More views of - or before - Cambridge Film Festival 2019 (17 to 24 October)
(Click here to go directly to the Festival web-site)
In brief :
First, and foremost, this is a film-festival film*, which, with Australian / Irish film-industry funding, has somehow obtained distribution
It may not have been made as a television film, but it could not even 'fill' Screen 3 at The Arts Picturehouse - not that there was no audience, but that Animals felt small, trying to occupy a space, and use silence and its funky score, in a way that just had no impact, and seemed effort with no result. It would work much better on t.v., with its bubbles of out-of-focus street-lighting, glitz, and characters / their positions, which often seem insubstantial
The moments with the wildlife (were they any more than rushes ?) were, so much more so than Dylan Thomas' stuffed fox, would-be portentous - or with a sickening literalism to Who were the animals here ?
Good use of location (an establishing shot, and suitable noises of the sea and its birds, sufficed to make the interior of where Jim lived match that exterior)
Fixation on masturbation and cunnilingus ?
We are to believe / credit that Laura 'is a writer', because she has a poster for Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own** to the left of the desk where she works (let alone, nearby, another image of Ginny)...
In detail :
The film is well enough made and shot, but one takes those as given - although the real or seeming artlessness of an early Yorgos Lanthimos film, Kinetta (2005) may be an impediment to some (in a sense, it is meant to be one), it is part of the affect of the film, and heightens its worth : on the scale of Animals, those things about everything being in focus and lined up, etc., are absent, but that does not make Animals a better film, and Kinetta is arguably far finer despite and /or because of them.
On the Road (2012) scarcely did a worse job, with Sal Paradise, of convincing anyone that he was not only a writer, but also could even - just by soaking it up, and writing it down (i.e. typing onto the probably mythical continuous roll of paper) - self-referentially create what we were seeing :
Except that we know that Jack Kerouac was a published writer, whereas nothing that Laura does suggests that she writes / can write anything beyond note-like observations, and her decade-long pretensions, although the film may feel that we spent that long with them at times, are just irritating. Laura is Frances, in Frances Ha, but Frances (Greta Gerwig) has real emotional reasons why she cannot do what she actually can do, and Laura (Holliday Grainger) has over-indulgent people who listen to her talk about it instead.
* Very often, 'film-festival films', once so viewed, stay viewed in that way (and with suspicion), and so are not thought of as commercial. Many films of this quality or better do not even get a screening at a significant film festival - a film's being distributed is therefore not, in itself, a measure of its worth.
** The book that, first delivered in two lectures at Cambridge (at Girton and Newnham Colleges), puts a case for why a woman needs space, let alone one who would write, who has to have one in which to do it : A Room of One's Own could almost have been the tag-line for the film ?
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Unless stated otherwise, all films reviewed were screened at Festival Central (Arts Picturehouse, Cambridge)