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"Krabat" has been one of the classics of youth literature in Germany for almost 40 years and one wonders why nobody tried to make a movie out of it earlier. Actually, it is not that hard to answer this question since "Krabat" is a very grim and dark tale with some gruesome deaths, an ending that comes across as rather anticlimactic and above all an incredible amount of religious symbolism (even though the book is no sappy Christian novel) that would make it hard to market it. Parents would not go and see this movie with their kids and young people might not find it cool enough. Fortunately, the producers were smart enough to think of another target group: grown-ups who read the book in their youth and have been haunted by it ever since.
Some changes have been made. The symbolism is reduced, the role of the "Kantorka" is slightly expanded, which makes the showdown a little more exciting and Tonda's love to Worschula plays a bigger part than it does in the novel. Make no mistake, though, both women still have small roles. The story is shortened by one year (so that it now covers only two years instead of three which ultimately saves the life of one of the boys - and to those who only watched the movie but haven't read the book: It is not the guy you think it might be) and the story centers even more on Krabat than in the book, which means that all scenes that explain more about the master such as the sorcerer's duel and the trip to the Elector in Dresden were left out.
I don't mind these changes too much. While the trip to Dresden was in my opinion one of the most memorable scenes of the book I can understand why it had to go. There are some other minor changes which I won't go into. But even with the shortening of the story, Kreuzpaintner still had a lot left in his hands that he had to press into two hours. And I have to say that he does not entirely succeed. Kreuzpaintner does something Preußler does a lot in his book: He only hints at many things and hopes that the viewer will link the parts together. But Preußler had a much bigger story than Kreuzpaintner does and often this makes the movie feel rushed or incomplete. But still, the story is touching and gripping and in my opinion totally satisfying.
The cinematography is outstanding. The images are truly beautiful, and the aerial shots even allow the viewer to see the entire set. Incredible work has been done here. Now, in most big German productions there is one scene in which the director decides to go totally Hollywood and usually this ends in a disaster. The same thing unfortunately happens here when the boys get into a fight with some marauding soldiers. Kreuzpaintner tries to out-Scott Ridley Scott here and the picture is so distorted that not only can you barely see what is happening but it also really hurts the eyes. What makes this even worse is that this makes it look like they tried to cover up bad fighting stunts with these scenes even though I am sure that they were in fact done well.
The actors are mainly well cast. Brühl, Redl (especially Redl!), Stadlober all act well and make us forget the actor behind the role (Brühl and Redl succeed better than Stadlober) Hanno Koffler, whom I usually like a lot, does some over-acting which seems annoying at first, but since he plays Juro that might have been a deliberate choice. Unfortunately, David Kross is a little weak, but this seems to be the curse of title characters who, after all, are supposed to serve as models for identification. The guy I actually liked best was Moritz Grove, who plays Merten as thoughtful, caring and in the end almost tragic. All in all,it has to be said that the casting agents really did their job well in making these guys distinguishable, even though some of their parts are rather small.
While I liked the set design and the costumes, I was not too pleased about the make-up. Smeering some black paint on strategic places on the actors' faces so that they look dirty but still pretty gets on my nerves when it happens through an entire movie. It really looks fake after a while and when you get to scenes where the actors show their shaved armpits, you cannot help but laugh at this pseudo-historical mess.
I have to say, in spite of some criticism I really liked the movie and I will recommend it to everyone. To people who read the book it will bring back great childhood memories and others who have not read it will find the movie entertaining, thrilling and maybe even scary.
But just like the movie ends on a big "f--- you" to the audience I will end this review with my biggest gripe about the movie: Who on earth made the decision to put such a terrible song at the end of the movie? The picture has such an incredibly beautiful score and does everything to set the mood right and they actually decide to put some electro dance track over the credits!!!! This must be one of the worst choices of a film-promoting song in film history! The people behind this decision should really lower their heads in shame!
Der Baader Meinhof Komplex (2008)
Little more than a vanity project for Bernd Eichinger
Once every few years, Bernd Eichinger feels the need to prove to everybody that he has the biggest dick in the German film industry. In order to do this, he refrains from making cheap stupid international movies like "Resident Evil" and dumb German comedies and makes a big movie that he calls important. After "Der Untergang" and "Das Parfum" we now get "Der Baader-Meinhof Komplex".
