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The film also reminded me of Lord of the Flies. It was like a cinematic
challenge: can the same horror emerge from the humanity of children if
they are girls, not boys, and they are in a prestigious English school,
not lost on a wild island. The answer is yes! I feel that I spoil quite
a lot saying more, so enough said.
This film is very well played by all actors, including the young girls, directed beautifully and using both impressive scenery and great costumes. What I found a little odd was the speed with which the girls were switching from best friends to evil witches and back again. I am told children are like that, so I should have probably ignored that some of the girls there were hot as hell and considered them all well under age.
Eva Green played a complex character, easy to sympathize with at times, easy to loathe at others. She carried this film almost to perfection.
Bottom line: I kept this film in my private collection. I think it is a must see.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
It is time to welcome a new member into the Scott family of filmmakers.
Ridley's daughter Jordan Scott has arrived with Cracks, a story about a
London boarding school and the activities that occur within, based on a
novel by Sheila Kohler. Scott spoke of how growing up in a similar type
setting is what led her to want to bring the tale to the big screen;
the traditional atmosphere where the establishment itself becomes every
student's world. The girls in the film speak about "home" yet never in
detail or with a clear memory as to what they are missing. Many had
been sent for a year or less only to find that they were trapped, sent
away for the entirety of their youth. Scott really has a handle on the
material and gets the aesthetic just right, from the environment, the
costumes, the attitudes, and the cliquish superiority complex that
comes with an isolated upbringing where your teacher is queen and you
her conduit to the little people.
It starts by giving an idea of what life is like at the school through the diving team. Coached by Eva Green's Miss G, an ex-pupil that stayed on upon graduation, the team has a hierarchy corresponding to the ages of the girls. Led by Juno Temple's Di Radfield, along with her cohort and lackey Poppy, played by Imogen Poots, the girls rule the school. Radfield most assuredly has a complex and need to be on topshe makes butter, in one instance, at risk of getting in trouble and then puts an underling in her place when the piece of bread given to her is lacking; she got the butter for them so she better have as much as she wantsand therefore becomes threatened when her kingdom is invaded by a Spanish princess. María Valverde's Fiamma has had some sort of relationship with a boy outside her class system and, as punishment to reform, been sent to the English school. In her mind it's just a warning and will only last a short time, but she soon finds out that is what all the other girls, there for years, thought at the start too.
Fiamma is the catalyst that shakes things up and turns the school's tenuous equilibrium upside-down. A threat to Radfield and Poppy, she is also the embodiment of all that Miss G hoped her life would be. Wanting to be the idol of the girls, maybe even staying to teach because it was the only way she could pretend to have lived out her dreams, the stories she tells of her worldly travels soon are proved false by the fact Fiamma can recite the exact words, having read the books Miss G steals from. It's a fascinating role reversal and mirroring of idolatry when you watch Radfield's desire to please and ultimately become Miss G trumped by Miss G's own hope and want to do the same with Fiamma. Here is a grown woman filled with jealousy and vanity, becoming one of her students in mentality and action. The problem with this, however, is the fact that she is a person of power. Able to get her way due to the very fact she is counted upon to watch over these girls, an abuse of her job risks becoming a destruction of trust and a surefire way to destroy her own life as a result.
One must credit all involved for doing a bang-up job at enveloping the audience in this world; imbuing a sense of realism, bringing the past in front of our eyes. Besides the actresses named above, the entire rest of the cast are virtual unknowns, many of whomthe youngsters especiallyare just local boarding school students themselves, brought on to perform. Three of the girls actually all went to the same school as well, so everyone involved knew what went into this closed off society; this world governed and policed by its own rules. Jordan Scott wanted it all to have a sense of fairy tale-like splendor, which is why she put it on the island setting she did. Feeling as though in an environment like New Zealand or some other exotic locale, she was able to transport these girls to a new world, one where they were separated from reality and able to live for each other without foreign interference until Fiamma's arrival of course.
While the beginning of the film is effective due to its period authenticity and performances, the story itself is somewhat sleight. There isn't much going on besides some adolescent girl bickering and jockeying for praise and approval with Miss G. By no means is it bad or boring, I just hoped for more conflict and weight, something that does come in towards the end, a little too late though. Once we begin to see how far both Radfield and Miss G will go to win the affections of the person they desire, the stakes do get higher and darker. The tension is ratcheted up and a Lord of the Flies type feel seeps in, amping up both the acting and visual style. Scott utilizes the forest and outdoors more here, blocking characters through trees in a foreboding way, letting camera angles and facial expressions speak rather than words. I realize that the opening hour and a half or so is needed to allow for the stellar final twenty minutes, but maybe the danger could have been alluded to earlier. What first just seemed to be conflict between the girls doesn't open up to the possibility of their teacher's inclusion until much later on. Ms. Scott definitely has a bright future ahead of her if Cracks is any indication. Much more than the familial pedigree that precedes her, I believe she will be standing on her own as an artist very soon.
