Saturday, September 19, 2009


Free Image Hosting at

Why do we watch Lars von Trier’s movies? We know for a fact that Lars never compromises for our sake. We know by experience that Lars’s films can affect our minds in ways that could leverage psychosis. We even know, while watching his overture-style openings that we might very soon be led down a rabbit-hole of despair and psychotic agony. Why oh why then do we keep coming back to you for more, Lars? Is it because we love the way you taunt us? Or maybe the methodical step-by-step de-stabilization of our feelings feels sublime when witnessed by us through your lens. Could be so. Or perhaps our sub-conscious mind reaches out to yours through your gorgeous nightmares, your meticulous graffiti that toys with the basic boundaries of our perceptions, walled by our emotions. You first chip away at our instincts. Then you hack away at the emotions beneath them. You expose that vulnerable side of our sensibility; drag it out onto the dirt, beat it into putty and then use it as a palette for your mad, beautiful visions of despair. And Lars, damn you, you enigmatic bastard, you’ve just done it again. I’m awed.

For those new to the artistic vision of this Danish genius, most of the reviews that this movie (or any of Lars’ for that matter) is generating could be well…. misleading could be an understatement. Lars von Trier’s movies are meant to provoke and taunt you. Subtlety is a sin. Emotions of the most powerfully affecting nature are stripped off all cinematic sentimentality and thrown at you. You simply HAVE to involve yourself with his films. Probably the reason why his movies are best watched in seclusion. You’d either love his movies to the point where it gets so personal that an off hand remark by someone else could leave you completely unhinged, or yes.. turn violent, find a gun (or buy one) and shoot that screen in front of you. Average reviews in this regard could very well be considered impossible, or even stupid.

So bare is the essence of Antichrist that Lars von Trier carries the whole movie solely (and literally) on his modern anti-theological versions of Adam, Eve and Eden. We see them locked in passionate intimacy while their child dies (this, being filmed in a brilliant five minute black & white sequence that redefines cinematography). We also see them do unimaginable and inconceivable things to each other; things that could make us question the very essence of their sanity. Yet in my opinion, I’ve never seen a screen couple that could emote so much love and so much grief. Charlotte Gainsborough and Williem Dafoe literally carry the movie on themselves and their brilliant body language. I’m at a loss for words to laud these brilliant actors, especially Charlotte.

Lars von Trier usually bases his work around a focal suffering female character. In Breaking the Waves, Emily Watson stars as a woman whose husband becomes paralyzed and encourages her to sleep with other men; in ‘Dogville,’ Nicole Kidman’s character is raped and enslaved; and in ‘Dancer in the Dark,’ Bjork plays a woman who is slowly going blind and eventually falsely accused of a crime she did not commit. Similarly, Charlotte here is the grieving mother of a dead child who falls to its death at exactly the same moment when she’s in the throes of ecstasy with her husband. She firmly attaches herself to the belief that she is somehow responsible for her child’s death. Her intense grief turns her despair upon herself. Her therapist-husband convinces her against taking medication, claiming that the doctors just want to keep her drugged. Grief is not a disease, he tells her. He then takes it upon himself to help his wife. Ethical questions are raised here in the form of His monstrous ego. He seeks out her fears through a series of psychic sessions and constructs a fear-pyramid. She reveals to him that she has nightmares about their forest cabin, the reason for which unfolds later. In an act of “confronting one’s fear” He decides to bring her to the woods and treat her. This is where nature comes in. It takes over both of them and wreaks havoc on both of their fears and perversions.

Towards the final chapter of the movie, we see that the cycle of nature is complete in its reprisal of its role as Eden. Instead of Adam and Eve discovering evil, by consuming the fruit of Eden, Eden brings about evil by consuming the fears of him and her. This is where many critics have argued about the misogynic attitude of the film. It’s actually the opposite. The female character simply embraces the evil that she believes women are capable of, seeming to reiterate the prejudices of the material she’s been researching.

In the epilogue, we see Him consuming berries while a horde of faceless women climb up, towards him. The scene could be interpreted in a dozen ways, depending on the way you look at the film as a whole. For example, why use black and white for the prologue and epilogue? Why does a fox wear a bell? Who are the other women? Are they moving past Him or converging on him? Why are the baby’s playthings tied to balloons? Could the symbol of the female sex in the poster’s lettering suggest something? The questions, if posted here could only spoil the movie for those who haven’t watched it.