One really wonders who this movie was made for. People who don't know anything about the RAF will not understand most of what is going on. People who know some stuff about this will only find the things that they already know and experts on the topic will be horrified about the simplifications and elisions.
The movie looks great, as it should be expected. It really looks like it is from the era. All technical aspects are wonderful, the cinematography, the action, sound, effects. And the actors do an incredible job. Martina Gedeck and Johanna Wokalek stand out in this universally good cast as Ulrike Meinhof and Gudrun Ensslin.
Also, to be fair, it has to be said, that the beginning of the movie is really gripping and well done. The viewer gets to understand a lot about the feeling of the time and the intentions of the protagonists are well-explained.
But the whole thing goes downhill after a while. By the time Ulrike Meinhof joins the group and Andreas Baader breaks out of prison, we lose focus. Suddenly there are new members in almost every scene and none of them gets introduced properly (with the exception of Peter-Jürgen Boock). Certainly, not every character needs a back story, but it would have been essential to tell the audience at least how these recruits got to join the group in general.
By the time that Meinhof, Baader and Ensslin are imprisoned, we really don't care about the RAF any more. And this is mainly because we have no idea who these "2nd generation" people are. Even people who know about the RAF will wonder who this or that guy in each scene is supposed to be because only few of them are even mentioned by name. The assassinations of von Mirbach, Buback and Ponto are just checked off a list to get the story to completion. And the whole Schleyer-kidnapping as well as the attack on the "Landshut" which are supposed to serve as the climax of the movie have terrible timing and leave out so much important information.
But also the handling of characters of the "1st generation" is done poorly in parts. Raspe is basically absent from the movie until he gets taken in by the police, same with Meins, whose only purpose in the movie it is to get captured, force-fed and then die. Only these three scenes. Nothing more is seen of him! Neither Eichinger nor Edel really cared to explain or teach anything. The whole thing was just planned as a big production to show off 2/3 of the more well-known actors working in Germany in one movie. Even the guy who attempts to assassinate Rudi Dutschke gets played by a well known actor (Tom Schilling). What this movie would have needed is the kind of epilogue that Eichinger put at the end of "der Untergang" to show what happened to some characters and also to even explain who these characters were supposed to be.
So, we only have one more chance to find out. Since the movie is filled with well-known actors, reading the credits might help. No chance here. Except for the main characters no character name is mentioned in the credits, only the actors who showed up. To me, this is the ultimate proof that Eichinger didn't care about the characters at all, all he cared about was the actors he could squish into this movie.
There are other things that others will criticize, for example the way the victims are turned just into cardboard figures with no purpose other than getting assassinated, or the fact that the German government, which was very involved especially in the final act, is not present at all. I personally do not mind these things too much, because I understand that this is not the story the makers wanted to tell.
I only criticize the movie for what it is. A nice-looking, but unfortunately very hollow and confusing piece of work. Too bad. It was a great chance that was missed here.
The Phantom of the Opera (2004)
For fans of the musical only
Roger Ebert said of Andrew Lloyd Webber: "Whenever he finds one good tune, he starts rehearsing." Now, that may be a little harsh and exaggerated, but Ebert does have a point here. Webber tends to overuse sequences of particular songs and especially so in "The Phantom of the Opera".
I think there is certainly more than one good song in "Phantom", but most of the good songs are in the first half. After "Masquerade", which on stage opens the second act and is played after a little over half the movie is over, there are only 2 or three really original songs following (which are all weaker songs of the musical), the rest is just patchwork from other songs and sequences. You can't call this "Leitmotiv" either, because Webber uses theses tunes almost randomly. Really, it gets rather boring after a while.
The second half is a big problem in the production anyway. The story basically falls apart. Everything repeats itself, the focus is lost and basically, it doesn't make sense either.
