alice In Wonderland in 3D, Josh James blacked out on his way home and rolled his car. Could 3D have been to blame?

 

There are growing concerns about the side effects of the technology, with experts warning of altered vision, confusion, dizziness and even convulsions.

 

Josh himself needs no convincing that 3D was behind his accident.

 

Josh is an 18 year-old student. While watching the film, the 3D really bothered him. ‘I definitely think watching a 3D film played a major part, especially as I know other people who have had strange after-effects, too.’

 

 

 

Consumer electronic giants, such as Samsung, have issued several warnings relating to the consumption of 3D. For example last year, Samsung said that its 3D TV sets could trigger epileptic fits or cause ailments ranging from altered vision and dizziness to nausea, cramps, convulsions and involuntary movements such as eye or muscle twitching.

 

When I saw the last Harry Potter film [review] on DVD, it was obvious that being filmed in 3D produced a flawed visual aspect to the film now in 2D. “In what has to be one of the most candid and honest rants from a movie CEO in years, Universal chief Ron Meyer has revealed all about the rubbish films his company makes and how 3D can make some awful movies ‘palatable’…Meyer admits that a number of the movies Universal has made in recent years have been, er, below par – he cites Wolfman and Babe 2 – but believes that new-ish cinema gimmicks like 3D should be used with caution, even though they can improve bad films.” I guess ‘palatable’ is subjective. Anyhow, point taken – 3D makes bad films better.

 

I’m not sure (right!) but if I wanted my film to make money later as a rental, I’d make sure it was 2D. However, even 3D films on the big-screen have problems; “To put it bluntly, Mars Needs Moms has been a mega-flop. The film cost about $175m (£110m) to make and market – yet grossed less than $7m on its opening weekend in the US.”

 

Maybe filmmakers need an excuse to re-release their film on the big screen. For Cameron, 3D gives him a reason to re-release Titanic apparently. It seems kind of irresponsible to me:

 

 

 

As UC Berkeley’s Martin Banks said back last year to Tech Review, “In 3D…at a movie theater, or in another situation where the screen is at a great distance — objects that seem to recede behind the screen cause greater eyestrain. This holds true even for “glasses-free” 3D experiences, Banks tells Technology Review.

 

Frankly, 3D is a pain in the ass for many. “Many of us were like, 3-D movies are so cool, it’s gotta do something. It didn’t seem to enhance your memory at all. That’s an unfortunate implication.”  If seeing a film is supposed to be a pleasant diversion, in this case it is not.

 

In Time: Or, “What?”

In Film, review on November 18, 2011 at 1:05 pm

Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.

Mark Twain

Director: Andrew Niccol

Writer: Andrew Niccol

Stars: Justin Timberlake, Amanda Seyfried, Cillian Murphy

This film should be a rental. I think. Sorry but I’m conflicted. I couldn’t wait until it was over – yet, I can’t stop thinking about it. Maybe, I have an unconscious thing for Justin Timberlake. Who knows? A sci-fi thriller by the director of Gattaca, the author of The Truman Show …

Plot: In a future where people stop aging at 25, but are engineered to live only one more year, having the means to buy your way out of the situation is a shot at immortal youth. Here, Will Salas finds himself accused of murder and on the run with a hostage – a connection that becomes an important part of the way against the system.

In an anti-capitalist analogy, time replaces money, and only the very rich can become immortal. Justin Timberlake as Will Salas becomes a kind of Robin Hood – giving time from the rich to the poor.

There are intriguing ideas here. In the future (2161) people are genetically-engineered to stop aging at 25. They have one further year to live and if they don’t get more time, by working or stealing, they are programmed to die. Time is currency – a metaphor for money. People – rich people – can be immortal and look 25. In a culture obsessed with youth: gyms, diets, miracle products on the Home Shopping channel, there are ideas here that go way beyond the division of wealth or class systems. This film taps into and depends on our fear of aging.