Of course, my interpretation of the movie could be wrong. Von Trier himself states in this interview that the work on the script did not follow his usual modus operandi. Scenes were added for no reason. Images were composed free of logic or dramatic thinking. They often came from dreams he was having at the time (of his depression), or dreams he’d had earlier in his life.

I’ve witnessed such powerful symbolism, till now only in Korean films by Kim-Ki-Duk and Luis Bunel. Lars von Trier along with his cinematographer, Anthony Dod Mantle (Slumdog Millionaire) has created a surreal, shocking masterpiece of art. I’ve said the same thing about Dancer in the Dark, and I’ll say it again for Antichrist: It’s a profoundly beautiful film. It is unfathomable to me that anything else will wreak such transcendent cinematic havoc for a long time to come. And if there is indeed a wreak, there is no seemingly capable person to do it other that Lars himself.

By Fazil (at
To view the original article, click here

Cannes: Antichrist
Roger Ebert: Antichrist: Devil's Advocate

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Black Friday

Calling Black Friday a bollywood film is possibly the worst possible remark you could make on a film that kicks open so many manholes on the tarmac of this dirt-road that's become of the Indian judicial system. Black Friday never made it to many theaters in India. But thanks to a bunch of movie critics, people like Anurag Kashyap who are passionate about film making, people who elevate it's status beyond that of plain simple entertaiment slash art included 'power' in its definition, and the Locarno International Film Festival, Black Friday reaches out to people like me three years after it was 'released', touches my heart, caresses it, toys it with some pitch black humour, then ceaslessly sticks needles in it and makes it bleed in agony.

I'm not a mumbaiite, haven't even visited the city. But there's so much I hear everyday about 'the city that never sleeps' of this part of the world, in every form of human communiqe possible. Media used in a loosely generalized term could be just one of them. When people refer to it as the cultural heart of india, I sometimes begin to think of it in literal terms. So literally in fact that a pinch of that heart might spew something so basic and human on your face. That definetly is not human blood. And I'm talking about enough whatever it is that floods the entire nation's capitals, inundate it's roads, turn corporate offices and government buildings, legislative assemblies and courts of justice, slums and prisons into swamps of humanity. Messed up, fucked up and jinxed, but amoebiac, and rolling along like a huge, crazy, magnetic juggernaut that draws everyone and everything in it's path towards that heart. Everyone is affected by something in it, rather than something in it affecting everyone. And that's exactly what turns it into that juggernaut fuelled by crazy cosmos. And those who we see in this film are definitely not a part of that. Or atleast, I pray they shouldn't be.

Black Friday's prologue is an interrogation sequence that's subtly hilarious at first. As the detainee begins to blabber something in disjointed sentences, you find yourself horrified at the fact that you know what he's blabbering about. You suddenly begin to understand very clearly what the policeman is seemingly incapable of understanding. Naturally he considers all this nonsense and continues beating him, while we whisper to ourselves 'holy shit, why doesn't the motherfucker listen?'. The following scene is the scene of the blasts moments before the blood pours. Things seems so normal like as if you're watching 1993 Bombay through a CCTV camera panning these important places. The stuff that you see is every day's happenstance. The more you feel the normalcy, the more you get nervous. You know whats going to happen, because youre safe and comfortable in the future tense of this moment. You wait for it to happen, not wanting to be surprised but it succeeds in catching you unawares. A truly frightening moment in Indian cinema. And when it happens, a small part of you feels a sense of relief, while the bigger you cringes and sighs. Black Friday has descended upon Bombay. It's one-thirty in the afternoon, on the 12th of March, 1993. Curtains raise. Fire-extinguisher ready at hand, caution please.

Anurag has cleverly divided his film into chapters, as done in the book (by Husseini Zaidi) on which the movie is based. The labyrinthine police investigation, if treated in any other way could have otherwise started to feel dull, drab and dis-interesting to a movie audience more attuned to heroes, heroines, villians, fights and songs. Kashyap has just made it easier for you to digest the foaming truth. Clues, apprehensions, interrogations and confessions.. it's a huge bloody dossier by the time you re-witness the blasts towards the end of the film in a haunting epilogue. And to lovingly strip that dossier off any bureaucratic wrapper, there are the character portrayals that can challenge even the best performances of our very own, ridiculous, boringly annual film-fare awardees.

