The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005)

I think that if there is one movie that should be shown during Easter week it is “The Exorcism of Emily Rose”, forget about those old stories about the death of Jesus or the Ten Commandments, no, no, no. None of those movies have the ability to persuade you to give the Christian religion a chance like The Exorcism of Emily Rose, a movie that takes inspiration from the case of Anneliese Michel, a German girl who was apparently a victim of possession, a case that gained fame for having occurred during the modern era, which put religious doctrine directly against scientific thought and resulted in the conviction of Anneliese’s parents and the priests who performed the exorcism to prison for the girl’s death. This real-life case shares many beats with the story of the film and just like the real case, the film is also framed in a discussion between religion and science, a key element that makes this audiovisual piece an emotionally charged story that could convince more than one agnostic about the existence of the realm of the supernatural.

As usual in this blog… Let’s start at the beginning! When I re-watched the movie, before doing the review, there was something that caught my attention about the beginning of the story. It’s what Lagos Esgri calls the “point of attack” or the moment the writer chooses to begin the story. In the case of The Exorcism of Emily Rose, the story starts in two different ways, the first is during the moment of Emily’s death, which is the beginning of the story of Father Moore, who is accused of negligent death. The second point of attack in the story is the first scene in which the protagonist, Erin Bromm, the lawyer who takes on the task of defending Father Moore, appears. In the first scene in which Erin appears, she is working in a bar, while her colleagues are all celebrating. The thing is, she is the one who has something to celebrate, she has just won an important lawsuit (she saved a person accused of murder) and yet, instead of celebrating the success, she decides to keep working. Now, I think it’s an interesting point of attack that screenwriters Scott Derrickson and Paul Harris Boardman have chosen, as they could have chosen to start the story from Emily Rose’s point of view or perhaps the first time Father Moore encounters the case. But they have chosen the optimal point of attack for the development of the plot they want to tell. For the film is a supernatural crime thriller and the story centers on the trial against Father Moore. So, it is very convenient that the story starts with the father being accused of the murder and his lawyer (reluctantly) taking on the case.

Before the “lock in” (the so-called fighting decision), which occurs 15 minutes in, we already know more or less what the whole movie is going to be about (at least between which poles it is going to move), in part because of the conversation between the two trial lawyers in the case. In this part of the story, Ethan, the prosecuting attorney, indicates that he is Catholic, even asking for a glass of water when Erin invites him for a martini (thereby assuming a moral superiority to her), but then indicates that if it were up to him, Father Moore would go straight to jail, according to the law. This statement surprises Erin, as she had assumed that Catholic people had a strong sense of compassion and forgiveness. From this moment on, we witness the trial against Father Moore, in which the two poles of the plot are intensely debated, the scientific aspect, supported by Ethan and the prosecution, and the religious aspect, assumed by Erin (although she is not religious, but declares herself agnostic) after her first strategy fails (her initial strategy is to discredit the medical evidence presented by the prosecution). The struggle reaches the midpoint of the story when Erin finally assumes that the events that occurred could in fact be the product of the supernatural realm, after meeting Dr. Cartwright, the doctor who was present during the exorcism, and from here on out the film moves intensely towards this version of events, giving us several convincing arguments for the possibility that demons, and therefore God, exist. In fact, one of Emily Rose’s iconic lines is one in which she argues that people say God doesn’t exist, but how can they think that if she shows them the devil? She comes to this conclusion in one of the most emotionally (and cinematically!) powerful scenes in the film, the moment when she understands why this whole demon-possessed thing is happening to her.

The ending of the film is not at all bombastic and I think it’s good that it is so, what it does is that it shows a small change in the attitude of the protagonist, Erin Broom, who goes from being agnostic to being a believer (in a very symbolic but subtle way). Father Moore is found guilty of “negligent death”, but the jury makes a recommendation to the judge, they ask for a “sentence served”, acknowledging his guilt but considering that he has already paid for his crime.

Now and before I finish, I can’t but talk a little bit about the horror aspect of the film. And I feel that this is the weakest point in it I remember the first time I saw it, this aspect made a great impression on me, but this time I have to say that it felt rather forced. In the end, the demonic aspect of the possession is nothing more than a bunch of guttural screams and incidental music, but in the visual aspect it leaves much to be desired. Maybe it’s because that effect where people’s faces transform into demons has been used ad nauseam in thousands of youtube videos and the like. I don’t know, it makes me think of another film that I think has achieved a better visual section on the satanic theme, The Ritual (2017). Some of the visual effects in The Exorcism of Emily Rose I don’t think have aged well with the passage of time.

I think that’s all I can say about The Exorcism of Emily Rose, a film that presents interesting arguments about the possible existence of the realm of the supernatural and really leaves you wanting to know more about it. The main character, Erin Broom, is also a very interesting one, especially because of the great performance of Laura Linney, who gives great intensity to the argumentative sequences during the trial. Perhaps also because her antagonist, Ethan (Cambbell Scott), plays an equally intense role during these scenes. And let’s keep in mind that this movie has a lot of dialogue and is also very entertaining and quick to watch, something that is definitely not easy to achieve. It is for all these reasons that I feel Emily Rose is the perfect movie to watch during Easter week, or as Emily says, how are you going to deny the existence of God if I show you the devil?

