Another thing: when the protagonist remembers a photograph that he has seen in his youth, we, the viewers, are facing a similar puzzle of pictures. La jetée leaves us forming a formulated, living universe, similar to the protagonist who defines his whole purpose in life out of one single impression. He lives and feels only through the knowledge of this important picture which has such an enormous, spectacular effect on his puerile soul, so that he even develops the ability to travel through time and space to liven up his memories and make that one photograph tangible for him. So, with the plot in mind, there's absolutely no other choice to tell the story than in this way. And this way is peerlessly productive and effective, formally poetic, reflexive and a perfect dream.
There's especially one particular moment, that I'm sure will go along with me for the rest of my life: when the beloved girl seems to blink her eye at us (me?) and exposes a smile. Marker uses only frozen single pictures of her, but in this very shot he shares a deeply moving, genuine, vibrant moment of happiness and affection with us in an ultimate profession of love to the art of film and love itself. It is probably one of the greatest, most emotional moments in the history of cinema. Art to be meant to last forever. (10/10)
What I like most about this film, though, is its situational context: the island. I can't think of another Bergman film where the environment plays a bigger role than here. All figures are moving in a lost, iced vastness, in defoliated, sparse woods, get stuck in morass and dirt. Animals get brutally tortured and killed, wood gets chopped, wagons bog down in mud. The forlornness and menace of the people in nature is wonderfully captured by Nykvist, mostly in long, high-angle or panoramic shots and is an intriguing contrast to the interior (of the cottages, where the talking, cheating and fighting takes place) - inside there lurks the psychic, outside there's the physical death. That is a great imagery. However, I'm not satisfied with these interview snippets which I think is a nice idea (such as Bergman's verbal directions in the off in Vargtimmen), but it's executed quite poorly.
So, I made clear so far that I think Sean Penn's Into the Wild is a masterpiece which I'm sure, at least nowadays, can't be surpassed at all by emotional impact, wisdom and profundity. At the same time, it's a film that carries great weight for myself (to an extent that only Badlands and Summer with Monika reach, maybe not even those): At one point in my life I had similar thoughts spooking through my mind like the protagonist, Alex Supertramp, had. I was never brave enough to make the next step, though.
Into the Wild is an universal tragedy about love itself, its endless possibilities and, at the same time, its total failure. Usually, after quarrels about continuing or beginning a love relationship most films end in a way that the doubting person goes on a journey to the essence of his/her yearning which can be an extended walk through the city, bar-hopping or even a spontaneous plane trip to finally dissolve all remaining questions and doubts in a kiss or an emotional confession. Here, we don't have this kind of cathartic ending, because the redeeming insight, that one is only happy who can share the luck with others, comes to Alex at a time, "lonely, scared", when it is well-nigh impossible for him to make it true.
All the persons that run across the idealistic adventurer Alex during his trip give him reasons to (re-)appreciate individual freedom which pushes ahead his journey forth and forth. What he doesn't see is that all these people actually fill the gaps of affection that Alex missed at his parental home. He, his head full and burdened with dreams, fails to see that he would have found what he was longing for all the time: The loving mother (Keener), the wise father (Holbrook), the passionate girlfriend (Kristen Stewart), the daring brother (Vaughn). The relationships to everyone Alex meets are built up in an extremely touching and sensitive way and, after a short time, are dissolved in painful moments of leaving. Freedom has its price, a price that Alex does not realize and therefore does not have to pay. It's nothing that I can accuse him of, though, because he is an intrepid dreamer who acts out of emotions and that makes him utterly likable. At the same time, it's easy to see that Alex' ideas are enraptured from this world. The mournful landscape panoramas are wonderfully shot by Eric Gautier, often in meditative slow motion with Alex in focus. He seems to deliquesce in the beauty of nature when the camera circles above around his head, releasing a view to the vast mountains of Alaska, a melting that looks and feels breathtaking, but actually paves the way for Alex' downfall. Eternal love pays the price when it is scratching its fingers bleedingly at the abrasive walls of reality - especially when the opposite is the wilderness, always only a mirror and not the receiver of one's own passions. That is the price which causes Alex' death at the end and a broken heart in everybody he left behind.
There's always a constant, circuiting movement where all characters are driven by the desire to improve their living conditions and to fulfill their wishes. While doing so, they come to know betrayal and disappointment and therefore reckon with the reality of a world that is mean and unfair to them. There are the rich and the poor (such as Lisabetta and her brothers and Lorenzo), the smart and the naive, the saints and the sinners, the self-pleasing and the troublemaker. Those crowd scenes that often connect the episodes of all these swarming people and colours, where always a special incidence of light, a striking gesture of a figure, an effective angle catches the eye, are especially beautiful. And finally there's the cut with these smooth counterparts of environment and human figure, of static takes and wild tracking shots (i.e. the wonderful chase in the woods of Lorenzo and the three brothers with its sudden standstill, the transition of the lightness of the play to an ominous shadow). And the shots of Ninetto silently dancing himself outside the church or Lisabetta hugging the plant pot with tears running down her cheek are the ones I will never forget.