First there is Kay Kay as Inspector Rakesh Maria. He ain't your typical goody-goody-policewallah. Yet, he achieves what his role was intended for. Pressure. He makes the audience reel under the burden placed on his shoulders. So much that you feel like slapping that female journalist who glibly challenges him with human rights violation against the detainees in an interview.

Then there are Aditya Srivastava and Pawan Malhotra who portray Badshah Khan and the underworld don Tiger Memon (Spelled as Tiger Menon in the DVD for 'legal' purposes). At the beginning both these men infuse so much wrath into their characters, you begin to question after a while, the very essence of their humanity. You feel repulsed at the very notion of coming within proximity of these people. They then open their hearts out to you. You now touch your forehead and feel stupid for judging people with your conceptions. That's the purpose of these characters. Make the audience see what exactly is that which makes these people take that eye for an eye.

And finally, there is Vijay Maurya. Ah, if only there could be another film about the blasts, with a more surreal, hypothetical ending, I'd cast him as the feared Dawood Ibrahim once again and have him caned on-screen for every life the real don has cost us. Atleast that could be an empty, but visual treat for everybody. That is, in case the man himself dies a peaceful death without any remorse, far away from the eyes of the Indian judicial system. That's the effect Mr. Vijay has on you. He has a screen-time of less than five minutes. And in those minutes, you feel scared of him. You feel angry at him. You are horrifyingly awed by his power of prescence. And your body freezes as you realize the terror he so coolly, and precisely orchestrates over innocent human lives, all this a meagre by-product of the deadly commerce he indulges in. Snap. Just like that.

The camerawork is grainy, and efforts have been made to give the '90s Bombay' look to today's Mumbai. The interrogation scenes in fluorescent red gives an eerie, uneasy feel. The chase sequences are downright brilliant. If you've marveled at Danny Boyle's opening slum-roller-roaster ride at the beginning of Slumdog Millionaire, know now that those scenes were bases upon the 12-minute police chase through the crowded Dharavi slum that gets both hilarious and exhausting. That's because you're meant to feel exhausted. The film has no songs but is still as long as your everyday Hindi film. The pacing is fantastic though. Kashyap's direction, his witty lines, puns and his basic, obvious intention spews honesty for his work. He's proud of what he does, and why not?

The indian cinema industry holds an annual farce fete called the Indian Filmfare awards. They have curious categories of awards like Best Action, Best Dialogue, Best Scene of the Year, Best Story and of course, alongside all this, an entirely unique category: Best Screenplay. Beats me, who the fuck started this all shit. Not that I really care for these awards, but the amount of recognition and money it garners for movies that could be churned out of a rickety roadside potter's wheel of clay. All that is denied for movies like Black Friday. I mean, for example if Aditya Srivastava was ever nominated for his performance, god bless him, he probably wouldn't have won even if he wore a tux sewn out of currency notes. It's because of the fact that the very people who we witness in this movie, still rule is land, or rather whats underneath that.. with fists of iron.

Thankfully, less polluted lands like Cannes and Venice choose to honour people like Mr. Kashyap in their recognition of quality film making. Kashyap was a member of the jury at the Venice Film Festival in 2004 and once again this year.

By Fazil []

Wednesday, September 09, 2009


Underground is a 1995 Yugoslavian film by bosnian Emir Kusturica. It won the golden palm at the 1995 Cannes Film Festival. Here is my take on the movie: Firstly, if you look at the original title of the script (done by Kovacevic, NOT Kusturica) which is also given as the opening sequence line, you see that it is an allegory (the title is Once Upon A Time There Was A Country), so I don't see the point of calling the film historically wrong... It was never meant to be historically right, otherwise it would have to leave out all the consequent exaggerations so typical of Kusturica - the length of time spent in the basement, the more theatrical than movie-like acting, the visual motives and so on. This maybe a bit difficult to accept as there are some documentary sequences in there, but I see it more of a context building element than an attempt to mislead the viewer about Yugoslav history.

Secondly, people seem to like the first third of the movie for its humorous elements and I guess because they can follow the plot easily (the whole WW2 theme in the exposition, I must admit, I enjoyed as well)... The second third starts as the Allies bomb Belgrade and kill more than the Nazis did 4 years before that, so maybe the Western people are inclined to disagree with the rest based on this line, I don't know...

