Its all speculation of course, we will never know exactly what transpired between these figures in those August days, but its all been gloriously imagined in this film. I found it a great reflection on the loneliness of high office and the fickleness of power. The film reminded me how impressive Tony Blair was in that amazing week. It made it kind of sad comparing this with his impending exit from politics, and the high levels of cynicism regarding his political legacy. As Mirren says to the PM in the movie "they all turn on you eventually".
On the plus side, the actors all do well - David Wenham has that man ever done a dud performance?
Tim obviously had issues and the main interest point outside of his grizzly demise, is his mental health. The scene where Tim rants at the camera about his enemies and defeating them is amusing and sad at the same time. His self shot video footage makes him out to be a highly annoying character, and maybe in the bears he thought he'd found a world he could be accepted in. The fact that he had an attractive girlfriend whom ultimately followed him to her death, shows that there is always someone for somebody in this world , no matter how outside the mould they are. One feels however that Tim's true love were the bears - a world he longed to become part of but could only ever be an observer. Werner's comment of the bear's indifference to him in the hundreds of hours shot is telling. Tim's alleged connection with the bears I fear was one sided.
There is a lot not to like about Tim but Werner attempts to show us the humanity and good side to him as well which is a tribute to his humanity and film making. The film's most powerful but also possibly sensational moment is when Werner listens to the audiotape made of Tim's death. He is obviously horrified but his plea to Jewel (tim's best friend), to not listen to the tape and destroy it is strangely moving.
Fascinating story , but maybe could have been culled a bit down time wise.
The SS "action" in the Belarussian village is one of the most disturbing depictions of the second world war ever directed outside of the real footage of these things. The SS troops are on a anti-partisan operation and enter the Belarussian village. The next 10-15 minutes remained in my memory for many years after. Though the suffering of the occupied peoples under Nazi's was often used for pro-Soviet propaganda in art and film, even if it was the case in this film, the sheer horror of these scenes transcends the political.
2 scenes are particularly powerful in this section of the film:
The scene were the SS officer lunches in a village hut, in front of a cowering peasant family, desperate to placate the soldiers, is quite terrifying and suspenseful and all the more effective for the violence that does eventually occur.
Secondly, at the end of the slaughter,the Nazi soldiers are seen laughing carry out on a bed an old bedridden blind babushka lady from a burning farmhouse. They make some horrible joke about saving her to be a breeder, and as the village burns behind her she is observed blindly staring into the smoke filled sky full of incomphrehensible terror.
From memory the movie does lapse into propaganda abit heavily at the end. Nevertheless at the end of the film the credits list the number of Belarussian villages destroyed (buildings and people)....I cant remember the exact number but it was hundreds and it is quite a sobering figure....regardless of the Soviet spin the film is valuable in shining a light into a dark corner of mans inhumanity to fellow man.
The movie's narrative is tight and the performances excellent. Kilmer is quite a chameleon. He hits the right note of sleaze for JH, a thoroughly unlikeable character but more weak than evil and partly buffeted by the circumstances of the lifestyle he inhabits. Also excellent are the cast of villains. The chief wonderland heavy Ron played by Josh Lucas is particularly incendiary, made even more so by a very seventies Jesus beard which seems to accentuate his coked up menace.
The murders though not explicitly shown are nevertheless quite brutal. The suggestion and quick images shown I found very disturbing. Though I imagine the directors didn't have this in mind - they have made an very effective anti-drugs film
As the title alludes to, the film is in a sense about the passing of youthful idealism, so it is some extent permeated with a certain sadness. What is refreshing is the understatedness of the whole film. The relationship between the prostitute, admirably played by Judy Davis and Bryan Brown the bookshop owner has parralells to the relationship between the dead lady and Brown in the turbulent days of the sixties in their youth. Extracts from her diary which has been found by Davis who was the dead girls friend reveal that her love was largely one sided and he rejected her after several months. She was obviously a lot more infatuated with him than vice-versa and the infatuation the junkie prostitute develops with him is a parallel to this.
I really enjoyed the Bryan Brown character. Bryan Brown is a very underrated actor..seen by some unfairly as a one dimensional "ozzie" type. I think this film , is an example of how good he can be. His character is not a bad man, he never promised anything or lied to either his ex or the Judy Davis character - he may want to keep her at arms length but he wants the best for her. He has however a detachment to life that some would find admirable, some would find strange. He and his wife live in an "open" relationship, they are quite loving and seem to have a strong relationship, but she has a young lover while he quite happily seems to stay at home reading a book when shes out. It is quite interesting the junkie prostitute is quite puzzled, even surprised about this aspect of their relationship. He is fairly unshockable, not at all condemning of the prostitute and her lifestyle. Interestingly however he does not make excuses for her..he is fairly contemptuous of the whole Junkie scene, but not moral about it. My reading of the film is that this detachment and coolness is probably a symptom of a certain coldness in him. It never is spelt out, but his final scene where he is sitting all alone in a locker room after standing up the hysterical and possibly suicidal Judy Davis for a lunch date is quite effective. There seems to be a realisation of his own failings, the passing on of the ideals of youth, the disappointment of life..the "Winter of Our Dreams" of the title.
footnote...Keep an eye out for Baz Luhrmann of all people in a support role as a teenage junkie!
The movie is quite graphic - it contains nudity male and female but isn't in any sense prurient and I dont believe its gratuitious. More disturbing is the blinding of the horses which is as difficult scene to watch as I can remember in the last year or so anyway...worth seeking out for the ideas and for being one of the sadly too few films that Richard Burton showed some of vast acting talent.