Many people say that the problem is the Phantom, which is not really scary in Webber's piece. I think the problem lies rather in the character of Christine. Her relationship with the "Angel of Music" is naive and she comes across as rather bland and dumb. Also, while she is fascinated by the Phantom, she is never at all in love with him. From the beginning she falls for Raoul for motives which are also rather flat. We can never really believe that she loves Raoul (who is a boring character anyway and while Patrick Wilson plays him well, his hairdo in the movie really only underlines the impression of the spoiled vain brat that we have perceived from the get-go). So, there is no believable love-story to Raoul and no love for the Phantom either. Therefore, while Christine seems nice to the viewer, we never really get involved with her emotionally. The "love" the Phantom feels for Christine at times rather comes across as desire but still, it is the most believable emotion in the piece.
All of these are problems of the source material. But since Joel Schumacher has adapted the musical almost slavishly faithfully they need to be addressed.
The actors all do a good job, some of them even outstanding. Emmy Rossum's singing is incredible and Minnie Driver, Simon Callow and Chiaran Hinds add a much needed comic relief. In fact, it is these three latter characters who make the movie bearable. While the movie does look good it still looks far too serious. This heavy-handedness pulls the movie down quite a lot. Its OK that most of the movie looks fake or stagy but it is also filmed in way as if this musical were high art. I am sure that even die-hard fans of "PotO" will agree that while it is nice entertainment, it is nothing more than entertainment. A little more lightness, maybe even a hint of irony would really have helped here. But so, we only have Driver, Callow and Hinds to tell us that it actually is OK to laugh sometimes.
What really doesn't work are the scenes set in 1919. Apart from the opening and possibly the ending they really don't serve any point at all other than giving us a break from the singing. While that is a noble effort, a little dialog should have been included instead of just having to look at a tired old man for roughly a minute. Also, the rose in the last scene is really distracting. During the entire movie, Schumacher has been trying to make the Phantom human and real (which the stage production never does) and suddenly we are supposed to believe that this character is immortal? BIG mistake here.
You probably wouldn't guess it from this review, but I do kind of like the movie. I like looking at it, I like the actors, I enjoy many of the songs. But there is not a single moment in this movie where one is not aware of its weaknesses. We are never really pulled in. We stand by watching, listening and maybe enjoying it, but at no time do we feel like we are part of the action.
Fans of the stage production will probably love this movie and I am happy for them (except for those who keep crying that they want Michael Crawford back who hasn't played the role for about 20 years). But I don't think it is for anyone else. There are musicals which I consider to be watchable for people who do not like musicals. THIS movie is definitely NOT one of them.
The Dark Knight (2008)
I'm not a Batman geek or overexcited teenager, but I still liked this movie a lot
I really don't like to jump on a band wagon like this. Though I had been longing for this movie for over a year and though I was expecting great things from it, this nerdy and geeky talk of comic book fans ("best movie ever") really got onto my nerves. Living in Germany, I had to wait until yesterday to finally watch the movie and I could watch all the craziness going on on the net from afar. I still wanted to like the movie, but I really feared that all this hype might ruin it for me.
Well, now that I have finally seen it I have to say that my fears were to a large part unnecessary. the movie is great and I think it is as good as a movie like this can be. Though I still get annoyed by teenagers who yell that this is the best movie ever, I can understand where they are coming from. Every decade or so there is one movie that becomes a real phenomenon. And if you never experienced this than you become part of the group that says "this is our movie and we won't let grumpy idiots take it away from us". When I was at that age for me it was "Jurassic Park" and later to a certain extent also "Titanic" and I bet most of the kids who hype this movie have not been consciously around then.
I thought the acting was great overall. Heath Ledger definitely stands out. Christian Bale is great, too. His work as the twisted Batman/Bruce Wayne character has to be a lot more subtle in this movie and he achieves that wonderfully. Unfortunately, due to Ledger's tour de force performance, Bale's work seems to go unappreciated by many here. I could go on and on. There is not a single weak performance in this movie (although the Mayor becomes a bit distracting because of his heavy eye-liner, but that's not the actor's fault).
I love the scope of this movie. The main storyline is always in focus but there still is room for subplots here and there which are all set up perfectly and fit within the overall plot. And even though you might wish to see more of some characters (like Alfred) you nevertheless don't feel that they were underused. The pacing is great as well. You keep being interested the entire time and the movie flows so naturally that you never get the feeling that this action sequence here happens because there has to be an action sequence.
