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Old February 4 2012, 03:37 PM   #184
stj
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Re: Movies Seen in 2012

Courtesy of Netflix streaming, War Zone. We are instructed that the auteur theory is dead, but per the usual practice we will only speak of length of the director, one Tim Roth, with only a sentence about any others.

The blurb and categorization led me to believe this was a thriller about a teen finding his sister and father had a sinister pact aimed against his pregnant mother. The mother's water breaks very soon, and, after a car crash caused by the distraction of the brother and sister standing up in the back seat, torsos and heads through the sunroof, wildly waving their arms, gives birth. In other words, the blurb is misleading about the movie.

Tim Roth screwed the sound royally, much of the dialogue being inaudible and/or garbled by background noise (as well as natural English accents being hard for US ears.) This is especially true of the father's many business calls. I suspect Mr. Roth deemed the question of what kind of business the father did was irrelevant to the story.

The father is played by Ray Winstone, the mother by Tilda Swinton. Ms Swinton bravely displays her large breasts and postnatal belly. The daughter gets to display her breasts and pubis, repeatedly. We get a short display of Mr. Winstone's genitals. The brother of course is deeply attached to his boxer shorts and does not share the rest of the family's casual attitude to nudity en famille. I suppose this is supposed to be significant for his character, whose virginity seems to be a source of distress for his sister, who even tries to set him up with her girlfriend. Her breasts we also get to see, of course. Naturally, the sister is overworked what with a girlfriend, a boyfriend and dear old Dad and spends the overwhelming majority of the movie weeping or red-eyed.

One has to dwell on the nudity because otherwise there is very little else to see. There's lots of rain. The light is washed out. Indeed, the lighting is so poor, at all times and in all places, that one cannot be certain the spots on the brother's face really are acne. This is actually important, because not only does he have a man's full growth, which can happen early of course. But otherwise, the actor playing the baby brother (called such in the film!) could be doing post-graduate work in film studies.

Roth leaves most family connections out of the film Tilda Swinton has very little to do other than put on breast cream and gaze adoringly at her baby. There isn't even any comment on the car accident that could have killed them all! Roth leaves the camera static much of the time. He rarely cuts from one shot to another to give us a clue as to the character's emotional reaction. When there is an extended closeup, for instance, there is rarely any shift from the actor in the frame to see the other actor's reaction. There is a larger number of full body and mid body shots than is usual. Settings are rarely revealed, interestingly. There is a beach and there is a seaside cliff, complete with abandoned pillbox fortification and there is some sort of moor and some sort of bar and some sort of hospital but no one could possibly figure out how these things are related to each other.

Strikingly, when the brother throws away his video camera he just used to film his father performing anal sex, Roth refuses to pull back the camera enough to see clearly that the boy has thrown his camera off the cliff. This act is in fact the only clue I had that he was at the cliff's edge!

If the brother's age is only crudely suggested, the sister's is completely indeterminate. She drinks, she has a girlfriend she can ask to screw her brother (although for some reason she changes her mind,) she spends the night on the beach with her boyfriend in defiance of curfew. Why she's still under her father's thumb is completely mysterious. This appears to be the "point" Roth is making, or at least, thinks he's making, that human motivations are completely mysterious. This is an extreme thesis, supported largely by movies like this that withhold information about the characters.

What the movie's story says is that casual nudity in the home leads to incest and that only a virgin can sit in judgment and redeem the soiled victims of incest by sacrificial blood. This sound grotesque when spelled out but it is the only thing that is actually on screen for us. I'm afraid I think Tim Roth was really more enthralled with the extensive female nudity and the hints of brother/sister incest than any serious subject.

The movie was based on a novel by Alexander Stuart as I remember and may actually have been about how a father could establish a mysterious ascendancy over a daughter. Or it may has just been lurid hokum. Can't tell from this flick, primarily created by Tim Roth.
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