, Loneliness is a terrible burden to bear and part of the strength of the film is that the director, never reduces Huppert to a freak show. Her pain is apparent even though she is at many times a fairly odious (and occasionally downright psycopathic character) Hints of what has led her to this situation are given, the unhealthy co-dependant relationship she has with her mother, the perfectionism and driven nature that pervades her working life, madness in the family.In the end it doesnt really matter how it came about as it is an examination of a person in that state and how they fall apart both emotionally and mentally that is being examined here. There are many scenes which stayed in my mind long after the film ended: 2 particular scenes stood out for me:
The scene both embarassing,horrific and also incredibly sad as the young student reads with disgust a letter Huppert has written to him in front of her detailing her sadomashocistic fantasies that she harbours.We are torn between horror at the graphic nature of the degradation she fetishizes and feel sorry for the horrible and humiliating rejection she receives at the hands of the young student.
Also the gut wrenching final scene , the act of self mutilation and look of madness and despair on her face, the director has captured the despair and horror of so much of human existence.
An important film to see but dont expect to be uplifted!
There were however some things that annoyed me a little about the whole film and while they didnt spoil it for me they nevertheless grated on me. Susie Porters character though solidly played nevertheless did not ring true to me. She is meant to be a working class ex-cop familar with the mean streets of Western Sydney now navigating her way through this bunch of artsy intellectual types. She didnt quite ring true to me - she almost seemed part of that crowd herself - her outsider status wasnt obvious to this viewer.
I found the some of the use of nudity and sexual profanity abit try hard. What I mean by this is that it was almost abit forced.To me It looked as though it was saying look how comfortable we are in showing nudity etc,I suspect it was almost there to spice things up rather than being integral to the plot (to be fair a pretty hard line to draw on many occasions).I also found the whole characterisation of the murdered girl and her parents abit annoying. The parents are cardboard carictures of what inner city intellectuals view the suburbanites (with money) as -dull boring and clueless , & the murdered girl is portrayed as some spoilt little brat from the leafy suburbs on a parent subsidised rebellion - another cliche. I find this more than a little ironic as the subject matter of this film is likely to draw an audience (in Australia anyway) that is largely the arthouse end of the market (ie monied and educated) Anyway these points though somewhat annoying to this viewer really are only minor distractions.Overall the film is worth seeing.
Having said this there are things to admire in it: The first 15 minutes are so are quite compelling. The capture of the American officer and the killing of his offsider are quite horrific. And the scenes of the chilly winter and the pows transit through it by train & march are quite evocative. I also found from an amateur historian point of view quite surprising for an Hollywood film about captured Americans that at least touches on the appalling treatment of the Russian Pows by the Nazis & the racist philosophy behind it, the Commandant berates the the American Pows for saluting 3 executed Russians saying they are saluting criminals and 'sub-humans'. Likewise the racism of the fellow inmates towards their black comrades is not sanitised. I liked some of the moral ambiguitues of the characters. The young Hart is not really a hero, though he tried he couldn't withstand the interrogation by the Wermacht and revealed information, The Bruce Willis character in spite of his Christ like sacrifice at the end of the film still didnt accord the black officers the protection or respect they deserved. I found most interesting the German commandant as a character, though it wasnt well developed.While his actions are generally brutal there are glimpses that he may not be the total party man- he listens to the bbc, drinks heavily and listens to Jazz (ie racially suspect ) music. Indeed I thought the relationship between him an Bruce Willis could have been developed more. I guess the problem is that the character is both the dedicated (and unlikeable) Nazi and the honorable (likable) military enemy officer and as such any sort of relationship based on mutual respect may seem tainted to the viewer.
For these reasons alone its worth a look. But ultimately it runs out of steam. The old patriotic/self sacrifice ending I'm sorry doesnt wash with me as a film making device. To work I've got to feel some empathy with the characters, and the characters seem too bland, indeed Bruce Willis character inspite of some interesting early ambiguities seems to end up yet another strong silent type. Not enough ummph in the story or performances to qualify as a great film and not enough in it to qualify as an action film - an interesting and worthy attempt though.
The film is fascinating on several levels. The relationship between the Lady and the Duke is at some levels a doomed love story. They are interestingly former not current lovers but continue to have fond (if not strong) regard for each other despite differing political viewpoints and comprimised actions during the ups and downs of the revolution & I found it interesting watching the strains placed on this relationship by the buffeting of historical events. I think this relationship is at the core of the film. Though I did enjoy the political side of the film. It is somewhat refreshing to see a historical epic from the side of the losers (the despised aristocracy). Rohmer resists the obvious counter point in the film of the film in showing a side/viewpoint of the poor majority. Maybe he assumed that most film goers would be aware of the social/political/economic conditions that lead to the revolution. Whatever the reason I think the film is stronger for it because we see the events through the eyes of the Lady and the fear and terror of the Royalists (and moderate revolutionaries ultimately consumed by the more extreme fires of radicalism). The victims are shown as human beings and not some carictures.
Having said that I enjoyed some of the ambiguities of the film. The aristocrat the lady helps is someone she held no particular high regard for in the Royalist days, and indeed first helps him only out of a sense of duty. Even Robiespierre, the radical, is shown briefly in the film. Instead of some frothing of the mouth caricture he is shown as a focused almost reasonable type. He stops one of his underlings arresting the Lady at a revolutionary tribunal saying the revolution has more important things to worry about. I think possibly these interesting ambiguities arise from the fact the story is based on the actual experiences of the Scottish Lady who transcribed them after her eventual escape to Britain after the revolution.
Finally a commendation to the two actors (the Lady and the Duke) who I really enjoyed. The Duke was particulary good,he was the right mixture of idealist,charmer and self important but endearing pomposity and you can see why despite all his faults the Lady was still hung up on him.
One thing I did find a little disconcerting was the wobbly camera technique, don't see if you are feeling a little nauseous as I was however this is only a minor criticism. Its around 90 minutes and I think well worth the investment if you like a good character based movie.