Martin Roberts from Fan the Fire Magazine says, “There are some nice ideas thrown around, and the film works as an analogy (albeit it a heavy-handed one) for modern society’s staggeringly unjust division of wealth, but it aims to please the broadest audience possible and suffers for it.”

I googled “young-looking products” and got so many results that it’s mind-boggling. For example, a facelift site: “When we age, we lose youthful volume within our face and plastic surgery has traditionally taken the concept of reductive type procedures where things are taken away instead of added.”

Man, this film using a basic cultural phobia is problematic but probably smart and effective. The pay-off for the film is monetary success and mirroring the story, the film has a currency. The stars are young and bankable. The opening weekend the film made $12,050,368 (USA) (30 October 2011 – 3122 Screens).

A plagiarism suit has been filed but the story resonates with many films, such as Logan’s Run (1976). The suit filed is regarding the short-story “Repent Harlequin!” Said the Ticktockman by fiction writer Harlan Ellison.

The hot young bods of Justin Timberlake and Amanda Seyfried fan the flames of unrealistic desire. Evil or good, people are young – that is the constant. Because this is a movie, they are usually good looking too. So, ageless beauty – realistic if you are a vampire.

Will Salas (Justin Timberlake), a 28-year-old factory worker, is accused of murdering 105-year-old Henry Hamilton (Matt Bomer) and stealing his time but he’s a good guy – wrong place, wrong time deal. Hamilton’s body is found by the Timekeepers, who arrange for Timekeeper Raymond Leon (Cillian Murphy) to capture Will.  Salas runs, goes to rich-town or New Greenwich and is drawn to rich-girl and his hostage Sylvia Weis (Amanda Seyfried). Olivia Wilde plays Will Salas’ 50 year old mother. I’ll say that again; Olivia Wilde plays Will Salas’ mother. Ageless beauty personified. Good genes? A new definition of MILF? (The rumoured romance between Justin Timberlake and Olivia Wilde added an extra layer of stuff for me – very Oedipal, but anyways…) The story was cute and predictable but the elements around it made a bit of a twist. All of this, my analysis of the film, is in retrospect. During the film I was very ho-hum.

Justin Timberlake can act and I think that it is a very good thing he’s making a move into film. Aside from some interesting ideas there isn’t much of a story here. So one can act their butt off and still fall flat. He is accused of murder and on the run he takes a very rich girl as hostage. Of course they fall in love and want to save the world. Amanda Seyfried looks better as a blond – there, I said it. I don’t like her acting here. Olivia Wilde is fine but yawn – not her fault. Olivia Wilde is a very, nice, hot mom. Her role is miniscule and is a contrived set-up for her son’s behavior.

The aesthetic is retro and groovy to watch and because this is futuristic sci-fi, the move away from flying cars and shiny, metal suits is thoughtful and peasant: “Most of these influences are from the early 1960s to late 1970s, with a bit of 1980s thrown in. For instance, many vehicles used for the film are actually 1960s and 1970s models, but heavily modified to make them look futuristic. Furthermore, a lot of buildings, both interior and exteriors, display retro influences as well.”

Shaun Munro from What Culture! said, “In Time is half a good film – thoughtful, well-shot, and smart in places – and half a clunky, derivative, and at its worst, laughable one.” There is probably more to this film than meets the eye. Concluding this is a big surprise to me.

127 Hours

In Film, review on November 8, 2011 at 12:30 pm

(published March 20, 2011.)

I thought I was going to die.

Aron Ralston 

Director: Danny Boyle
Writers: Danny Boyle, Simon Beaufoy.
Stars: James Franco, Amber Tamblyn and Kate Mara

Nobody wanted me to watch this film. You see, I write about Aron Ralston in my book You Never Know: A Memoir (http://tinyurl.com/4v3mzxu). I am far from fragile, however. I basically say that I had a brain operation and went into a 5 month coma. As a result, I am disabled. I have written three books and countless articles with one bent finger. I am considered inspirational but I say that he is. This film was interesting to me because I wanted to see how this true story was captured on film. I hope to have my story on film one day too.