So, is this the best movie ever? I leave that up to everyone to decide for himself. It is not perfect but no movie, even the best, is completely flawless. There are things in this movie that I didn't like too much. I wish they had done more with Two-Face and the whole bit about the cell phones seemed a bit gimmicky for me (I also didn't like Batman's eyes in these scenes).
But there is so much to like in this film. One has to applaud the filmmakers for going against conventions by for example killing of characters not just at the climax of the movie but right in the middle. I also loved it that the movie does not end with the big machine of the villain that he has to start in order to rule the world (even "Batman begins" fell into that trap). They found a perfectly neat solution to it all and though I think the ending is not perfect, I think it still is great as it is.
The same thing can be said about the whole movie. I love it that the script of this movie is so smart that it even takes time to ask philosophical questions. Sure, it doesn't go too deep but it is mentioned in a way that most moviegoers will be able to think about this.
I had a perfect time at the cinema and think that for what it is, this movie can indeed be called a masterpiece.
It really hits home
I never wanted to watch this movie. In the year when it came out, the trailer was playing constantly for at least 5 months and it really looked bad. The trailer made this movie look like it was soaked with clichés.
I finally watched this movie today and I am truly impressed. Sure, the main storyline is the coming-out story, but it is really well done and also there is so much more to this movie.
Most of the characters are well rounded, they all have their flaws and strengths. The gay guys aren't presented as saints and the heterosexuals are no ignorant gay-bashing crowd. It would have been so easy to make this movie play like a gay vs. straight story in which the straight team bullies the gays and the gays gain confidence (in fact, this is what the trailer made the film look like). But that's not the story here. On a group-level, it is a story of heterosexuals overcoming their insecurity with homosexuals and gays taking a look behind their own stereotypes.
The coming-out-storyline is pretty common stuff. There is nothing really new here but it is still well done. What made this movie really hit me hard and bring me to tears was the coming-of-age story that goes along with it. Rarely ever have I seen a movie that captures so well how beautiful it is to be young and how much it hurts when your best friendship is torn apart by growing up and falling in love. The scene in which Toby is close to panic because he knows that his friend Achim split from the group in order to have sex with his girlfriend made me remember my own youth and how jealous I got when a good friend of mine suddenly had a girlfriend. I believe that the most painful aspect of this scene is not only that he is in love with Achim himself, but that there is a feeling of loss.
Sure, you know you are being selfish and jealous by not wanting your friend to have sex. You know, you wouldn't act any differently. But knowing that right there and then it might all change and you might lose him to another person and experiencing this fear.... I really know and understand this feeling. And when Toby goes looking for them even though he knows he shouldn't and watches them the scene almost broke my heart.
The great thing about this movie is that you cannot only appreciate it on a homosexual level, but also on a plain friendship-level. I am pretty sure that while watching this movie, everybody will remember his youth sentimentally, the innocence, what it was like at the time when we realized that we soon would be free to do whatever we wanted and plans we made. And then... that dreadful experience just a little while later when we had to understand that the prize for this freedom was the loss of our innocence and the end of the carefree days.
This movie understands youth and treats it seriously. It is warm, funny, sentimental, sad, romantic, sexy and truly beautiful. I really hope that the gay element does not turn too many people off before watching it, because as I said, there is a lot more to it and these people will miss a perfect gem.
The movie that revived movie-musicals
Pretty much all through the eighties (and for a big part, the seventies as well) movie musicals were considered a relict from the past. When Menken and Ashman wrote the score for "The little Mermaid", they made movie musicals acceptable again, at least for as long as they were animated. This proved to become a curse as well, since after a while, this became a formula not only for Disney but for pretty much any animated movie in production.
But then came Evita.
I remember reading about the fight over the casting of the title role back then. Every year or so some magazine would bring an update and say that now, at last, the movie would be produced. I never thought it would really happen. And then, suddenly, it actually was in production. And Madonna was in the title role. And suddenly this movie became the talk of the town. Argentinians were going berserk because Madonna (who of all celebrities had lived a life that probably resembled that of Evita's closer than the biography of any other Hollywood actress) was not virtuous enough for them to play the part. Reports of Madonna's pregnancy messing up the schedule appeared everywhere. Andrew Lloyd Webber had produced a new song for the movie (in order for it to have a chance at the Oscar's, smart guy) and next years fashion line was pretty much inspired by Evita's (in real life) and Madonna's (in the movie) look.