Not only the viewer is left unsure, the protagonists are, too. They embody the condition of the film's unsureness perfectly, as well as the nature of one of the most unique works of Italian cinema, which is also the most variant and formally abstract film project of Pasolini: A weird story, a picaresque tale which mixes metaphors and cinematic references (from Keaton's statics to Chaplin's poesy of the dusty road to Fellini's clowns to Rossellini's monks); a philosophic apology which depicts the end of ideologies, the crisis of Marxism on the background of the clash of rulers and subjects (hawks and sparrows) and the unfortunate encounter of those who have the blessing of knowledge (the wise raven) and those who outlive themselves without the awareness of being part of this world: Totò and Ninetto, father and son. Both are walking the eternal road of a universe which is merciless, discuss pretentious things and express themselves with the help of their basic instincts: physical needs, but also the hate towards inferiors and subservience to superiors. On their way, they encounter the mystery of life and death (birth of a child, a family that kills themselves with gas, a funeral), as well as the mortal fear of those who starve. Until the raven appears, decides to go along with them and overwhelms them with needless wisdoms.
It's great to see Totò in here, a masterful actor who often was criminally misused in abysmal Italian entertainment movies and shows here the wide range of his talent. The interaction with the young, intuitive Ninetto Davoli is probably the biggest joy in this film.
Jesus and his 12 followers are a group of involved young men, who champion for revolutionary concerns. The youth and inexperience of the actors gives a fascinating sense of the fragility of the Christian movement itself in its very beginnings. The iconic-like closeups are a reminiscent of medieval, religious pictures whereas Enrique Irazoqui, who plays Jesus, seems like as if he descended right from a El Greco painting with his thin figure and slim, long face. The music from Bach and Mozart, as well as Blues recordings conveys additional meaning: The cry of revolt and the demand to be heard and received by the people and its authorities. It becomes utterly touching when the film dissolves into melancholy and passion by the power of Bach's classical music chorus and the blues.
The cinematography is remarkable and takes in many scenes the position of a third person telling the story. The intensely textual and dramaturgic reference to the biblical model, the amateurish performances of the actors and the waive of any pathos gives the film a strong naturalistic nuance. Jesus is less the son of god, but more an ideological fighter who gives radical speeches. But, Pasolini does not demystify the figure of Christ, nor does he question the set dogmas of the official church. He rather accentuates the social facets of Jesus' life and work and gives it an unforeseen political smack
It's brilliant how Van Sant's achieves an exterior shallowness in the shots and images we see on screen to the contrary odds of the inner life of the main protagonist, a restless wanderer on an everlasting search for oneself and the final resignation "I lost something on the way I am today." The film is very meditative and naturalistic; a minimalist drama which locates for the most part in a roomy building and depicts the events which might have caused to the suicide of the musician. It has some intensely spellbinding musical moments, kind of an abstract form of the style of Nirvana's music and the grunge movement per se, when Blake/Pitt murmurs for almost 5 minutes a acoustic ballad and finally furiously tears the strings of his guitar. Or there's the sequence when Blake talks on the telephone with a member of his band who wants to argue him into making another tour. This conversation, like so much more in the film, goes off into nothingness - at some point, Blake doffs the handset and leaves his pal talking into the void until the scene interrupts. Another great moment in the film is when we see Blake from a distance in his rehearsal room through a window, while the camera almost imperceptibly backs up and one by one releases the view at the luxurious country house, walking around and operating several instruments. The chords of an electric guitar crescendo to a voluminous drone sound and with every instrument Blake plays, the intensity increases while the camera slowly moves away from the house. This gives a feeling as if Van Sant withdraws from his protagonist, with the awareness that also the camera can not get to truth of Blake's/Kurt's story and that certain secrets should rather left to be untouched. It's also remarkable that Van Sant avoids any direct reference to drug use, but there are hidden innuendos such as the Velvet Underground song Venus in Furs we hear from a scratched record: "I am tired, I am weary, I could sleep for thousand years". This extolled numbness of the body has also befallen Blake whereas the association of the record and the heroine needle is kind of a 'witty' pun.
At the end, when Blake leaves his body (in admittedly too much pathos) and goes up the Stairway of Heaven, you just seem to be relieved that his misery of mental and physical exhaustion and mundane loneliness finally found an end and you have to agree with Kurt Cobain's famous line: "It's better to burn out than to fade away."