Aron Lee Ralston (born October 27, 1975) is an  American mountain climber and  public speaker. He gained fame in May 2003when, while canyoneering in  Utah, he was forced to  amputate his right  arm with a dull knife in order to free himself after his arm became trapped by a boulder.

The incident is documented in Ralston’s 2004  autobiography Between a Rock and a Hard Place, and is the subject of the 2010 film  127 Hours. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aron_Ralston)

I cried and felt like puking when I first saw it so I watched the film again with a commentary by Danny Boyle, on DVD. For me, the commentary was great. I found it relieving to hear about Danny Boyle’s attention to detail, his commitment to accuracy, and his esteem for Aron Ralston.

I am so tangled in this story because of my constructed relationship with Aron Ralston. I still don’t know if I cried for him or me. I cried and felt like puking again – not at the amputation scene but before – when he was trapped.

Aron Ralston compulsively filmed himself on a small video camera he had. What ends up in the film is pretty much verbatim. Now we are used to self-reporting in large part because of social-networking but at the time this was unique.

Franco said, “So with the voice messages, they were scripted but I felt like, maybe he didn’t believe this, but I think [Boyle] gave me the freedom to be a little loose with the words. The most important thing was that it would feel natural and because actually when we watched the real videos, one of the more powerful things about them is how simple it was and how direct and connected it was. To capture that, Danny I think allowed me some looseness but every once in a while there’d be a line in there and I’d say to myself, “I don’t know. I just won’t say that because it’s kind of stupid. Who talks like that?” Not even stupid, it’s just like completely unnecessary. Like “Give this video camera to my parents, be sure of that.” (http://www.moviesonline.ca/2010/10/danny-boyles-james-franco-interview-127-hours/)

I looked his stuff up on Youtube. It is quite limited because apparently he promised his mother not to share it.

The landscape is a character here. The film was shot in the actual location. Southern Utah. The canyon is breathtaking, vast, isolated and also lethal.  The shots have a huge range – helicopter perspective to hand-held tiny video camera. The canyon itself ranges in interest from the very big to the very small.

The film starts out with massive crowds which are a very nice contrast to the lone experience.  Before he gets trapped, the emphasis is on water because later on it becomes a big issue.

At first the frivolity and the excess of water is captured by a swim he has with two female hikers he meets. At the very beginning of the film he leaves a tap dripping. When he is trapped he fantasizes about the orange drink he has left in his car. He resorts to drinking his own urine. Boyle said, “Then [Franco] says the other great line when he drinks his urine, “Well, it’s not slurpee” or something like that. It’s very funny and that kind of thing is crucial in these circumstances, in hell really to have that spark of humor shows you life is still pulsing alive.”  (http://www.moviesonline.ca/2010/10/danny-boyles-james-franco-interview-127-hours/)

He is trapped in a dark crevasse. Sunlight shines in at a certain time of day in a spot close to him. He stretches out his foot to meet it. I will never regard sunlight the same way.

He hallucinates and has memories. Much of this action is placed in a triptych – the screen is divided into three parts. Not only is this stylistic but it indicates a shift, an altered perspective. I like that this style mirrors how fractured he is becoming.

Danny Boyle is best known for his work on films such as  Slumdog Millionaire,  28 Days Later,  Sunshineand  Trainspotting.  His direction here is brilliant. He also made sure not to give Franco more props than Ralston actually had. He was meticulous and trustworthy.

James Franco, was nominated for an Oscar for his portrayal of Aron Ralston. He absolutely captured the feeling, the terror or anguish. Amidst this desperate situation there was clear thinking and focus. Imagine thinking you are going to die and then deciding to cut your own arm off? James Franco did.

Franco said, “Some of the video messages are verbatim what he actually said. But our whole approach, not just for the video messages but in general was that we would honor Aron’s story and we would do everything that he did but also we wanted to have our own approach to it or have the latitude to just find things on our own. We did the chipping and everything as he did, but not like matching exactly what was his hand movement like?” (http://screencrave.com/2010-11-04/interview-james-franco-and-danny-boyle-for-127-hours/)

A review says, “[Danny Boyle] worked that magic memorably with Trainspotting (1996), about the dead-end lives of heroin addicts, and again with his Oscar-winning Slumdog Millionaire (2008), which dealt with grinding poverty.

