Friday, April 30, 2010

Morvern Callar

It started with moving images. Later on, it sound was combined with the images. In essence, all film can be reduced to moving images and sound, and the interplay between the two forces is what makes the base on which all film is built. Sometimes, films are made where the value of the work can be reduced to the ways the sound and image play off each other, such as in Morvern Callar.

The film one expects when they hear the storyline and the film that results, in this case, are two completely different things. The story goes that Morvern Callar, played by Samantha Morton, finds her boyfriend has killed himself on Christmas Eve, leaving behind an unpublished manuscript and a mix tape. Callar decides to change the name on the manuscript to her own, and also go partying as her boyfriend decomposes on the living room floor. Now, take everything you might expect from that premise, and forget about it, because the plot merely gives a rough direction and a bit of imagery.

What you get instead is a pure mood piece. The dialog is sparse, the plotting moreso, and it takes a good 30 minutes before much really happens, story-wise. That's because the story exists to give a direction, not to actually dictate events. We are let into the world of Callar through Morton's performance, the suspiciously perfect mix-tape, and the sublime mix of sound and image.

What is the mood it creates? Well, it's a mix of moody depression and light creepiness, and not just because Callar's boyfriend sits on the living room floor for so long. The film is mostly about grief, trying to convey that sense of loss simply through the power of cinema. Anyone expecting to find anything of a story will be disappointed, as will anyone unwilling to be absorbed into a picture which wants to convey an idea over a coherent plot.

If you're willing, it's an easy film to get lost in. It is beautifully shot, the music selection is amazing - apart from one song I generally can't stand that is nonetheless wholly appropriate for the scene - and while it can sometimes can seem inscrutable, it's easy to see the ideas and the pure thought that went into the overall atmosphere. It's a very different kind of movie, and one that might not be for all people, but it is worth exploring and giving a chance.

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