Thirdly, I don't see where the Serbian propaganda element kicks in ... If you think the documentary sequences of Slovenia and Croatia welcoming the Germans with glee, and Serbia fiendishly being left out, is done purposefully for slandering the Croats and Slovenes, I hate to disappoint you, but Serbia saw no such celebration, so there is nothing of that kind to show... Instead the plot balances this out as it is set in Belgrade, where the supposed wartime "heroes" of the story (never ethnically identified as Serbs) collaborate with the occupation forces when they have a personal interest in doing so, and vice versa. Again, historically there were antifascist elements throughout Yugoslavia, but it's also a fact that Croatia became a fascist independent state at the time.

Somebody mentioned the Muslim element as being totally absent, and I agree with that to an extent, but Kovacevic's novel was finished in early 1991, before the war in Bosnia escalated into what we now know. And, besides, Muslims were not considered a nation but a religious group until the end of WW2, and since there is no mention of the Caholic or Orthodox church in the movie, I don't see why there should be mention of Muslims.

I understand most Wasterners consider communism to be the Soviet kind everywhere, but I saw this movie as a commentary remark on the inequality of the proclaimed and the apparent, not of communism or Yugoslav socialism, or any -ism for that matter. Petar Popara is proclaimed an electrician, Marko Dren a poet, neither one a real politician, but both of them high ranking communists. They are petty criminals before the war who only get into the party ranks to continue their criminal activities when the war starts. Marko, the educated one, continues his criminal activities by using slave labor of the basement inhabitants to make and traffic guns after the war. He is a typical opportunist since he does this for personal gain, lies to the wretched people below that they have to do it for the war effort, and keeps Petar Popara inside in order to be with Natalija up above. This is just what makes the characters and relationships so complex, and in my opinion, the reason why this movie has a universal story. If any propaganda is shown, this one is the anti-war, anti-politician kind.

Back to the story, I especially liked the Old Man character as he is the insider. He is the only one who knows what's going on above, yet stays in the basement, he is Marko's accomplice, and he "steals time" by winding the clock backwards, which as I see it, is a comment on the Balkans always lagging behind the rest of the world based on misguided trust in people who claim to be the saviors and are "on your side." The basement youth is totally oblivious to the world, as exemplified by Jovan, Petar's son, born on the first day of the basement exodus, with the side story of going out with his dad to fight the "goddamn Germans" and not knowing the difference between the sun and the moon, based on his fathers stories and drawings(myths and realities of history as told by the idolized wise).

As for the movie being co-produced by the Serbian Broadcasting Company, I can safely say that Serbian cinematography and movie productions in the nineties were definitely not purely regime-oriented. How else would you explain RTS having co-produced Pretty Villages - Pretty Flames? Based on all this, I can't say that this movie is even in the same league as Tanovic's Oscar Winner No Man's Land someone recommended instead of Underground. That movie is a simple story of civil war told in a simple good guys - bad buys way. If I were as cynical as some other reviewers here, I could say that it was Muslim propaganda, as many other US produced movies on the Bosnian war subject, as it openly gives the impression that Serbs are the root of all evil, they are stupid and only do things if you hold a gun to their head, whereas Bosnian Muslims are fun-loving pro-Western dudes forced into waging war, but would rather listen to the Rolling Stones, and they are so altruistic that they would even help the enemy in the ditch. Talk about historically wrong...

The author is from serbia and goes under the pen-name of BOJAN-.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Auf Der Anderen Seite (At the Edge of Heaven)

Free Image Hosting at

This is one of those movies that speak to your soul directly. Excellent scenario and directing, a wonderful use of the "helplessness" and "missing half" theme, and a strong moral implication related to today's ideological arena.

The complex story is well-woven and under the control of the scenarist. The storyline revolves around four or five characters, creating a couple of different stories that go on. No one among the characters are aware of the full complexity of the situation they are in, and they keep missing their destiny by a couple of seconds or by a couple of meters. The audience is fully aware of what is going on, and this creates a feeling of helplessness. One main theme therefore is that: Helplessness in the face of chance meetings - or lack thereof.