With all this going on about the movie I was really surprised how quickly it has become almost forgotten.
I really like the movie a lot, in fact, I think that the faults it has come from the source material. The songs in the first half, with a few exceptions, are forgettable and thus the first half drags a bit, a lot of things going on are not easily understandable for people who are not familiar with Argentinia in the fifties. While Peron's rise to power is explained in a song most of the stuff that goes on while the couple rules the country seems sketched and one REALLY needs to keep up not to lose track of what's actually going on there. Also, the musical supports the urban legend that Eva started the riots to get Peron out of prison.
Devotees of Evita cried out that the movie portrayed her too negatively, critics of Evita dismissed the movie for showing her in a too positive light. Frankly, I believe if you upset both sides, I think you are probably not too far away from the truth. In fact, the libretto is wonderfully ambiguous with its admiration for the way Evita handled her own image and her good intention and its criticism for the recklessness she used to acquire her goals and the glamour that covers up everything. Rice does something wonderful here: He gives listeners both sides and lets them decide which to choose.
I think all the singers are great. Banderas should have become a rock star, Pryce with the sonority in his voice takes some getting used to but is actually marvelous and Madonna... well she owns the film. You hear people everywhere shouting "Ohhhhh Patty Lu Pone had a much stronger voice!" and stuff like that. Yes, true, Lu Pone has a stronger voice but you also have to keep in mind that her performance was created for the stage so it had to be a lot broader. Also, the singing is always just one aspect of the performance and an actor has to create a wholesome character. I think Madonna turned her softer voice, what some people might call a weakness, into a strength and shaped a character that befitted this voice. Her Evita is softer, more emotional and also more cunning this way. I am by no means a great fan of Madonna but one really has to acknowledge what she has done here and how great she was.
Even though the movie's popularity has sunk in the last decade it's legacy still lives on. It was the first serious big budget, non-animated musical in a long time and it approached the subjects of musicals in a new way, making it look less staged by having it shot mostly on location. Also, it is a lot more about characters than about choreography and it has formed musicals in the way that today in musicals there is actually a lot more singing than talking, which also used to be different. I am absolutely certain that without Evita, none of the recent musicals would have been possible and maybe even "Moulin Rouge" and most certainly "Chicago" would never have been made.
Shoot 'em up with bows and arrows
I read The Chronicles of Narnia when I was about twelve years old. The series is not as well-known in Germany, but after watching the first season of the BBC-production I thought it looked interesting and gradually I read all books of the series. I enjoyed them but there was a lot that bothered me about them as well so I never read them again. At the time I didn't pick up any Christian allegory and when I read about all the Christian fuss that was made over the production of the first film I was wondering what everybody was talking about. I did some research then and read a lot about it and I understand it now but I still think that, especially as a child, you can read the books without thinking about the allegory at all. But now I finally understood what it was that I never liked about the books: All characters are basically paralyzed. Everybody is constantly talking about Aslan who will come and set things straight, even though he is never there when they need him. This glorification of a talking lion seemed too ridiculous to me and in my opinion no character in these books was allowed to have a free will.
Enough about the books, I am here to talk about the movie, I just wanted to get this out of the way for you to understand where I am coming from.
Honestly, in a visual sense, the movie is great, there are certain things, such as the spirit that is formed out of petals, that look so real that even though you know it is CGI it doesn't look like CGI. The animals look pretty real as well. But there are still many things, such as the river-god, that may look cool but still look a lot like CGI. All in all, the technical side of the movie is probably as good as it could be, except for Caspian's hairstyle. Seriously, after running around the forests for days without a bath or so he still sports a perfectly designed parting in the hair that looks as if it has been cast in concrete.
