I dwell frequently on the points of films, a topic I discussed here. As a primer, I struggle with certain “important” films when their point escapes me or seems not worthwhile, but I wonder if that’s a hypocritical stance since I don’t demand the same from films that I love but who don’t strive to be anything more than entertaining. There’s no right answer but I find it a fascinating topic to ponder. Adam lambasted me for that post (in person, not on the blog because Adam does not write posts, apparently), which made me think more. And another friend gave some good perspective to my search for a point to Inglourious Basterds that I may dive into in a later post.

Amidst all of this I saw The Road, the type of bleak film that often interests me but leaves me pondering what the point of it all was. And I initially had the same reaction here. Viggo Mortensen and son Kodi Smit-McPhee wander a post-apocalyptic landscape, struggling to eat, avoiding roving bands of cannibals, and flashing back to happier times with wife/mother Charlize Theron. It’s essentially two hours of people doing horrible things. I know a common criticism hurled at the film is that the power of the novel comes from the beauty of the prose. In novels, beautiful writing can itself be a point. But how to make a film meaningful if you can’t translate the source’s most important asset?

But with reflection, The Road clearly has themes of survivalism and the challenge of retaining humanity in the most horrible of circumstances. I’d say many Holocaust movies explore similar topics.

So does that help me? I don’t know. It puts me more at peace with the film, which I liked but did not love. I find it more satisfying than There Will Be Blood, a film I still can’t wrap my mind around but which still enchanted me more.

As for the film itself, I very much enjoy the apocalyptic/dystopia genre so I had high hopes for this one. It does disappoint a little; I think the slow, ponderous pace wears a little thin after a while and the oppressive bleakness begins to bear down on you. The plot and the characters are interesting enough. I think where it excels is its imagery. My lasting impressions from the film won’t revolve around a plot point, a line of dialogue, or a performance, but of the burnt-out landscape and the atmosphere of devastation and desperation.

It’s also definitely a film that improves after you leave the theater. It takes some time to sink in and benefits from further reflection. Part of that too is that it has a pat and unsatisfying ending; taking some time to get away from that as well as recovering from rather unsettling experience of actually sitting through the film is a help. And, crucially for this discussion, thematically it needs some time to sink in because my first reaction after it was, “What in the world was that?”

I suspect at this point that The Road won’t be receiving any love from the Academy. Viggo is very good but probably not Best Actor good. I think a Cinematography nod would probably be pretty good though. And maybe northwestern Pennsylvania can get an award for managing to look so damn depressing. Area Most Like a Post-Apocalyptic Hellhole?

Advertisements