One of the main characters, arguably the main character, Nejat Aksu, (acted by Baki Davrak), is reminiscent of the writer/director himself. He is a professor in a German university, and his emotional or behavioral ties with his rural Turkish background are split. As a loner, the audience does not hear much his opinions or feelings on the issue; we have to judge by small changes of expression in close shoot-ups. He has lost his "Mediterranean" expressiveness. In contrast, Lutte's (acted by Patrycia Ziolkowska) behavior becomes more and more aggressive, as she moves geographically (and mentally) towards Turkey.

One note of interest is that all characters have a "missing half", somewhere else in the movie, but fail to get to that half, and even die trying. Nejat Aksu has lost a mother, and then loses his father. The maternal figure is there with Lutte, but Lutte is missing the father and a certain strength of will to take steps, as she later confesses in her journal. Ayten Öztürk is also missing the mother, probably she is missing a lover as well - she is unrested - she is in fact "a person you likes to struggle" as commented by Susanne Staub. Lutte's mother, Susanne Staub (by Hanna Schygulla) is missing a daughter eventually. This contributes to the feeling of helplessness, but also adds a moral tone, implying that solutions to our life problems can be lying closer than it would appear to us.

A very touching scene in the movie is when Susanne is in front of the window, watching the Muslim man walk to the prayer. She is explained by Nejat Aksu the significance of the festivities, and she realizes that she is closer to Turkey than she imagines. In that scene, she takes a step towards making a posthumous peace with her daughter, which she direly needs. The scene is symbolic in the sense that it reflects the political arena.

The writer and the director Akin is an acute observer. The contrast between Istanbul and Bremen are first laid out with striking effectiveness, then the similarities in the human emotional range are brought out to contribute to the reconciliation towards the end. In effect, the audience is presented with a moral tone: To find the missing half, you have to actually "travel", geographically and mentally, to the other half, and make your peace with it. The other half, is of course, Germany and Turkey, West and East.

The end is particular: Two important questions are unresolved. Are we then to assume that our characters are lost without hope? No, because Susanne Staub and Nejat Aksu have already taken the first steps to "reconcile with their missing half".

One possibly negative point about the movie is that the director's image of the Turkish police force and lawyers is outdated by probably twenty five years. However, this is to be overlooked for the sake of cinematic language and the story.

The movie is a rare piece. It tells a story of lost chances, with an ongoing theme of "missing half" and "miss by a couple of inches". However, we have reconciliation at the end, creating a feeling of optimism but also unresolved issues which helps to add the moral tone of: "You have to go towards your missing half to reconcile".

by Sinan_Ozel from Turkey

Das Experiment (The Experminent)

Free Image Hosting at

Taxi driver and freelance journalist Tarek Fahd spots an advert in a newspaper for volunteers to take part in a psychological experiment over two weeks. He arrives along with a group of others, to be divided up into prisoners and guards before being placed into a simulated prison and provided with rules, Tarek being prisoner number 77. Initially everyone is enjoying themselves but soon the guards tire of the prisoners taking the p*ss and decide it is time to clamp down on their behaviour. As they realize that they have no limit on their powers, the actions of the guards become increasingly brutal and uncaring.

Based on the infamous experiments carried out at Stanford in the 1970's, this film had it all going for it in terms of being an effective thriller while also looking at the ways that human nature will gravitate towards the cruel once they are placed in positions of power. I decided to watch this film because it seemed interesting on this basis but also very topical considering the behaviour of the US soldiers in the Iraq prisons – mostly poor 'white trash' types who were corrupted when they suddenly found themselves in a position they had never been in before – control. Like them, the characters here gradually get more extreme – just like they did in the real experiment as well. With this topicality it is no surprise that I was easily taken in by the film and was never really bored by it. Being a thriller in its own right, the film has to settle into the eventual action conclusion but even this works pretty well and doesn't detract from what has gone before in terms of interest.

This is not to say it is perfect, because it could have been much better than it was. The constant cutting to Tarek's girlfriend now and in flashback only took away from the film and she could have still played her part at the end with much less time during the main body of the film. Also it became a little too far-fetched for the sake of drama – a recent television drama in the UK did it differently by actually recreating the same experiment as opposed to this film which needed to go harder and faster in order to reach the eventual running and fighting stage! But it still works and, to be honest, it is well worth seeking out for the 'human nature' aspect alone – it had a special resonance in Germany but it is hard not to be put in a thoughtful mood given recent events in Iraqi military prisons.