The good:

  • The performances of Laura Linney, Tom Wilkinson and Campbell Scott.
  • The arguments for the existence of the supernatural realm.
  • The scene where Emily understands why all this possession stuff is happening to her.

The bad:

  • The horror parts don’t make as much of an impact as before.
  • The use of animals to represent evil (come on! If animals are so good!).

In summary… see next to the chocolate eggs.

Gantz (2000)

Oh, you don’t know how long I wanted to talk about Gantz, something like since I finished reading the manga, I don’t know how many years ago (actually since June 20, 2013). It’s just that this manga/anime/live action created and drawn by Hiroya Oku has a tremendous story that is worth remembering. And I tell you sincerely that this manga goes to the last instances within its own plot, but I also feel that it explores what many have described as the essence of the conflict, the why of existence, because isn’t the goal of all stories a process of liberation? Something like the protagonist’s struggle to break the chains that bind their desire, which often translate into mundane devices like a tyrannical boss or an evil witch, but in Gantz this doesn’t happen, rather the protagonists struggle so much to find the answers that they end up meeting God and their answers (and their behavior!) end up justifying all the killing that characterizes the series.

Let’s go back to the beginning of the story to see how we end up meeting God at the end. The protagonist is Kei Kurono, a young student with few ambitions in life and a rather apathetic attitude towards existence. In the character’s initial dialogue, we can notice his lack of courage, when he explains how unpleasant and ridiculous he finds all of human life and that, unfortunately for him, is intertwined with a sexual desire that is difficult to keep at bay. We don’t know exactly why Kei Kurono has this attitude towards life, but we can intuit that it has something to do with the sexual frustration he experiences. After this, Kei meets an old childhood friend on the subway train, but doesn’t decide to talk to him until the friend asks for his help in rescuing a homeless man who has fallen into the train lines. This moment is particularly important for the protagonist because of two important points. The first is that Kei is surprised when his friend Katou recognizes him and asks for his help, although he obviously doesn’t show it because he doesn’t want to be a sissy. The second point occurs during the climax of this scene, when the train runs over Kei and Katou, in the seconds before he dies, Kei reflects on the futility of life, pointing out that dying at that moment really doesn’t matter. Both characters die during the train sequence, however, they reappear in the room of an apartment in Tokyo, although they quickly notice that they cannot leave the place. Other people are waiting next to a large black ball that tells them all that they have to go hunt an alien known as the “onion alien”.

So is the beginning of the story of Gantz, which can be summarized as “a group of deceased people are chosen by a machine to fight alien invaders in an attempt to stop a large-scale invasion”. However, such a summary glosses over many important points worth naming. One of the things that always caught my attention in Gantz is the dramatic arc of the protagonist, Kei Kurono, who, as mentioned above, starts the story in a state of utmost apathy. But it is this encounter with Katou that changes his vision completely, when this character reminds him of how he used to be, in the past, when both children played in the street. It turns out that Kei Kurono was Katou’s hero, a brave and risk-taking person, who was not afraid to take on rivals even bigger than himself in pursuit of doing whatever he could think of doing. A personality very different from the one the protagonist shows at the beginning of the manga (completely opposite). And it is this childish personality that allows Kei Kurono, after recovering it little by little with each mission he faces, to survive more than any other person in the story of Gantz, thus becoming a legendary hero in the conflict. And I want to emphasize this attribute of the character because, as we see throughout the first arc of the story, the way Kei recovers his courage is by facing fear over and over again. And it’s not just any fear that he faces, for if there’s one thing that jumps out at you in Gantz, it’s the amount of deaths and the brutality of them. Kei Kurono survives countless missions, losing everyone he meets in between, even striving to earn enough points to revive them! (something I didn’t mention is that this black ball in the middle of the apartment, where the revived appear, has a point system for the participants, if you earn 100 points you can revive another person).

Now, we are left with the issue of the nature of the conflict and the appearance of God within the story. Well, the thing is that this Gantz (which is the machine that revives people) is a device that was designed in Germany and is being used in different parts of the world to fight aliens, but the problem is that it is inevitable that the fight escalates until an enemy appears so powerful that it is very difficult to defeat it. In this aspect, Gantz maintains the classic structure of increasing the strength of the adversaries. Towards the end of the story, the last war is unleashed against the giant Aliens (which are actually beings very similar to humans, although gigantic). The humans and these aliens face each other in a bloody war that ends with the victory of the humans. It is at this point that some characters are transported to the “room of truth”, where they meet two “God Aliens”, who indicate that they are the ones who have actually designed Gantz and that the whole thing was only due to their wish for things to be like this. Now, this point and the point that follows it, which is about what happens when one dies and the value of a human being, are the most important points to understand all this about the origin of the conflict. Let’s go by point; first the desire of the Aliens God is the force of destiny, we could also say that it is the brush of the creator (in this case of Hiroya Oku), in the sense that the story is the product of the desire for the story to exist and the conflict is the mechanism by which the story moves in time. Second, the idea of death, which in Gantz takes inspiration from Buddhist philosophy on reincarnation but gives it a modern twist, pointing out that human beings are dust and particles, but that 21 grams of “data” or information are lost at the moment of death and it is this information that produces reincarnation. This brings us to the third point, the value of human life, which in Gantz is described as these 21 grams of information that reincarnates throughout the history of the universe.