In 127 Hours, he applies his alchemy once more, this time to the real-life survival tale of  Aron Ralston, the gutsy young hiker who cut off his arm to escape death after being pinned by a boulder for five days.” (http://www.cbc.ca/news/arts/film/story/2010/11/10/127-hours-review.html)

I still think that Aron Ralston is inspirational only now I have more detail. Not everyone will relate to this film but being tangled, I found it gut-wrenching. So should you see it? Well, it is a well-made film but if you are squeamish, I don’t know. I heard that people left the theatre and threw up. The film is not particularly gory but I found it disturbing. I saw it twice and I will see it again but I am not you.

Award info:

ACADEMY AWARDS:
Noms announced: Jan. 25th
Ceremony: Feb. 27th

Noms:
Best Picture
Best Actor, James Franco
Best Adapted Screenplay, Danny Boyle & Simon Beaufoy
Best Editing, Jon Harris
Best Score, A.R. Rahman
Best Song, “If I Rise”, A.R. Rahman, Rollo Armstrong, Dido

GOLDEN GLOBE AWARDS
Noms announced: Dec. 14th
Ceremony: Jan. 16th

Noms:
Best Actor, James Franco
Best Score, A.R. Rahman
Best Screenplay, Simon Beaufoy & Danny Boyle

BROADCAST FILM CRITICS ASSOCIATION CRITICS’ CHOICE MOVIE AWARDS
Noms announced:
Dec. 13th
Ceremony:
Jan. 14th

Noms:
Best Picture
Best Actor, James Franco
Best Director, Danny Boyle
Best Adapted Screenplay, Simon Beaufoy and Danny Boyle
Best Cinematography, Anthony Dod Mantle & Enrique Chediak
Best Editing, Jon Harris
Best Sound
Best Song, “If I Rise” performed by Dido and A.R. Rahman

INDEPENDENT SPIRIT AWARDS
Noms announced: Nov. 30th
Ceremony: Feb. 26th

Wins:
Best Male Lead, James Franco

Noms:
Best Feature
Best Director, Danny Boyle

SCREEN ACTORS GUILD AWARDS
Noms announced:
Dec. 16th
Ceremony:
Jan. 30th

Noms:
Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role, James Franco

BAFTAs (SHORTLIST NOMINATIONS)
Noms announced: Jan 7th (longlist), Jan 18th (shortlist)
Ceremony: Feb. 13th

Noms:
Outstanding British Film
Best Director, Danny Boyle
Best Actor, James Franco
Best Adapted Screenplay, Danny Boyle & Simon Beaufoy
Best Original Music, A.R. Rahman
Best Cinematography, Anthony Dod Mantle, Enrique Chediak
Best Editing, Jon Harris
Best Sound, Glenn Freemantle, Ian Tapp, Richard Pryke, Steven C Laneri, Douglas Cameron

BAFTAs (LONGLIST NOMINATIONS)
Noms announced: Jan 7th (longlist), Jan 18th (shortlist)
Ceremony: Feb. 13th

Best Film
Best Director, Danny Boyle
Best Actor, James Franco
Best Adapted Screenplay,Danny Boyle & Simon Beaufoy
Best Original Music, A.R. Rahman
Best Make-Up and Hair
Special Visual Effects
Best Sound
Best Editing
Best Production Design
Best Cinematography

PRODUCERS GUILD OF AMERICA AWARDS
Noms Announced: Jan. 4th
Ceremony: Feb. 5th

Noms:
The Darryl F. Zanuck Award for Outstanding Producer of Theatrical Motion Pictures, Danny Boyle & Christian Colson