This is an amazingly brilliant film directed by the young Jordan Scott, who is female despite being called Jordan. She is the daughter (I almost said the son) of Ridley Scott and niece of Tony Scott, and after seeing this film I believe she has more artistic talent than both of them put together. It is simply incredible what she achieves in her portrait of an adult driven to madness by desire for a beautiful young creature, and her film really rivals Luchino Visconti's DEATH IN VENICE (1971) in my opinion, although in this film both the desired and the desirer are female, whereas in Visconti's film based on the Thomas Mann novella DER TOD IN VENEDIG, they were both male. (I once had to read the Mann novella in German and nearly fainted when I found a single sentence which was one and a half pages long with the main verb at the end! But that was Mann for you! Delayed gratification!) This film is set in the surreal setting of a remote girl's boarding school on 'Stanley Island' (wherever that is, as we are not told) in the year 1934. The school as seen in the film, a kind of Victorian Gothic pedagogical fantasy, apparently really exists as a structure somewhere in Ireland. But the geographical location is not really important, all that is needed for the story is the visual impression, the sea adjoining, the wild surrounding hills, and the isolation. This we certainly get, and the outside world barely exists in this hot house of passionate longings, schoolgirl intrigues, extreme homesickness verging on hysteria, and the coursing hormones of teenage girls who never get to see a boy. They are all in love with their mysterious and alluring mistress, 'Miss G.', played by the spectacularly weird and wonderful Eva Green (pronounced 'grain' because her father is Swedish and that is what they do there in Sweden during the long winter nights, they pronounce Green as 'grain'). Miss G. dresses exquisitely and has the finest imaginable artistic colour sense and personal style of dress and manner. The costumes in this film are a total knockout, designed by the super-talented Alison Byrne. A great deal of talent was also lavished on the sets and art direction. This is a real treat to the eye. As a production it is stunning in every respect. The fiery personality of Juno Temple (Juno was the Latin name for the queen of the gods, gedditt?, so of course she has to have a Temple) burns holes in the celluloid with her glowering stares of love, resentment, passion, jealousy, hatred, devotion, all those things mixed up which teenaged girls tend to have in such an unsorted state in their feverish psyches. She is a perfect screen match for the hyper-intense Eva Green. Juno is in love with Miss G. but Miss G. has no eyes for her anymore since the arrival of the super-cool, super-calm, super-beautiful Spanish dream dish, played by Spanish actress Maria Valverde, a silent brooding siren who drives Miss G. insane (literally, not just metaphorically). Despite the erotically charged atmosphere of this film, the director is too subtle to allow a single sexual scene. The most we see is Miss G. kissing Maria's neck, but that is enough to get Juno Temple so hysterical with jealousy that she precipitates a Twilight of the Goddesses, herself included. This is steamy stuff, very steamy stuff indeed, and all done without anybody touching anybody. Miss G. presides over a special collection of nymphets who form the school diving team. The team has never competed and the divers are pretty hopeless, but that all changes when the Spanish girl Fiamma turns up. She is an impeccably-dressed aristocrat of considerable sophistication, and all the girls hate her on sight because she is more beautiful and self-possessed than they are. Later, some of them soften. But Juno's main concern is that Fiamma has stolen Miss G.'s affections from her, and that is not to be tolerated. Fiamma suffers from serious asthma and has an inhaler, and, well, you can imagine the ensuing events. Miss G's steady personality disintegration, under the influence of her stifled lesbian passions, and her descent into a kind of sleep-walking insanity over her obsession with Fiamma, are so brilliantly and horrifyingly portrayed by Eva Green that we wonder if she had to go to a sanitarium for some months to recover after making this intense film. As for Juno Temple, I do hope she can now sit up and speak again. It is all very harrowing, deeply disturbing, and so seething with suppressed but never overtly articulated sexuality that they must still be trying to cool down the camera in an ice bucket. As they say in the horrible tabloid newspapers: 'Corrrrr, what a scorcher!'
A very nice person suggested me to transcribe, what I actually wrote on
boards about this movie, as a review, so here we go. In the first
place, I decided that this movie became one of my all-time
favourites... and why is that I 'decided'? Because the more I thought
of this movie after watching it, the more I liked it. And what I mean
by that is, the main reason I loved this film, would probably be
because of the feeling it generated on me. It felt like I was reading a
book, an actual & good one, you know, because of its twists, its
dramatic scenes and the complexity of its characters & emotions.