What is the big lesson that Hiroya Oku is presenting to us? I feel that his version of the origin of conflict is based on the idea that all conflicts arise from desire, which is also one of the Buddhist doctrines. Taking into account that Kei Kurono sets out on this path to regain his courage under the desire to fall in love with Reika (one of the people who appears in the Gantz department) and that the result of it all is a battle between two planetary civilizations, I think it is fair to conclude (and I suppose this is a lesson for anyone who wants to write stories) that at the core of all conflict lies a strong uncontrollable desire that sets the protagonist on a path of destruction of the established order, and that such destruction is only justified in the end (depending on which end it is obviously! ). In short, thanks to Hiroya Oku and Gantz, a series that stands out for the originality of its plot and that has earned the place it has in the history of manga, without any doubt.

The good:

  • Hiroya Oka’s drawings are simply mind-blowing.
  • The main character’s arc is extremely interesting.
  • The ending with the crude speech of the Aliens God is unmissable.

The bad:

  • The last story arc can feel abrupt, especially considering that many secondary characters don’t have a satisfying ending.

In short… Read it or Die!

Paradise Lost (1667)

Paradise Lost is an epic poem written by John Milton and has been catalogued by many as the best representation, within popular culture, of Satan (even better than that found in Goethe’s Faust?). But this story is much more than a bombastic representation of the baddest of all bad guys, within its pages we can find a series of events that may be familiar to us (such as the story of Adam and Eve) but told in a very peculiar, almost theatrical way, which gives the work a different quality within religious literature and literature in general. But I feel that the most interesting thing about Milton’s epic is the discourse implicit in its 286 pages (in the version I read), a sharp commentary on the scope of freedom in the midst of religious doctrine and, because of this, on the relationship between man and divinity.

But what is Paradise Lost all about? I think we’ve all heard (well, most of us have heard) the old story of how Satan was expelled from paradise and his inevitable fall into hell because of his corrupt ambition. This epic poem gives us that story, but in great detail. Had you ever heard that the angels threw mountains, yes… mountains! at each other during the battle in heaven, prior to the fall of the rebellious angels? Well, in John Milton’s story, this and other crazy things happen that the reader is unlikely to forget. But I feel that in the center of the story is described a questioning of Lucifer’s or Satan’s reasons, in relation to why he decided to engage in a war in paradise, having absolutely everything in his favor as one of God’s favorites. The author presents his own version of these events, endowing the angels with great rhetorical skills, as they engage on several occasions in discussions about what is right and what is wrong in the universe, what can and cannot be done, and so on. Satan’s motives then appear initially as almost trivial, he questions the powers given by God to his first and only son, bestowing him with such endowments that he surpasses even those of the angels, accustomed to being the only favorites of the creator, having him as their only superior. What bothers Satan is that now he will have to lower his head, not only before God, but before his son as well. Did you see? That is why I say that the situation may seem trivial at the beginning, but behind this tantrum is hidden the author’s true discourse, a discourse that brings him closer to the concept of freedom, so elusive in markedly hierarchical situations such as those described in God’s paradise.

But Satan is not the only one who debates about freedom in the face of the great divine powers; the fate of human beings is also intertwined in the matter. It is as if, in some way, Satan’s incursion into paradise and the subsequent loss of paradise by Adam and Eve, once again revealed the scope of freedom in this world dominated by the preceding will of a creator entity. Is it freedom for Adam and Eve to live immortal lives in a place that provides them with everything they need, as long as they obey the laws of the one who grants them such gifts? The situation becomes more complex at this point, for if we advocate the freedom of humans to commit sin, we would be equating ourselves with Satan’s thinking, at least in ideological terms (for obviously the angel went a bit further by throwing mountains at the other angels). And it is possible that Milton may have realized this peculiarity while writing his story, although his own individual freedom may have led him to mitigate the impact of such a statement (perhaps because of the time in which the story was written) by imposing on all discourse and events the pre-existing will of God, who always appears as an omnipresent figure and as the genesis of all movement. So much so that an angel appears before Adam to comment on all the events that will occur, including the loss of paradise and the torments that ensue, all as part of the great plan of the creator to forgive them in the end, via the sacrifice of his only son.