WRITERS GUILD OF AMERICA AWARDS
Noms announced: Jan. 4th
Ceremony: Jan. 22nd

Noms:
Best Original Screenplay, Danny Boyle & Simon Beaufoy; Based on the book Between a Rock and a Hard Place by Aron Ralston

INTERNATIONAL PRESS ACADEMY SATELLITE AWARDS
Noms announced: Dec. 1st
Ceremony: Dec. 19th

Noms:
Motion Picture (Drama)
Director, Danny Boyle
Actor in a Motion Picture (Drama), James Franco
Screenplay (Adapted), Simon Beaufoy & Danny Boyle
Cinematography
Original Score
Original Song, “If I Rise”
Sound (Editing and Mixing)
Visual Effects

WASHINGTON AREA FILM CRITICS AWARDS
Announced:
Dec. 6th

Noms:
Best Film
Best Director, Danny Boyle
Best Actor, James Franco
Best Adapted Screenplay, Danny Boyle and Simon Beaufoy
Best Cinematography
Best Score

DETROIT FILM CRITICS SOCIETY AWARDS
Noms announced
: Dec. 10th
Winners announced: Dec. 16th

Wins:
Best Director, Danny Boyle

Noms:
Best Film
Best Actor, James Franco

HOUSTON FILM CRITICS SOCIETY AWARDS
Noms announced: Dec. 11th

Best Actor, James Franco
Best Director, Danny Boyle
Best Cinematography, Anthony Dod Mantle & Enrique Chediak
Best Original Score, A.R. Rahman
Best Original Song, “If I Rise”

AFI AWARDS
Announced: Dec. 12th

Wins:
Top Ten Most Oustanding Motion PIctures of 2010

NEW YORK FILM CRITICS ONLINE AWARDS
Announced: Dec. 12th

Wins:
Best Actor, James Franco

SOUTHEASTERN FILM CRITIC ASSOCIATION AWARDS
Announced:
Dec 13th

Wins:
Top Ten Films, 127 Hours

Runner-up:
Best Actor, James Franco

INDIANA FILM JOURNALISTS ASSOCIATION AWARDS
Announced:
Dec. 13th

Wins:
Best Film of the Year (Top Ten)

Runner-up:
Best Actor, James Franco
Original Vision Award

ST. LOUIS FILM CRITICS ASSOCIATION AWARDS
Noms announced:
Dec. 13th
Winners announced: Dec. 20th

Wins:
Best Actor, James Franco (runner-up)
Best Cinematography, Anthony Dod Mantle & Enrique Chediak (runner-up)
Special Merit Award (for best scene, cinematic technique or other memorable aspect or moment), In “127 Hours,” the zoom-up scene which begins with a tight shot on Aron (James Franco) as he is screaming and pulls out to a wide shot of a large land area, showing how isolated he was from other humans.

Noms:
Best Director, Danny Boyle
Best Adapted Screenplay, Simon Baufoy & Danny Boyle
Moving the Medium Forward Awards (for technical/artistic innovative that advances the medium)

PHOENIX  FILM CRITICS SOCIETY AWARDS
Noms announced:
Dec. 13th
Winners announced: Dec. 28th

Wins:
Top 10 Films of 2010

Best Picture
Best Director, Danny Boyle
Best Actor, James Franco
Best Editing

SAN DIEGO FILM CRITICS SOCIETY AWARDS
Noms announced: Dec. 13th

Best Director, Danny Boyle
Best Actor, James Franco
Best Cinematography, Anthony Dod Mantle & Enrique Chediak
Best Editing, Jon Harris
Best Score, A.R. Rahman