The cast are roundly good and all slip one way or the other in a convincing manner. Beibtreu is good once he gets past the stage where he is making trouble for the sake of it – this is necessary to speed the descent into cruelty but it was laid on a bit thick at the start. After this his performance is much more evenly balanced and he is a good lead. I struggled to pick up the names of all the others because they were mostly unknown to me but the head guard was very good while the rest of the cast did more than just deliver their pigeon-holed characters, where really they could have been nothing more than 'prisoner who goes crazy', 'timid guard', 'angry guard', 'silent prisoner' etc – they weren't, they were all pretty real people.

Overall this is not the best thing to come to if you are after a sort of documentary drama about the original experiment but it is still a very good film. It is exciting and dramatic while still having a bit of a brain on it – an asset made more interesting by what we have seen in Iraq over the past few months with guards becoming even worse than those we see in this film! Not a perfect film but a well made one that is interesting, involving and exciting and one that is well worth looking up.

The author writes under the pen-name of 'bob the moo' from Birmingham, UK

Far From Heaven

Free Image Hosting at

A man and his wife enter the office of a man who could possibly save the man from a life threatening illness. THe process includes many visits with a psychiatrist and possibly some electro-shock therapy. No, this person does not have schizophrenia or multiple personality disorder. This man is a homosexual.

Yes, it is true, this man is considered "sick" but that is just one of the many skewed attitudes of the 1950's that director Todd Haynes brings to light in Far From Heaven. Julianne Moore plays Cathy Whitaker, the wife of Frank Whitaker, Dennis Quaid, who are the proud parents of two children. The live the life that people envied. A nice home, money, success, and happiness. All of that comes crashing down when Cathy discovers her husband is not who he really is.

Cathy goes to Frank's work to drop off some dinner only to discover that her husband is in the arms of another man. Frank says that he is "sick" and wants treatment. Cathy, the "super wife" is behind him 100 percent, as if he really had an illness to beat. Frnak is ashamed and doesn't want support, just some privacy while he goes through session after session of therapy to try and make him "normal".

To add to this difficulty, the family gardener passes away and his son Raymond, Dennis Haysbert, takes over. Cathy comes to confide in Raymond and find peace of mind in his attitude and his overall good nature. The neighborhood looks down on their friendship and casts a shadow on the household. Raymond, a black man, is much like Cathy, seeing not color, but people. Even in New Haven, Connecticut, the feeling of white superiority still runs through the veins of its inhabitants.

The movie from start to finish is wonderful. It is a roller-coaster of emotions. Moore, Quaid, and Haysbert give fantastic performances. Even Patricia Clarkson, who plays Cathy one true friend in the neighborhood gives a delightful performance.

It's not just the acting that gives this movie it's lift off of the ground. Haynes direction and the art direction of the film create a pallet of colors and emotions that set the mood for each seen. The film opens in autumn. The leaves are shades of red, yellow, and orange, a true autumnal foliage like you would see on a Vermont postcard. The clothing is a perfect time capsule of the 50's. Haynes also uses a lot of colored lights to directly influence the mood of a scene. The green neon light of the gay bar Frank enters gives a strange feel like an alien world. The blue light that comes in through the windows in his office at night and in their home after a party means something dramatic is taking place.

Elmer Bernstein has racked up 14 nominations for his music, including a win for Throughly Modern Millie. His score for this film is the current that pushes the story along. Like so many great composers, he doesn't create music but a character. Everything is different with the right score to back up a great story.A story and a script that Haynes wrote so beautifully. He captured the lingo that kids used in the 50's and gave us a look at how kind people can be and how despicable some are.

The issues that Haynes tackles in the film are still around today, just not taken so seriously. It is hard to think that only 50 years ago, homosexuals were looked at as sick people and the African-American community was still not welcome. To this day there are still hints of this feeling around the country, but most is left to be talked about in the privacy of our own homes.