Now, we can get down to debating what kind of divine plan can involve so much suffering, death and destruction so that in the end it all ends in forgiveness. I have been thinking about it a bit and I feel that Milton wants to tell us that at bottom God is assuming that Satan and evil have come from himself, that they are part of creation and that their manifestation is as much a part of the matter as the other powers (a pantheon that includes such ancestral beings as Chaos, described as the only thing that was before the light). Now, if angels could rebel against God and his only son, this makes them as permeable to error as human beings, however, only the latter are punished with death (although on second thought, the angels who fell into hell fared much worse).

Well, as you saw we could be talking about Paradise Lost for a long time and most likely even more doubts will arise about the whole thing. What I can say about Satan, sorry, I didn’t really talk much about him as a character, is that in his speech we can find a lot of facets with which we can identify, his charismatic personality really provokes thought, even makes you want to forget that we are in the presence of the evil one par excellence. That impulse to not give up in the face of adversity, from the depths of hell to the earthly paradise, the pride that leads him to face beings much more powerful than himself (fallen in disgrace, I think that in his normal state things would have been different) are all characteristics that lead him to the deserved position of main character of the story. Without fear of being wrong, I can say that Paradise Lost is a story that is completely advanced for its own time, I would even say that in its pages we can find qualities that, without a doubt, have served as inspiration for later stories, such as the saga of “The Lord of the Rings” and even modern stories, such as Japanese animations and the like. But, above all, I can point out that the discourse on freedom that we find in its pages elevates the story to a higher level within the stories of its genre.

The positive:

  • Satan as the protagonist of the story.
  • The battle between the angels.
  • The speech about freedom.

Negatives:

  • The pile of titles for some characters slows down the story.
  • Jesus is too OP in the war of the angels (joke!).

In short… read or die!

Compliance (2012)

Well, this time I think things are a little more difficult than in previous occasions, what can we say about Compliance? This film manages to articulate a story based on what Hannah Arendt described, after her investigation into the crimes of the Nazis against the Jewish people, as the “banality of evil” (but I’m not saying that the film is about Nazis or about Hanna Arendt!). The first thing I can say is that the hour and a half that the film lasts is a difficult journey to endure, the series of situations that occur from the beginning, the growing tension that does not stop and that becomes increasingly claustrophobic gives evidence of the immense ability of the director Craig Zobel to keep us on the edge of our seats, wishing more than anything else that the situation would stop, but at the same time, we know that it will not stop and that things are going to get worse and worse.

But… why did I start remembering Hannah Arendt’s research? Well, because the term “compliance”, which is the name of the film, refers to a characteristic of human psychology in which an individual blindly submits to a request, when this request comes from a person that the individual feels as his or her hierarchical superior. Hannah Arendt went a step further in this respect by describing the motives that led so many Nazi officers and soldiers to commit the horrible attempts on the lives of thousands of people, only to defend themselves by saying that all they had done was obey orders. The banality of the evil consists then in the justification, especially of the officers, who simply could not see the evil they were committing, blinded perhaps by the desire for promotion in their professional careers and having treated the whole affair as one of a merely bureaucratic nature. And it is this same behavior that we find in the protagonist of the story, Sandra Fumm, the manager of a fast food branch, played masterfully by Ann Dowd, who is confronted with a phone call in which an alleged police officer asks her to arrest one of her employees, accused by this same person of stealing from one of the customers. All it takes is for “Officer Daniels” to tell Sandra that he has been in contact with her superior, and she follows all the instructions he gives her, accusing Becky, the alleged thief, without any evidence, and proceeds to strip search her. From here and until the end of the film we witness, time and again, behaviors completely out of line with morality, many of which are recognized by those who commit them (I am referring to Van, Sandra’s boyfriend) but which, nevertheless, they cannot but carry out, in the face of the danger of losing something themselves.

In terms of cinematography, it is important to note that the film presents a different kind of story and characters than what we are used to as spectators. From the choice of the main location, the fast food restaurant and its narrow corridors and rooms, to the conflicts that are generated between the characters, all anchored to the hierarchical structure of an ordinary work. It is important to point out that the main character, Sandra, is not a character with a dramatic arc or who learns a lesson during the development of the film, but she stays in the same position from the beginning. Even in the end, when she is being interviewed about what happened and she declares to be completely innocent, we witness a person who cannot see the impact her own actions have had on others. It is here that the concept that Hannah Arendt coined at the end of her investigations clearly appears, this blindness caused by the indiscriminate desire to remain on the side of the law, of the hierarchy, in an attempt to protect one’s own life, at the expense of autonomy and moral judgment.

In conclusion, I would like to say that Compliance is a film that I think many people should see, because it makes it clear that we human beings are subject to mistakes far beyond what we would like to recognize. The fact that an innocent person can go through a hell like Becky did, while doing a job that wasn’t even transcendental to her, because of another person for whom things did seem to be more transcendental, but again, for all the wrong reasons, is a much closer reality than it seems, since the story in the film is based on real events.