LAS VEGAS FILM CRITICS SOCIETY SIERRA AWARDS
Announced: Dec. 16th

Wins:
Best Actor, James Franco

CHICAGO FILM CRITICS ASSOCIATIONAWARDS
Noms announced: Dec. 17th

Best Actor, James Franco

LONDON CRITICS’ CIRCLE AWARDS
Noms announced: Dec. 21st
Ceremony: Feb. 10th

British Film of the Year
British Director of the Year, Danny Boyle

OKLAHOMA FILM CRITICS CIRCLE
Announced: Dec. 23rd

Wins:
#10 in the top 10 films

ONLINE FILM CRITICS SOCIETY AWARDS
Noms announced: Dec. 27th

Best Director, Danny Boyle
Best Lead Actor, James Franco
Best Adapted Screenplay, Danny Boyle & Simon Beaufoy
Best Cinematography, Anthony Dod Mantle & Enrique Chediak
Best Editing, Jon Harris

CENTRAL OHIO FILM CRITICS ASSOCIATION AWARDS
Noms announced:
Jan. 3rd
Wins announced: Jan. 7th

Wins:
#7 on Top Ten List
Best Actor, James Franco
Actor of the Year (for an exemplary body of work), James Franco

Noms:
Best Film
Best Director, Danny Boyle
Best Cinematography, Enrique Chediak and Anthony Dod Mantle
Best Adapted Screenplay, Danny Boyle and Simon Beaufoy
Best Score, A.R. Rahman

VANCOUVER FILM CRITICS CIRCLE NOMINATIONS
Noms announced: Jan. 4th

Best Actor, James Franco

ALLIANCE OF WOMEN FILM JOURNALISTS AWARDS
Noms announced:
Dec. 22

Best Screenplay, Adapted, Danny Boyle & Simon Beaufoy
Best Editing, John Harris
Best Film Music Or Score, A.R. Rahman

EDA SPECIAL MENTION AWARDS:
Unforgettable Moment Award, Aron Ralston (James Franco) cuts off his arm.
Bravest Performance Award, James Franco

ART DIRECTORS GUILD EXCELLENCE IN PRODUCTION DESIGN AWARDS
Noms announced:
Jan 5th

Best Art Direction in a Contemporary Film, Suttirat Larlarb

USC SCRIPTER AWARDS
Noms annouced:
Jan 5th

Noms:
Danny Boyle and Simon Beaufoy for 127 HOURS, adapted from mountain climber Aron Ralston’s autobiography Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Romy Shiller is a pop culture critic and holds a PhD in Drama from the University of Toronto. Her academic areas of concentration include film, gender performance, camp and critical thought. She lives in Montreal where she continues her writing. All books are available online

The Mission: A Commentary

In Film, review on November 3, 2011 at 7:46 am

(PUBLISHED February 23, 2011)

Adapt or perish, now as ever, is nature’s inexorable imperative.

H.G Wells

Director: Roland Joffé
Writer: Robert Bolt
Stars: Robert De Niro, Jeremy Irons and Ray McAnally

On Facebook, I posted as a status update that I was listening to the soundtrack of the film The Mission (1986). The first time I saw the film was several years after it came out. As I told Colin B., it was a warm June evening, I was outside in a park near a man-made lake. There was a special event which included an outdoor movie. A hot wind rustled the leaves on the trees around me. The air smelled of fresh-cut grass. My honey sat close to me on the bleachers. Yeah, it was a perfect moment – one that I’ll never forget – and perfect way to see this film.

Phil Edwards commented that it was a great film and soundtrack and a friend mentioned that, “For a society that predominantly self-identifies as ‘spiritual rather than religious’ this film nails that perplexing idea perfectly,” I decided to rent it. My surroundings were different but what a film!

Plot: 18th century Spanish Jesuits try to protect a remote South American Indian tribe in danger of falling under the rule of pro-slavery Portugal… Jeremy Irons plays a Spanish Jesuit who goes into the South American wilderness to build a mission in the hope of converting the Indians of the region. Robert De Niro plays a slave hunter who is converted and joins Irons in his mission. When Spain sells the colony to Portugal, they are forced to defend all they have built against the Portugese aggressors. (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0091530/)

Robert De Niro – need I say more? Maybe I do… Okay, Robert De Niro plays Rodrigo Mendoza who makes his living kidnapping natives and selling them to nearby plantations. He is a mercenary and slaver. His character development and transformation are just great.