The acting is OK. Nothing really great but everybody delivers what is required of him or her. The only exception is William Moseley, who is still rather bland and boring. But this may also be due to the role he plays. After all, a kid who is designed as a natural leader with his brother and sisters looking up to him because he usually acts in noble and sensible ways can only be boring, right? Anna Popplewell has improved considerably since the first movie.
The movie is too long and a lot could have been tightened up. Curiously, it is the changes to the story that could have used some elaboration:
-There seems to be no reason why Peter is suddenly arrogant. And also, even though he just as suddenly goes through a change due to the tragical effects his decisions have led to this is never really addressed in the script. -The rivalry between Peter and Caspian also ends abruptly without the two of them having any exchange about it. - There is obviously some sort of attraction between Susan and Caspian. I understand that the producers did not want to make it two obvious, but really, exchanging 2 or three glances throughout the movie does not justify the emotional good-bye they share at the end.
All of these additions were interesting ideas but all of them were executed poorly in my opinion.
Even though I was entertained throughout the movie there was one element that really spoiled it for me. I understand that "Prince Caspian" is supposed to be darker and more mature than the "The Lion, the witch and the wardrobe" and I don't mind violence per se. But what I really object to is the way the violence is reduced to a gimmick throughout the movie due to the American rating system. I am not talking about the big battle sequences, the siege of the castle (even though this was not in the book) and the battle in the end, but about all the violence that occurs throughout the movie.
Appently, the American rating system approves of violence in children's movies if no blood is shown. By looking at this movie, one gets the impression that any kind of violence is excused as long as there is no blood. And so, throughout the movie, bad guys are slain with swords or killed with arrows by the kids, but everything is fine since there is no blood.
This is really like a Shoot 'em up pc-game where the baddies die as soon as they are hit and nobody has to think about them any more. Hey, in this movie, the characters even supposedly die after their legs have been sliced (without blood) by a sword-carrying-mouse. This really happens throughout the entire movie, there is barely a scene where no violence of this kind occurs. I think it is wrong to show violence without consequence. I don't mind having kids (or anybody) exposed to violence if it is not overly gruesome, but I think the filmmakers have the responsibility of showing the consequences. If the filmmakers weren't so bound by the rating system, the body-count would ironically probably have been a lot lower since many characters would probably rather have been wounded than just killed off.
This kind of hypocrisy has been bothering me about movies that had to be toned down so that they can be seen by the entire family for a long time, but here it really becomes apparent. Considering that this is a movie which is supposed to have a Christian message, I find it especially irritating that none of the good guys have any qualms about killing the bad guys by the dozens.
The Mist (2007)
One of the best horror movies of all time
Note: I have added the "spoiler notice", even though I will not reveal the ending. I will mention its impact on me, though, which, for some, might already count as a spoiler.
It is so difficult to get a horror movie right. Quite often, in my opinion, the idea of the horror subject is more frightening than the execution. This applies especially to haunted house stories. But here.... I have to confess, I have rarely ever felt horror as strongly as I did while watching this movie.
I haven't read the novella on which the movie is based, but after watching the movie I listened to a radio dramatization and read some stuff on the net and from that I gather that the movie follows the story pretty closely, mostly deviating from it at the end by adding a coda.
The story starts quickly, driving the plot forward and the tension builds up gradually. What I really like about the movie is that while there is the "attack - pause - attack - pause"-rhythm that is typical for horror movies, there is no denouement here in the pauses. While the monsters "plan" their next attack, it is the humans who drive the action further and in many ways, the story that unfolds here is much more frightening than the monster attacks. The monster stuff is there for the blood and gore, the human story provides the real terror that leaves you chilled. It is this rare combination of different kinds of horror that makes this movie stand out so much.
The characters are also completely believable. There is only one scene in which a character seems to react the way he does because of the genre conventions. This is when Mr. Norton strictly refuses to go back to the warehouse to look at the remains of a monster. I felt this to be the only forced moment in the movie where the reaction was not natural, but had to be like this to keep the movie and the tension going.
Mrs. Carmody is a pretty risky character that could easily have gone wrong. But with this script and especially through the outstanding performance of Marcia Gay Harden she remains credible and real. I can't believe how many people view this as bashing of religion or Christianity. Mrs. Carmody in my opinion is not a symbol of religion but of orthodoxy and radicalness. If a Christian is offended by her portrayal, I think he should probably check his own motives.