The good stuff:

  • The dramatic intensity that grows with every moment.
  • The outstanding performances of all the characters involved in Becky’s arrest.
  • The final dialogue of the protagonist.

The bad:

  • The beginning of the movie can be uninteresting.

In short… watch or die!

Candide by Voltaire (1759)

I want to be honest with you, I really wanted to write a review of Charles Baudelaire’s book “Le Fleurs du mal” but because of strange phenomena in life I ended up with Candide by Voltaire in my hands, which I do not regret. Can anyone say that there is something wrong with this novel by the famous French novelist? On the contrary, I find this story so interesting and strange, both in its execution and in its narrative, that the accident of having confused this book with Baudelaire’s seems to me a wonderful accident that cannot be wasted. Having said that, let’s talk about Voltaire’s Candide, shall we? The first thing I can say about it is that this story is so strange in its execution that I would say it is unique in this respect. It’s that Voltaire doesn’t waste a single second in tedious descriptions of places or people, but goes straight to the action. So much so that Candide can be read, in my opinion, in one go without much effort and without a doubt that the important points of his narrative will remain in the memory after finishing the first reading.

But, what is Candide about? Well, he is a young man, whose origins are never clarified, beyond a series of suspicions about him, who lives in the castle of a powerful baron and whose vicissitudes lead him to travel almost all over the world, following the logic established by the German philosopher Gottfried Leibniz, founder of the thought of sufficient reason (thought that permeates even in the present time). This thought of sufficient reason is the seed that we suppose has inspired Voltaire to build this epic story about a man who struggles against circumstances to realize his dreams, take Cunegunde, the daughter of the barons, as his wife and together forge a life of happiness. But I feel that, to further advance the logic of this story, we need to talk a bit about what this thought is of sufficient reason and why Voltaire has felt the need to satirize (for this is what he has done) about it. The thought of sufficient reason, as the name indicates, is a logical construction, under which, Leibniz indicates that for every event in the world or in reality there are always sufficient reasons, which determine and justify the events. Just as it is said, I feel that Leibniz is talking to us about a kind of justification for causal reasoning (in its most fundamental terms), thereby granting a cause for all causes. This philosophical construction is put to the test in each of Candide’s pages, since Voltaire has managed to build a narrative where the vicissitudes and the “plot twists” have become the cornerstone of the story. In simple terms, the story is about the protagonist, Candide, whose origins, as we said before, we do not know but, because of the little information, and more specifically, because of the people (servants/employees of the count’s house) and the words they dedicate to this subject, we can intuit that he is the son of indiscretion (you understand what I mean, right?). Well, the thing is that Candide, in his desire to get Cunegunde for himself, gets into a gigantic problem that involves summarizing all the European, American and even African idiosyncrasies of the European empire around the world, during the years of the heyday of European culture and conquests, both American and African. Could it be that Voltaire is telling us that all the killing, all the indiscretions committed during this period of time, have been due to or justified in the belief that all the events occurred because there were sufficient causes for them to occur?

I believe that this is so, not only because the reasoning of “sufficient reason” is a constant excuse within the piece, which impels the protagonist to continue in his stubborn search for happiness, under the eave of his companion, the philosopher Pangloss, who justifies every immoral act that occurs in history, but we can also find this impudence (I say this because we should think that the facts occur only because there are sufficient reasons, which takes away from the importance of cognition, the human factor and the moral sense) in the same main character, in his blind and illusory acting, always expecting things to work out by some general law of morality that invites individuals to behave the way he expects them to behave, obviously encountering disappointment after disappointment because of this thought. I had already said that the story brings the main character face to face with the idiosyncrasies of different European kingdoms of the time, from the English to the Spanish and their American counterparts. Each of them receives the characteristic satirical treatment of Voltaire, who had to categorically deny authorship of the novel once it was published (and let’s say that by reading the work we can easily recognize why this was so). Nobody is saved from the mockery in this work, not even Candide himself, who reaches the maximum expression of satire about the end of the story, when he gets everything he wants, but deprived of all the value he was looking for in those things, I mean the achievement of Cunegunde as a couple, after she loses all her beauty and charm. Even more, after Candide loses all his fortune and wealth and comes to the conclusion (how lucid this conclusion is) that it’s better to do anything than to sit still in boredom, as if to say that all the suffering (and let’s say that in Candide’s journey there’s a lot of this) is worth more than what you get after going through all of it, the lethargic comfort of having no goal.

In summary, I have to say that Candide by Voltaire is one of the best stories I have read and I recommend it completely, especially to people who are interested in writing, not specifically because of its political or philosophical content, but because of the amount of vicissitudes and jumps in the plot that keep the tension and invite the reader to continue reading. I know that there are many famous and recognized authors, but I have to say that Voltaire and his work take the prize for originality, execution and the almost endless number of situations that the protagonist has to face, without even talking about the way he faces such situations!

The good stuff:

  • The decalogue of vicissitudes that can be found within the book.
  • The final reflection permeates even in our time.

