Sunday, April 26, 2009

TFF Movie #3: Fear Me Not

Last night I went to see Fear Me Not , a very suspenseful film by Dogme co-founder, Kristian Levring. I don't want to spoil it by saying too much here because the movie's best feature was its suspense. Not that much happens in the film and the pace is much slower than the trailer might lead you to believe. Afterward as my friends and I talked, we discovered that we all had terrible fantasies about what the main character was about to do for almost the entire movie. I was anxious for half an hour after the film ended, so if that's the mark of a good suspense film, I should have given it a "five" rating on my audience award ballot. If you want to see something elegantly made, disturbing and suspenseful, go see it.
However, while I thought the movie was incredibly well-made, I found the character's shift into "evil" - as the director put it in the Q&A - unconvincing, going too quickly from relatively "normal" thoughts into violent actions without any seeming underlying hostility, fear, or anxiety. The way that the violence was directed against women in particular didn't make psychological sense to me. The film-makers said that there was much of the film that was meant to be unknown to the audience, but I think that's a bit of a cop-out. As one rather dismissive young woman in the audience put it in the Q&A, "so this is basically a mean guy who likes doing nasty things to ladies?" The implied statement I believe was, in this genre, we've seen that film so many times that the standard has to be higher if we're going to give it props as an artistic statement.
Levring's debt to Hitchcock was clear in the movie's pacing and visual storytelling - both were superb. But the film-makers got the surface of Hitchcock without the depth. They were all too postmodern in their refusal to dig for the "truth" about this character. Hitchcock's films remain satisfying because we can identify elements of ourselves or people we know in the characters. Even his sometimes ham-handed 1950s pop-Freudianism gave his films a lasting impact that I don't think a self-consciously flat post-modern characterization of the "evil everyman" can achieve.

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