I liked the way it explores human emotions and relationships but centered in a darker side, let's just say. The dichotomy showed was so well made. It was all so real and so unreal at the same time. Besides, it certainly shows us the thin line that exists between desire and obsession. PLUS, the fact that such things are still going on nowadays, which makes it very realistic.
Even though I do know this movie is in fact based on a book, I can't really comment from that perspective since I didn't read it, but anyway that's not my point here... The way I see it, In my opinion, this film is so smart, intriguing, fascinating and so beautifully executed that not only will stay with you long afterwards but also will make you talk, comment about it with others, you know, and that's just simply the kind of movie I love to watch but unfortunately, there aren't enough films like this.
In addition to that: The cinematography was just... breathtaking. The locations... esthetically pleasing. The soundtrack... impeccable. The wardrobe... simply gorgeous.
And well, what to say about the actings? They were just... impressive, top-notch, especially Eva Green's one, which was jaw-dropping. She literally gave me the chills with her performance. She left me fascinated. That being said, Jordan Scott you are (ei) genius! Needless to say, I'm looking forward to see more of your work.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This movie really snuck up on me. I wasn't really expecting too much from it but I must say the third act was mesmerizing. I was literally on the edge of my seat. The protagonist I never saw coming, Eva Green did an amazing job with the role. She just seemed like your run of the mill charismatic teacher that you see in many films. Until Fiamma shows up and things start to slowly and exquisitely unravel. Jordan Scott is so nuanced in her directing, such a deft touch. The other leads María Valverde and Juno Temple were impressive as well. When Fiamma and Di finally become friends and they have that glorious midnight party. Miss G destroys all the goodwill in one dastardly, cowardly act, which in a way destroys all three!!!! I must say Miss G's journey from beloved teacher to despicable villain was something to behold. The last scenes in the movie were just crushing to watch. With Fiamma fleeing her murderous classmates to her ultimate demise with life but an inch away. A remarkable film!!!!!!!!!!!!!
This film is about a young female teacher in a prestigious British
boarding school. She develops a special interest in one of her pupils,
causing catastrophic changes in group dynamics.
"Cracks" is such a big surprise. It is technically well made, with great cinematography throughout. The best thing is that the plot is well told, it is engaging throughout the whole story. Every emotion and feeling is conveyed by expert story telling, such as the mood of the scene and the body language of actresses. They draw viewers into their world, and into their feelings. One can easily tell Miss G's attraction, confusion and panic; Di's jealousy and Fiamma's emotional change throughout the film. Such an empathy inducing film is rarely seen nowadays.
I do recommend "Cracks", and I hope it will reach a wider audience.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I have not been able to stop thinking about this film since viewing it
for the first time yesterday afternoon. Quite remarkable. As always,
plenty of reviewers have provided first class descriptions of the
actual story already, so I will cut to the chase.
For me this film deals with several themes:
'When I was a child, I thought as a child' (Rudyard Kipling 'If')
It is no accident that the young girls who are the foci of this tale are living in an isolated English boarding school, ON AN ISLAND. This works both literally and metaphorically. The island, named 'Stanley Island' seems to me to have allusions to Miss. G's 'stories' of her travels around the world, particularly her stories of adventures in 'exotic' locales. 'Stanley' was the explorer who, upon meeting up with fellow explorer Livingstone, apparently said: 'Livingstone I presume.' He was also a self - mythologiser and - according to fellow explorer - a brutal racist.
Considering the self mythologising of Miss G. and her eager for information about the World outside of their 'Island' girls, this is entirely appropriate.
Words create truth. Words weave a truth.
While Miss G. tells her stories of her 'travels' and constructs her own World through her words and her audience of young girls, the girls do not yet have the experience or maturity to fully understand just what is going on. To me anyway, right from the beginning, this is a hint of the abuse to come. Children who have been abused, both physically and mentally, often speak much later in life of not having the words to articulate what was going on. The vulnerability of the girls is always there, even in some of the most beautifully filmed scenes - of which there are many.
Look out for the opening scenes where Di and Miss G. are in the rowing boat, Di is clearly smitten by her exotic teacher. The camera shots here tell us a lot. We see Miss G. through the misty eyes of a young, inexperienced, isolated girl - those early scenes of Miss G. are the creation of the girls' idolatry.