The bad:

  • Some people may feel that there is no general thread to the story. (I am one of them, but what the hell!)

In short, read it or die!


Promising Young Woman (2020)

Promising Young Woman is the debut feature, written and directed by Emerald Fennell. And it is a film that will surely not leave anyone indifferent to seeing it, especially in this era, where the plot takes on a really deep and critical sense of today’s society, the role of women and their liberation, which is what we are experiencing now (is anyone in doubt?). And sure we have moved on from “A Doll’s House” (1879), Henrik Ibsen’s play that portrayed the beginnings of discord between the archetypal personalities of men and women, the latter relegated to a childish state of companionship that, through the realization that the relationship between both parties was no less than unjust, derived in the departure, the liberation of the feminine spirit and a step into the unknown, towards a freedom without spaces to live it within the classic social structure of the time. Well, but why did I start talking about Ibsen if we’re supposed to be talking about Promising Young Woman, I understand, look, the thing is that I feel that this film portrays this very thing I just said, this freedom without spaces to live it, because I feel that, deep down, the story portrays a reality in which women cannot be who they want to be, because of the amount of sexual predators that abound around them. The Nora Helmers of the world (the main character of A Doll’s House) who cannot be doctors (this is the profession that the protagonist of Promising Young Woman studied) because a lot of men abuse them and drive them to suicide, who keep the protagonist of the film locked up in her parents’ house, because of the fear that has stuck to her skin and the probable consequences of all this, that is what this story is about.

But, what is the movie about? Is it recommended to watch it with your boyfriend/girlfriend? Let’s take it one step at a time. The film is about Cassandra, a woman who dropped out of medical school after losing her best friend, who committed suicide after being abused by a group of classmates. The main character’s objective is to take justice into her own hands, to get revenge on all the people involved in the matter, in an attempt to clarify the facts before the public, since she will not let those involved have a happy life after having caused the death of her friend. Now, the forms that the protagonist occupies are really interesting, because what at first may seem or sound like an excessively violent film, in fact, this is what the first sequence insinuates and then mocks, really takes on a completely different tone. The point is that the film moves on the borderline between what is legally possible and what is illegal, in an effort to keep the plot anchored to reality and the possibilities of a female character who is not particularly strong physically, but has to act in intelligent and planning ways to achieve her goals. Now, some people will tell me that I’m being sexist by saying that women don’t have strength, but… I didn’t say that, what I’m saying is that the story is built that way, the main character is a thin, short woman, she accepts it herself in one of the most interesting scenes of the film (the part where a behavior from her new boyfriend repeats itself, a behavior that alerts about who this person really is). The thing is that I feel that the film shows that it is not necessary to have physical strength to achieve goals in life, what is really needed is the courage to face problems.

Okay, now for the second question, is it advisable to watch this movie with your partner? This point is more delicate I feel… one thing we have to keep in mind, especially for the male audience, is that the film is extremely critical in this respect. Let’s say that men are left out of the story, in fact, there is no man in the film that is saved from moral scrutiny. During the first part of the film, even before the middle point of the story (the middle point of the story is usually when the main character finds what she was looking for) we meet a series of archetypes of sexual predators that the main character attracts to her in order to confront them and make them understand that what they are doing is wrong. This is the way she tries to face these emotions that she has not been able to release. Now, these representations of men can hurt the sensitivity of more than one member of the audience. I say this because they are portraits that we would not want to be real, but they are probably very close to reality. All these men who seek sexual satisfaction at any price, who use certain techniques to gain the woman’s trust, to make her drop her guard, with the simple objective of having sex. But the film has a position on this and I think it’s a very logical position, the problem is not the game of seduction, the problem is not respecting the limits that women impose on the subject. If the woman says she wants to go home, if the woman says she doesn’t want to do anything, this is a limit that sexual predators seem not to be able to understand and that, described in the film, is the genesis of sexual abuse. I say this because the protagonist of the film maintains the desire to form a relationship with a man, despite what has happened to her friend. Perhaps she does this because her parents are pressuring her to leave the house, because that is the expectation of others, because she doesn’t have money to live alone, we don’t know. But it is this desire that finally leads her to make the most risky decision in the film, after suffering a huge disappointment. So, as you can see, it is a film that can generate more than a little noise in couples and I feel that it is something that has to happen, because it is better to live in truth than in illusions, isn’t it?

Well, that’s what I can say about Promising Young Woman, a film with an interesting and controversial plot that is worth watching and reflecting on. In cinematic terms, I feel that it has a dramatic problem. In the beginning, a type of story is put together, a woman who attracts sexual predators to stop them, which is then left behind in pursuit of another type of narrative, the same woman plans and executes a plan to get revenge on the people involved in her friend’s death. The protagonist goes from one type of plan to another without any explanation and the transition scene looks more like a joke than anything else (the scene where the protagonist’s new boyfriend finds her with another man). Apart from that, I think the story has a lot in its favor, especially being the director’s first film. The protagonist’s journey, the way her emotions are released and the climax of her revenge are all outstanding aspects of the narrative, which remains on the edge of legality and completely anchored to reality until the end.

