Recommended for reflection on what it means to be in love, to be part of a modern family, to come of age in America. It is a tragic love story: love of country; love of familiy; romantic love. The film gets a bad deal from Rotten tomatoes. The mood of the film reminded me of a cross between Wim Wenders film Paris Texas and The Badlands. Laughter is light on the ground. The film’s humour is mainly situational and very subtle. Not recommended for people who want to have their films explicitly detail the key points or fast action, this film ferments well with thought and gently touches on modern life indirectly. For me this was a journey worth taking.
The scenes capture how I see much of North America. The suburbs, Freeways, colours, donuts, diners, telegraph poles, guns, power lines, paranoia, friendliness, loneliness, cynicism and optimism against an ever present sense of neglect, decay and madness. The sound track is provided by a single acoustic guitar and gentle male, or, female voice. It’s slow, like the pace of the film. The tune and singer fade in and out setting some peaceful, happy and sad moments.
Edward Norton’s character, Harlan, has short, clear, answers to every question. His uncomplicated answers have a romantic dream-like quality, you want to believe them, you want to believe he believes them. He’s straight-forward polite, respectful of others yet somehow niaive. He’s easy to love. He say’s he’s skilled in ranching. Was Harlan ever a cowboy? Is he pretending? Does it matter? He appears to be unemployable in any other skilled job. Harlen’s way of thinking and dialog is a treat throughout. One moment shot me. During his first swim in the Pacific Ocean he looks out towards the horizon:
that’s about as close to forever as I can imagine.
Sometimes its not clear if he lives in the real world or an idealistic fantasy, if he’s lost a grasp on reality, if he ever really had one.
Outstanding moments included:
- the conversation in the bath because of the innovative approach to filming, the dialog and set.
- Harlan’s visit to his parent’s home. No music. No speaking. The silence heightened the impact on me.
- Reflexism. Using a film set of western ‘My Darling Clementine’ to playfully create a western story within this western story. This provided temporary, subtle, light relief as the tension builds.
An extremely well constructed film in every technical level, acting, camera-work, lighting, script, direction etc. A classic, not popularist, film.