Now, for the ending... What an incredible, courageous, terrifying, ruthless ending. When I watched the movie in the theater I couldn't believe what I was watching. This ending, while it is just the icing on the cake, is what will make this film be remembered for a long time. I can completely understand why people hate this ending. It goes against movie conventions (if you haven't seen the movie: don't worry, it is not an open ending, the story gets completely resolved) and will crush you on the floor without picking you up. This part you will have to do on your own. The point is, that this is not just a sad ending, but it stresses the unnecessarity of the actions the main character has taken. And by then giving us just a short look into the face of a woman who had taken a chance early on in the movie and was supposed to be dead but had instead survived, it makes everything even more unbearable.
Usually, when a hero dies in the end or something sad happens to him, there is always some sort of closure that what he did was right or that he was a hero of some sort. "The Mist" denies the viewer this feeling. Instead, it leaves us with a feeling of deep deep pain and uselessness. People who hate the ending and maybe feel betrayed by it, probably mostly hate the fact that they have been lured into identifying with the supposedly wrong character. This guy is not an everyman who goes out of the story with his head held high, but one who makes a mistake, an understandable mistake, that will ruin him forever.
A great movie!
Die Welle (2008)
Even if you know the story, this movie will grab you.
Director Dennis Gansel seems to like movies about the power of groups and how they affect the individual. All of his movies deal with this subject. I had some problems with his previous outing "Napola" (wrote a review on IMDb), but in "Die Welle" he gets most things right.
Let's start with the negatives, just to get them out of the way:
-I found the marketing to be too aggressive. That's not the movie's fault but one could almost picture the producers trying to find a project which will get hundreds of German classes into the cinema.
-The big gripe I have with this movie is that it chooses the wrong girl as the heroine. Each of the students is a symbol for a certain type of students. Gansel avoids turning them into clichés, but they are symbols nonetheless. Most of the kids go for the movement, there are mainly 2 girls who don't. I don't have a problem with the first one, the smaller role. She is the typical hippieesque do-gooder who is almost fascistic herself in the way she is trying to get her own point across and thus creates an interesting and realistic persona. She values the individual, but by listening to her you get the feeling that she herself does not respect people who don't share her opinion.
It's the other girl who is the problem. This is the type of over-achieving person who engages in all kind of projects, plans ahead for the future and does everything to succeed in life. She is mostly egocentric but can hide it pretty well by engaging in group projects. Nevertheless, she is a typical "Generation Y"-kid who only acts when she can find personal gain in it. This girl is the spitting image of the ideal that German teachers and parents are trying to create at the moment and that in my own personal opinion is just wrong. The reason why she quits the group initially is that a white shirt doesn't suit her well. In fact, laughable as it is, this is the one realistic thing about her. I am deeply convinced that this character would in reality not be able to look through this scheme, but that instead she would happily participate in the group and try to advance her own position by bringing in lots of more new ideas.
In my opinion, the most realistic opposer would be an outsider who remains an outsider just because he feels unwell in groups. But this guy would be hard to identify with.
-One minor point: The Turkish guy should not have been so well-adjusted to German culture. It would have been interesting to see how he would have reacted to the group and how they would have taken him in. The movie would be even more controversial if it had shown that this would be a way in which integration could work, even though with horrible side-effects.
But enough about the negative.
The movie works well even with its flaws. It grabs you from the beginning and does not let go. The movie adapts the novel towards modern Germany but sticks close enough the source material to realize the main plot points. Even if you know what is going to happen the movie makes you follow the plot and think along.
What I like most about it is that it does not preach or give easy answers. It raises questions and forces you to think. Except for the very last scenes the events are never too much over the top and every single event by itself could find some sympathy in the viewer. This way you yourself are tempted by "Die Welle" and you have to force yourself to think why exactly it should be wrong to oppose it. In fact, in many ways I was reminded of school spirit in American high schools, especially while I was watching the sports scenes. There is no easy way out of "Die Welle" and therefore it makes it interesting for all nationalities, not just Germans.