The good stuff:

  • The protagonist’s journey and Carey Mulligan’s performance.
  • The film’s climax, merciless but real.

The bad:

  • Some problems in the plot.

In short, watch it or die!

Demian (1919)

Demian is a novel by Hermann Hesse, an awesome German writer who is obsessed with certain psychological aspects that are repeated in his stories, an introspective path that determines all the main characters he occupies and which I suppose adheres to people (like me and perhaps like you) who tend to talk more to themselves than to others. In this novel, the author reflects on the changes that occur in adolescence and the road to adulthood, something like a “coming of age” novel that even adventures, in its final pages, a kind of meaning for life and good living.

But let’s take it one step at a time, what is Demian all about? The answer is not so easy to find, I say this because, in the beginning of the reading one can get a more or less clear idea of what can happen in the following pages, however, such things do not happen and if they do happen they do so at the end, but in a completely different way than you might expect. I understand, what I have just written does not make sense, I know, but give me a little time to be able to process better what I want to say. Maybe this is something that happened to me because I was more used to cinematic narrative, I guess when I read the beginning of the story I had the idea that the plot would go a certain way, but the story went the other way completely, except for this initiatic idea about the world of light and the world of darkness, I will explain about this later.

For those who have not read the novel, the beginning follows the steps of the main character, Emil Sinclair, a name that was also Hesse’s first pseudonym, and his first reflections (mmm… let’s say innocent) on the differences between his own life and the lives of lesser-privileged people (poor people). The theoretical framework Sinclair uses to make this comparison comes from his father and from Judaeo-Christian thought. Under these parameters, Sinclair sees the world in two great opposites, the world of light, where he is and all good people (people who have sufficient resources). On the other side of the pond are the inhabitants of the dark world, who tend to behave in morally questionable ways, namely, stealing, lying, manipulating, etc. The protagonist begins the story by getting involved with one of these dark beings, Franz Kromer, in an attempt not to appear weak in front of a group of schoolmates, all of whom have already participated (supposedly) in risky and let’s say morally questionable feats. Well, the thing is that Sinclair lies about having stolen some apples to be part of the conversation, finding with it the first seed of what he calls “darkness” inside, but which is clearly a need like the one that leads a person who doesn’t have enough to eat to steal and so on. This darkness within him leads Sinclair to abandon the paradisiacal fictional world of the Christian religion and to begin the search for a framework more in line with reality that he himself can see in front of his eyes and that differs completely from the beliefs taught in his home (which also makes him gradually move away from his family). In order not to tell the whole story, I will only say that the search ends with the encounter of a new deity called Abraxas, a being that represents the duality of opposites (that is to say that the opposites, like light and darkness, are only graduations of something more general).

So far so good, but… why is the story called Demian? Well, the thing is that Demian is a very important character in Sinclair’s story, let’s say he’s his mentor, he’s the person who initiates him into this path of self-knowledge in a very particular way. Using a rational and logical discourse, Demian presents Sinclair with his own theory about one of the biblical stories, that of Cain and Abel. Demian talks about the possibility that Cain is really the good character in the story. His reasoning is that Cain did or does what he has to do, is a pragmatic character, while Abel is simply a blind worshipper, unable to question the words of his master (God). Demian postulates that there are people in the world, who have certain abilities and can see things as they really are, called the “sons of Cain” and that they are the ones who have taken on their shoulders the destiny of all humanity, acting to protect others, the sheep, the Abels of the world (blind worshippers).

So far with the story, which is very interesting, although I have to say that in the middle parts it tends to get a little out of focus, I feel, on Sinclair’s way, that he seems to be listening to others all the time and rarely gets to act on his own. This, in my opinion, makes certain chapters feel less decisive and even derivative. One thing that seems a bit random to me is the way Sinclair meets Abraxas. Let’s say that in perspective it is understood that it is in the moment that the “abilities” of the protagonist are activated (see more than the apparent), but in the way it is described everything seems to me to be half hung up on the general story, or in reality it feels that here another story begins. All of this is fixed at the end, when Sinclair and Demian get back together (they have been separated for much of the story). Especially since Demian’s character is very attractive to read and it makes you want to know how the new Sinclair (the more awakened Sinclair) will stand up to his first mentor, after defeating his previous teacher (who has read the story will understand). The end of the story is crazy, I’m serious, it’s one of the best endings I’ve ever read or seen and it makes the whole story an incredible epic, it reminded me of the end of another extremely interesting story, Hemingway’s Old Man and the Sea.

In short, I think Demian by Hermann Hesse is an excellent story, one of those stories that alters your life’s path when you read it. For me, these stories have as much power as a religion, they appear as a spiritual path that clarifies many things and opens up new perspectives and possibilities. The characters you meet in the story have all their own forms and truths that come together as layers within your own perception of events and about life itself, which is what good stories are about, what we are experiencing and what changes with every moment. The feeling that comes from finding meaning, perhaps in teleological terms rather than in a present state, a goal, a form of transcendence that allows you to go through life without regret, this and much more you will find in Demian, a fully recommended novel.