“Robert De Niro was born to a lapsed Catholic father and an atheist mother who had been raised as a Presbyterian. His parents did not want him to be baptized into the Catholic Church, but his grandparents had him baptized as a Catholic when he was two years old. (His parents were in the middle of a divorce at the time, and he was living with his paternal grandparents.)

Although De Niro has famously portrayed a number of overtly Catholic characters on screen, and he apparently has publicly indicated that he considers himself Catholic, there is no indication that he has ever lived as a practicing Catholic.” (http://www.adherents.com/people/pd/Robert_DeNiro.html)

Jeremy Irons plays an adventurous Jesuit priest, tough but mild mannered Father Gabriel. As an actor in general, Irons is a force to be reckoned with – pairing him up with De Niro is brilliant.

The scenery is stunning. I’m a nature fanatic and I was very satisfied with the representation of nature. A waterfall and forest – Blissful.  A Jesuit Priest in the film says that the locale is a ‘Garden of Eden.’ Um, yeah. (Filming locations:  Cartagena, Bolívar, Colombia; Don Dieguito, Magdalena, Colombia; Fort Amherst, Chatham, Kent, England, UK; Iguazú National Park, Argentina; Iguazú Waterfalls, Misiones, Argentina; Iguaçu Falls, Parque Nacional do Iguaçu, Foz do Iguaçu, Paraná, Brazil; Iguaçu River, Paraná, Brazil; Paraná River, Argentina; Paraná River, BrazilParaná River, Paraguay.)

I find the water motif overwhelming – and that’s saying a lot, I assure you. Water is both lethal and beautiful in this film. Water is present in many forms; rain, lakes, mist, waterfalls…it can quench thirst or kill.

The music by Ennio Morricone – I own the soundtrack and listen to it to de-stress or on Sundays to mellow out. It has become an integral part of my life. I think that I’ll listen to it now – while writing this. Okay, it’s on now. Glad I thought of it. You know, I think that I’ll buy the DVD. I own films that are half as good.

There is so much to say about religion versus spirituality here. I like the dichotomy presented. The paradoxes are really well depicted. My friend Leslie Barcza (blog: http:// barczablog.com ) said, “Spirituality is the buzz around the Burning Bush, the aura Moses brought back from his visit to the mountaintop to get the 10 commandments; religion, in contrast, is the whole system, a sum of the commandments themselves and all the writings & teachings arising from the revelations.” The themes include good versus evil, rich versus poor, civilized versus not civilized…There are age-old dualities here but it feels new and refreshing in this film.

Many people use this film as a great example of unity where apparent discrepancy lies. Obviously, this expands beyond faith. “The Mission depicts the challenge of conscience that confronts us all in a world convulsed by power, greed, and violence. Its power lies in the way it convinces us that the fierce conflict-ridden world we see on the screen is similar to the one in which we live today. At the same time, The Mission is a deeply moving film that reminds us of the vitality of love and the transforming power of acts of conscience.(http://www.spiritualityandpractice.com/films/films.php?id=5042)

I read a review that said, “The story is based on real events, and the film rarely strays from telling the unembellished truth. The movie looks wonderful, with fabulous scenery shown off through outstanding cinematography. Robert De Niro and Jeremy Irons both turn in intense and convincing performances, supported by a cast that includes genuine Guarani Indians – descendants of those who experienced these events for real. Thoughtful, touching and with great emotional depth, the film makes its case without descending into sentimentality or clichés.” (http://movie-gazette.com/281/the-mission)

It does not matter what your faith is. I believe that as many people as possible should see this film.

Award info:

Academy Awards

BAFTA Film Awards

Cannes Film Festival

  •  Palme d’Or – Roland Joffé (won)
  • Technical Grand Prize – Roland Joffé (won)

Golden Globe Awards

Romy Shiller is a pop culture critic and holds a PhD in Drama from the University of Toronto. Her academic areas of concentration include film, gender performance, camp and critical thought. She lives in Montreal where she continues her writing. All books are available online.