Watch how this breaks down. When Fiamma arrives from Spain, a young girl who is well traveled and has experienced life in the wider world, the 'cracks' of the title begin to appear. We start seeing Miss. G through Fiamma's eyes, she looks a bit more 'crazed', a bit more mad.
Also, watch out for the scenes when Miss. G is not in the school grounds - perhaps the most telling scene in the film for me, which genuinely chilled me, was when Miss G goes into the little village to buy a few things. She is talking to herself, distracted and clearly unstable.
This is how you and I would see her.
It is how Fiamma sees her. Her terror is real and totally understandable. She 'sees' clearly the unstable creature Miss G. actually is.
When the girls celebrate the Feast of St. Agnes, drinking and eating a midnight feast, someone is going to be the offering. St. Agnes is the Saint of Virgins. Fiamma, drunk, is led away by Miss G and raped. The young girls, once again knowing something isn't 'quite right' but not having the experience of maturity to articulate in their heads just what is happening.
The victim becomes the pariah, as Di cannot cope with what she has seen her previously adored teacher doing through the 'crack' in the door.
Di - short for Diana - is the Goddess of the Hunt, and she leads the girls through the woods chasing the asthmatic and traumatised Fiamma. Fiamma is the Virgin Martyr.
Di escapes the Island, clutching the map she drew for Fiamma earlier in the film. All of the young girls are victims of abuse to some extent. Their minds have been toyed with and manipulated. What is more, no adult seems to notice - or care.
Probably Miss G as well. We never learn her 'back story' but something has happened to her during her time at the school. When the older teacher points to an old school photograph of her, she also refers to some 'scandal' in her past. She has never left 'the Island' and probably never will. Again, literal and metaphorical.
I heartily recommend this film. It's study of abuse is subtle and all the more horrifying for it. It is a reminder of just how vulnerable we all were as children at school, boarding or day school. Before we had the words and worldliness to articulate the many different kinds of abuses there are in the World.
I came across this film out of desperation the other night...just
wanting to watch something decent. What I found was a gem of a movie. I
wasn't familiar with anyone in the cast except Eva Green from Dark
Shadows, who I didn't really have an opinion of either way and I'm not
a fan of boarding school movies of any sort, but I watched it anyway.
Eva Green, as Miss G, was completely captivating and I could picture myself having a school girl crush on her when I was in high school...or heck, maybe even now. Her character comes across as educated, well traveled and totally alluring in every way...until a Spanish transfer student comes to the school and she begins to unravel.
The film is beautifully shot and the music is a perfect compliment to it. I really can't wait to see what else Jordan Scott does next.
Jordan Scott, niece of director Tony Scott who with his brother Ridley
Scott serve a executive producers of this film, makes and impressive
debut as a director/writer (with Ben Court and Caroline Ip) in this
intensely interesting and well crafted adaptation of Sheila Kohler's
novel CRACKS. This is a period piece (1934) that takes place in St.
Mathilda's School in Stanley Island, England, an isolated all girl
British boarding school. The mood is one of Gothic evil where rich
young girls participate in the cloistered rigid education imposed by
the matrons of the school -Miss Nieven (Sinéad Cusack), Matron (Helen
Norton), and Miss Lacey (Deirdre Donnelly) - whose chief concern is to
guard the reputation of the school at all costs, and lightened only by
the presence of the swimming/diving coach Miss G (Eva Green) whom the
girls admire for her exotic beauty, worldliness, supposed travel around
the world, and her possessiveness of her brood.
One of the girls, Di (Juno Temple in a brilliant performance), is the team captain and the apparent favorite of Miss G - until the sudden arrival of a beautiful Spanish girl Fiamma (María Valverde) who tends to set herself apart form the rest of the claque (Di, Poppy (Imogen Poots), Lily (Ellie Nunn), Fuzzy (Clemmie Dugdale), Laurel (Adele McCann) and Rosie (Zoë Carroll). Fiamma is an expert diver and her gifts as a sportsman as well as her beauty attract Miss G, replacing Di as her favorite. In jealous rage Di gathers the claque and plans the exit of this unwanted intruder. How this backfires and increases Miss G's attraction to Fiamma leads down another path of evil that pulls this little tale of terror to a surprising end.