The good stuff:

  • The initial conversations between Sinclair and Demian are pure gold.
  • The search for Abraxas and all the ideas that come out of it.
  • The end!

The bad:

  • Some chapters in the middle of the story may seem superfluous.

In short… read it or die!

Wall street (1987)

Wall Street is a film by Oliver Stone, one of those (literal) Hollywood big fish. The movie appeared in the middle of the 80’s, which I understand is the time when everything ended up going to hell in cultural terms. Here is one of those critical pieces of human endeavour that shows why it is not worth criticizing in film format (perhaps because it ends up being a cathartic praise), but which also has the value of cynical entertainment that characterizes the medium and the director.

Well… to be honest, I have to say that this movie has disappointed me, although that doesn’t make it a bad movie, I was entertained for most of the 2 hours and a little bit longer. What can I say, let’s see… the film is an oversimplification of the hero’s journey for a protagonist who pays for his sins, mainly against his own father, but redeems himself in the end, finding the moral compass that he abandoned when he started the actions that led him to get what he wanted, money and power. Up to this point, it sounds more or less normal for a movie, a protagonist who has a desire and pursues it relentlessly, to later obtain what he was looking for and pay the consequences of having obtained it. Although this is the typical Hollywood structure, which many people say works so why change it (I think the people who say this perhaps haven’t realized that this is the main reason why modern movies are so predictable), I think the problem doesn’t feel like it’s there specifically, but in the narrative.

In the beginning of the relationship between the main character of the story, Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen) and the antagonist Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas), the latter gives a series of instructions to Bud to produce premeditated movements in the stock market, with the intention of obtaining personal gain. This is the “Gekko method” which can be summarized as creating fictitious movements, via the purchase or sale of a large number of shares, and then using a mass media to intervene in public opinion and “guide” stock buyers to follow the game. Let us consider the “Gekko method” as a fictional device, probably resulting from an investigation of the stock market by the scriptwriter, used by the antagonist to carry out his antagonistic desires (namely, to treat the rest as sacrificial sheep), something like an abstract sword to tyrannize the masses (without pursuing with the last statement any political position). So far so good, Bud learns this way of doing business and ultimately uses the same weapon against Gekko (from mentor to antagonist), by regretting sending his father (Martin Sheen) to the hospital, after betraying him to get the position of CEO in the company where the father works (slaughtering him like a vile sheep).

Sounds logical, doesn’t it? But wait… if it was so easy to beat the antagonist, just use his own technique against him… now, let’s concede that Bud is acting with the help of the antagonist’s archenemy (the enemy of my enemy is my ally?). Maybe you’re thinking right now, but this is a small detail in a successful movie, wait, I’m not making my point yet (I think). What I mean is that in this climate scene the antagonist loses all his power, even in retrospect, as if all his previous actions become meaningless. After so many years in the ruthless business of power and money… has anything like this ever happened to him before? A tycoon overdrawn in resources is defeated by a newbie using the weapon that the same tycoon has taught him? It’s possible, I know… maybe deep down Gekko was more interested in getting between Darryl Hannah’s legs, we don’t know. But deep down I feel that there’s one last twist missing, one that puts the protagonist in a real predicament, that brings him completely against the wall. What if Gekko pre-empts Bud’s plan and makes him fail in his attempt, causing Sir Lawrence Wildman (Gekko’s archenemy) to lose a lot of money? This would leave Bud with not one, but two billionaire enemies to confront, forcing him to surrender to justice, sacrificing himself to bring to light the malicious practices of the powerful. But no… the story goes to the moralistic side and reminds us that “honesty and hard work are worth more than billions of dollars” and that “doing the right thing leads you to accept that you are just another ant in the anthill”. Those who have seen the end of the film will understand me. The rest of the movie I really like, the exploration of the world of finance gives you that sense of contrived dynamism that in real life happens maybe sporadically and most of the characters are attractive and interesting to me (Bud’s friend in the office gets all the awards). Something that disturbs me a little about the film is a character that appears in the office where Bud works, he is a gentleman of parsimonious walk that takes advantage of all the instances to reflect on the moral section of the plot, he is like an angel, a little cricket that in my opinion is completely out of place, I say this because my thinking at this moment is bordering on pure cynicism and utilitarianism and I don’t see any value in the moral turpitude I was completely in love with until I realized that I was also one more of those playful ants that get lost in the collective. Goodbye individual identity, goodbye Gordon Gekko!

The good stuff:

  • Bud’s friend at the office.
  • Some of Gekko’s dialogues are instant classics.
  • The detail of the cigar in Martin Sheen’s character.

The bad stuff:

  • From the climax on it becomes a Christmas story.
  • Excess of moralism.

In short… look for the summarized version on YouTube.