Whether or not you are straight or gay, black or white, democrat or republican, we all are people. Haynes shows that even if two people are in harmony, it is the outside influences that can rip them apart. Hatred and tolerance cannot coexist.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Donnie Darko

Free Image Hosting at

Donnie Darko is often described as a cult film. But what is it that makes a film 'cult'? Well, they usually have a hardcore fan establishment formed on the basis of the film having; quotable dialogue, memorable characters and/or scenes, a low budget, and a rather eccentric plot. Donnie Darko most certainly fits all these categories, especially the latter. It's one of those films that require more than one viewing, maybe more than two. Or three. And if The Matrix left you asking "what?" and Fight Club left you asking "how?", then Richard Kelly's Donnie Darko will simply leave you asking "HUH!?" It's c-o-n-f-u-s-i-n-g and a little odd, but ever since its release some seven years ago this unconventional suburban tale has been striking countless chords amongst us teens. Why? To be honest, there is no one answer. But what I can tell you is that Donnie Darko is black, bold and illusively cool, as fresh and provocative now as it was then. In a word: unique.

So, what's it all about? I hear you ask (including those who've seen it). Well…umm…OK…explaining to someone what Donnie Darko is actually about is about as easy as mastering a rubix-cube in less than 30 seconds, in the dark, underwater. Admittedly, it's a ridiculously perplex film but there's something just, well, brilliant about it. It's a melodrama-cum-sci-fi-cum-black comedy-cum-teen movie, with a truly mystifying plot that'll prompt all first time viewers to scratch their heads and question everything. And even though there are many who still don't really "get it" thus opting to label "it" as some strange form of sci-fi twaddle. There are many (myself included) who wholeheartedly consider it to be one of contemporary cinema's understated masterpieces.

OK, so, with that said, here it goes…Set in 1988, the film revolves around this grinning, groggy-eyed, deviant teen', Donald J. Darko (Jake Gyllenhaal). Not only does Donnie get into regular trouble at school, but he's also prone to depression, schizophrenia, sleepwalking, waking up on golf courses, hearing voices and visualizing a giant bunny-rabbit called Frank. As you may've guessed- Donnie is one messed-up kid and things get even worse when Frank tells him that the world's going to end in 28 days, 6 hours, 42 minutes and 12 seconds. Oh, and there's also this book on time travel. And Gretchen. And Grandma Death. And there're these worm holes that kind of germinate from people's chests. There's a tornado as well. And Patrick Swayze plays a pervert. Yep, Donnie's world, or parallel world, sure is a mad one. But he tries his best to make sense of his ghostly visions: Do they hold any value or truth? Is he a modern-day messiah? Or just plain bonkers? And why has an unidentified jet engine from an unidentified aircraft landed his room? The answers do become clear-ish as Donnie unravels the mystery surrounding, well, everything. Ultimately discovering what he has to do to eradicate the madness and ease the pain. Happy ending? Sad ending? I'll yet you decide.

The real beauty of Donnie Darko and perhaps one of the reasons as to why it's so popular is besides its unique blend of every genre imaginable, it's highly ambiguous. Some things just don't make sense and frankly (no pun intended), its quality is open to interpretation: you'll either love it, hate it, or hate it watch it again and love it. I fall into the latter camp and I would venture a guess and say I'm not alone. Which is probably why it performed so badly at the box-office, grossing more in the UK (£1.1m) than in the US ($728k). However, when Darko became available on DVD word spread of its outlandish quality and it soon became a huge hit amongst us teens. Why? Again, I couldn't possibly say. It could be because it's rebellious in every sense of the word. Or because teenage heartthrob Jake Gyllenhaal is just so damn cool as the sinister protagonist. Or maybe even because the film itself expertly juggles high entertainment value- juvenile humour, endless intrigue, choking suspense- with a solemn tone as it chew on the themes of love and sacrifice, intolerance and depression, fate and redemption. Some of which, are subject-matters that many teens know all too well.

To cut a long review short, then, Donnie Darko is a pure and not-so-simple mind-boggler whose sheer weirdness does conceal its brilliance. Despite its ever growing popularity amongst teenagers like you and me, there are many who just won't take to it's challenging temperament. Granted, it is a head-scratcher and if you're one of those people who just can't bare to watch a film without having those precious answers handed to you on a silver platter, you best steer clear of this one. But, if you like your movies challenging then may I suggest (if you haven't already done so) that you pick yourself up a copy on DVD, just to see what all the fuss is about. But do not (and I repeat) do not expect to be spoon-fed the answers. Not all loose ends are tied for you and it's up to you, and you alone to press rewind and tie them for yourself.

by Jack Harding from the United Kingdom