Eva Green manages to make Miss G a fascinating character and her gradual obsession with Fiamma and the direction that takes her is a very fine performance. But the entire cast - girls and teachers - is superb, especially Juno Temple in a career making role. The cinematography by John Mathieson finds both the haunting beauty of the isolated St. Mathilde's School and the splendid panoramas of nature add immeasurably to the film as does the musical score by Javier Navarette - a score that combines Anglican hymns with gentle piano music. This is a triumph for all concerned and bodes well for the career of Jordan Scott.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Tense and suspenseful, Cracks is a well-paced, carefully crafted period
piece. It is about the consequences of creating insular environments
which breed mean-spirited hierarchies and draw ill-motivated authority
figures. Situations in which the authority figures empower, reward and
smile upon petty tyrants because they share the same deviant mindset
In this offbeat tale of hatred and hazing, the cloistered children of favored society engage in cruel conformity at an all-girls' school in rural 1934 England. The story focuses on an elite Brody set of girls who comprise the academy's token diving team. The girls are mentored by their vapid instructor and swim coach, Miss G. (Green). (An apparent tribute to Muriel Sparks's novel and film, The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie.) None of the students are really happy or normal. They are the issue of the minor gentry. Their absentee parents unceremoniously dump them off at St. Mathilda, and never return. Disposing of their kids frees the adults to pursue their lavish lifestyles. And the girls know it. The polite rejection, combined with a stifling parochial environment turns the kids into seething stew-pots of repressed self-doubt and resentment.
A titled Spanish heiress arrives. She is a precocious and cultured patrician. Of course the other girls retaliate. Fiamma (Valverde) becomes a magnet for their jealousy, licentiousness and rage. While most of the girls lament that their parents seem to have forgotten about them and will never bring them home again, privileged Fiamma is vocally confident that her stretch will be short. Fiamma enjoys lavish gifts and delicacies from home. She shares them with her classmates while regaling them with wondrous tales of travel experiences and folklore. This only make things worse.
Di Rutfield (Temple), the swim team captain, is at once overshadowed and out-performed. Fiamma outflanks her socially, culturally, intellectually, and most devastatingly of all, athletically. Di no longer sets the bar by which the other girls are measured. To the contrary, she must now measure up to it.
More perilously, Di has lost her favored status as the apple of Miss G's eye. Coveted, courted and pampered by the girls' diving coach, Di was bonded to her by a barely suppressed. mutual undercurrent of romantic and sexual high voltage. Upon Fiamma's debut, Miss G's attentions shift to the enigmatic new enchantress.
My own snobby boarding school wasn't Catholic, and it was well enough administered that there was a minimum of clique exclusiveness, hazing and cruelty. But oh my, do I ever recognize the personality of Miss G. She is a tortured closet lesbian, perpetually titillated by her juvenile charges. A bundle of insecurities and self-perceived inadequacies, Miss G. fortifies her ego by reveling in the matriarchal power or her position. She is quietly desperate, dangling on a smoldering time-fuse, and primed for an angry episode of sexually frustrated, catastrophic hysteria at the first hint of a substantial challenge to her authority.
Damningly, Miss G. is also a fraud who recites adventures from Mary Kingsley's Travels To West Africa (1897), claiming the experiences to be her own. Having been at St. Mathilda continuously since she was a schoolgirl, Miss G. convinces her students that she's a feisty, liberated explorer. Fiamma really has traveled however, and Miss G resents it. Gifted, independent, rebellious by the standard of the day, it's obvious Fiamma is more wordily and educated than Miss G.
Miss G. loves Fiamma, and she hates her. She wants to alternately kiss and slap the girl. Miss G. is drowning in a swirling infusion of hormonal captivation and intimidated insecurity. She veils her own closeted sexuality and verboten urges for Fiamma behind a tenuous mask of low key hostility. Churning under her increasingly strained visage lurks a poisonous cocktail of spite, infatuation, and abject lust. Tensions amplify. Fiamma, Di, and Miss G. square off. Together they plunge into a sensational maelstrom of bitter jealously, taboo coitus, madness, and salacious mayhem.
As in William Golding's novel Lord Of The Flies, there's an irony at play in Cracks. In Golding's work, which has inspired several films, schoolboys are sent away from England to protect them from war violence. Yet they promptly do battle with each other upon being shipwrecked. Becoming utter barbarians, they revert to the trees within hours of marooning.
In Cracks the girls study Christian values, social and intellectual refinement, self control and etiquette. When Fiamma smashes their authoritarian hierarchy, the schoolgirls' cultural and humanist graces evaporate. Collectively, they atavistically plunge to the lowest common denominator of bilious rivalry, sexual jealousy and brutality.
Cracks carries strong shadings of the Muriel Sparks novel and film, The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie, but it takes a dark departure. Tense, suspenseful, Cracks' gorgeous cinematography and top tier production values accentuate its thoughtfully plotted storyline. The result is a salacious firecracker of a picture! Cracks is a must-see experience for fans of such films as Heavenly Creatures, Loving Annabelle, and Picnic At Hanging Rock.
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