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Der freie Wille (2006)
Mature subject matter, but flawed in its execution
I, too, saw this film at the Berlinale, and though the matter of rape was treated with maturity and frankness, the film itself was constructed poorly. More than anything, it was bland - camera placement and cuts were standard fare, non-diagetic sound was near non-existent, and the dialogue was highly unrealistic, comprising of long, drawn-out pauses interspersed with briefly-spoken lines.
The upshot of this was that I felt no attachment to the characters beyond a basic sympathy for their current predicaments - dialogue was stretched out to the point of losing its emotional resonance, and many lines were delivered with little feeling from the actors. I was particularly unconvinced by Sabine Timoteo's performance, whose talent restricted her to screaming rather than actual crying. Compared to Claire Dane's stunning depiction of anguish in Romeo and Juliet, I felt wholly unsatisfied by her performance.
It was these factors that made the characters feel less than human, failing to imbue them with life. This, coupled with the utterly bland direction and editing, meant that I felt no attachment to them, and I was left gagging for each coming line of dialogue purely to provide a break from the silent, expressionless moments in between. Drawing out the narrative to over two and a half hours simply rubbed salt in the wound.
The Free Will was not in itself awful, but there were so few points of interest that I found myself becoming restless within forty minutes, and when the credits rolled in what will doubtless be considered a brilliantly emotional finale, I still felt little attachment to the characters.
Sonic X (2003)
(V. small spoilers) Ups and downs, but overall does Sonic justice and complements the games perfectly
Like the Advance games, this is almost a re-envisioning of the Sonic cartoons. Although some episodes are shallow and/or embarrassing, following the plot of recent games allows for some truly spectacular set pieces. The battle to save Colony Arc was very exhilarating, as was the attack on Eggman's base in the first episode.
Surprisingly, character and plot development are highly prominent, with mankind's reaction to the arrival of Sonic and the others forming the basis of the core plot, giving the series a depth you wouldn't expect from Sonic. In the early stages Sonic plays second fiddle to the rest of the cast, in fact at first he seems incredibly uncaring, but thankfully this is changed. The secondary storyline, concerning Rouge's employment by the government, is cleverly woven into the main storyline and the protagonists' situations alter often enough to prevent the series from becoming stale.
So... I like this. A lot. Everything has its faults though, so here we go: Cream is annoying. Extremely. Considering she was a young-yet-feisty character prepared to travel to space and back right from her first appearance in Sonic Advance 2, her inherent wussy-ness is both odd and frustrating. She plays no really important part until Emerl shows up (waaaaay near the end of the series) and is mostly a waste of screen time. Knuckles seems far too aggressive towards his own friends, while Sonic is simply lazy at first, often turning up only at the end to destroy a robot. Don't even mention Vector. Rouge, on the other hand, is perfectly cast, and despite being in a kid's cartoon she conveys the femme-fatale persona I always thought Sega intended for her better than in the games. The human supporting cast are generally good too, complementing the Sonic characters and the plot arc rather than simply stealing screen time.
Most of the humour works well enough, despite the fact Japanese humour often doesn't go down well with Western audiences, and overall the series is well animated, the anime style suiting Sonic. The music is nice too, being used to good effect in the first episode for instance, although the theme tune is a matter of taste. Because there is a clearly defined structure to events, you feel more involved than in Sonic's other TV incarnations, and it's worth watching most of the 52 episodes, despite the fact some are of little relevance or interest, as important plot lines tend to end in spectacular style. Another 26 or so episodes are on their way, so (hopefully) roll on Metal Sonic and the rest of the Sonic Heroes...
Fainaru Fantajî VII (1997)
The quintessential videogaming experience
This game was, for me, a revelation. It shows that a video game can combine many hours of gameplay with an intelligent and involving plot, where one man's quest of self-discovery leads him to almost destroy the world.
The gameplay is magnificent - the characters and animations all have an anime feel to them, and continued play unearths spectacular attack sequences. There is a delicate balance between adventuring, battling and dialogue, meaning that repetition is unlikely to set in. The entire game is driven by the story, a style copied by MGS and the like, which in those instances has made for quite a short lived experience. Here, though, Squaresoft have spun a yarn that spans 60 hours plus, not including the numerous secrets that wait to be unearthed, of a band of rebels and adventurers pursuing a crazed super-soldier through a world ravaged by mankind's greed. It's deep, it's involving, and at times it's emotional. The deeper you dig, the more you discover, and hidden plot twists crowd for the attention of the more persistent gamer. The CGI, although dated by modern standards, is sufficiently advanced to make for some truly thrilling cut scenes, and the dialogue, while not always perfect, is usually just right for the situation.
The music, also, is a real highlight - even after you tire of the numerous battles, as soon as the boss music kicks in you'll feel refreshed and envigorated. The eerie theme of the City of the Ancients, and the terrifying tones that accompany every encounter with Jenova will stay with you forever.
All the elements - the superb soundtrack, the deep, emotional plot, the diverse gameplay - will draw you in to what is arguably, and is for a significant number of people, the most emersive Fantasy yet, indeed the most epic fantasy tale ever told. And I do mean that. Don't be fooled by the flashy graphics of Final Fantasy X - it can't compare to the classic that introduced so many fans to the series with such force.