The movie changes the ending of the novel a bit. (Here comes the spoiler).
Instead of revealing Hitler as the groups true leader, the teacher only gives a speech after which the events get out of control and a student dies. This is some rather shaky territory, because in this scene the movie really threatens to go over the top. I can definitely understand viewers who dismiss this movie as junk at this moment, but I think that it is actually a quite realistic scenario. Gansel wisely shot this scene in a very realistic way: he makes it quick, surprising and ugly and this way he makes it feel organic stylistically. It invokes the terror of school shootings and reflects one of Todd Strasser's other novels, "Give a boy a gun", and suddenly one understands the decisions of the character Tim, the boy who finally found a meaning in his life even though he still was not really accepted. He was now accepted as part of the movement, but not as an individual. Unfortunately he does not recognize this and this leads to the tragic events.
End of spoiler.
Final Comment: What I found most strange about the movie was that none of the characters knows "The Wave", since it has been taught to death on German schools. But I guess the movie would not have worked otherwise. Even though I believe that most people know about the story already I advise everybody to watch this update. They will definitely find something new in it to keep them thinking.
"Ladies and Gentlemen, may I have your attention pu-lease"
I had been looking forward to seeing this movie for such a long time! Since it won't come out in Germany until February 12th I had to wait even longer than the American audience. Well, I finally got to see it and here is my review.
First off, I think on its own terms the movie is extraordinary! Truly one of the greatest movies of the past year. When it started I was at first put off by the picture of the Tower Bridge (which did not exist an the time in which the movie is set) but I quickly got over it and just followed along.
The whole look of the movie is incredible. The costumes, the production design, the wigs, everything fits together perfectly. This is probably, along with "Batman Returns", the one where Burton captured his German-Exypressionism-Look best. Everything is just a little bit twisted and shabby yet somehow beyond all the filth there is something glorious about it.
The actors are just as great. Helena Bonham-Carter makes for a very funny Mrs. Lovett, even though she decided to play it down a little bit from the usual hysterical stage version and make her a human rather than a complete maniac. Depp seems to be channeling Heath Ledger's "Brokeback Mountain"-performance judging by the way he constantly clenches his teeth together. Because of this decision his singing often sounds like he is hissing the sounds through his teeth, but it fits just well with his performance. I like the decision to make the main characters not too exaggerated as they often are on stage. It might fit there, but here this portrayal seems so much more realistic and adds to the effect of the movie. Of the entire -wonderful- cast, there are only two characters who are completely overplayed: Timothy Spall's Beadle and Sasha Baron Cohen's Pirelli. But this as well adds to the movie and helps making these people characters you just love to hate, in the case of the Beadle perhaps even more than the Jugde.
The gore-level is very high and the throat slitting seems to be the most real thing in the entire movie. This is a very courageous decision as it makes you squirm even though you are entertained. Whereas the stage-version is often darkly comical the movie is rather macabre and the viewer can feel how painful death can be (and still can't wait for the next death). This makes the movie very bitter-sweet and makes it stay with you a lot longer. I was actually surprised that Burton did not go all the way and decided not to show Toby's fate as it would have made the ending even more heartbreaking. But that would have been just the icing on the cake.
And now the one thing that makes me take off one star of the movie: It really sounds like I am one of these elitists if I compare it to the stage version and I really don't mean to. In fact, if you don't know the stage version you will not miss anything at all. But since I have seen it I have to compare it automatically. Make no mistake, everything that's here is great, no complains. I just sometimes wished that some of the abbreviated songs had been intact in the movie. I know why Burton cut them and I understand his decision but since I think the choires are so integral to the musical I would have preferred it if he had kept them in a few songs, most notably "God that's good" and "Pirelli's Miracle Elixir". Sometimes it simply felt like the songs were just hinted at instead of really performed. And for "A little Priest" I would have preferred had Depp and Bonham-Carter made it just a little bit more lively. There is no need to make it the wild number it is on stage, but it is a sweeping waltz after all.. A little more than just staring out of the window would have been nice.
But enough of that. I can only advise everyone, even non-lovers of musicals, to see this movie. You probably won't be disappointed - as long as you don't mind the blood.