This movie and this post is genuinely very personal for me. But it was something that I wanted to do, had to do. Just to get it all out. A friend has told me that it's lame to begin a review post by saying "Just watch this movie" because it suggests that I lack the skill and/or the effort to convince you. And it's true, I am no wooing poet nor do I want to spend my life's effort telling you what films you should watch. But take this as a very personal recommendation that this film is something that deeply affected me.
However, a warning. If you're someone who feels very deeply at the world, like you experience things intensely or you empathise greatly with others, then this will be a tough but deeply beautiful watch for you.
The movie was VERY INTENSE for me. I saw someone mention this word and it felt like the perfect word to describe this movie... visceral. I cried a LOT during this movie, and I'm talking like rivers flowing forth from my eyeballs. But only because I thought it was that vivid of a journey through these peoples' lives.
---------------- spoiler onwards ------------------
As this movie has been out since 2000, I'm going to go ahead and spoil the shit out of it because c'mon, you had 15 years man. For those who have watched it, recently or a while ago, I hope you might be able to explore it again with me. By the way, this post is very, very visual-intensive. But I figured that was the only way to do justice to a movie that was so visually assaulting.
This movie was one of the most beautifully told movies I have ever seen. It wasn't even a story that it was telling. Stories seem to imply some point of view that it takes on, some objective perspective looking over the characters, some moral to be had at the end of the day. But this movie was just... living. No biases, no moral lesson to admonish you with. Just living through the perspectives of these 4 characters.
People say it's a movie to show people to warn them off drugs. But I don't think these people are drug addicts to be made a lesson of. These are just people who made a choice, were in a circumstance, made another choice, and slowly but surely spiralled into addiction.
Something that took this movie to the next level were these tiny, little techniques that Afronosky (the director) did. To give a few examples of the ones that I thought made the movie really special:
The split screen. Your eyes madly trying to follow each screen, piecing things together as they intersected into each other's screen. Small clues to the whole picture.
The way the drugs scenes are portrayed. Fast, immediate, overloading your brain.
Close-ups. Afronosky's own words on this:
“The close-up. It’s an overlooked great invention of the 20th century. The fact that you can stare into someone’s eyes without being self-conscious is a great gift to all of us. It’s why I love cinema."
- Director Darren Aronofsky on What I Love About Movies
This wide-angled lens that messes with your brain, it knows something's up, something is definitely very up
And Ellen Burstyn's acting is her own cinematography.
And, to top off the intensity, Afronosky entangles us into the relationship of this young couple so deeply and freely in love. I am a sucker for romance, for the adventures, the simple kisses, the connection of one soul with another. Afronosky just brought their love to life so simply and so beautifully in this movie. Before he rips it to pieces right in front of your eyes.
And even then, in the torn vestiges, you see glimpses of the love that's still struggling to fight through.
And then, at the climax, I sobbed so hard. There was just. too. much. I couldn't handle it. For me, it felt like all their emotions were building up inside me and I couldn't take it anymore and it just exploded from my eyes, I couldn't even stop myself. I couldn't even bring myself to include visuals of even the most confronting part, they're so cuttingly visceral and painful that it scared me to even look at them again. They're something that I'll leave within the depths of the movie's fast cuts and music.
And yet, even as it was all happening, I had this hope inside me that it would be okay. That it would be fine, that it would end well. They would find each other, someone would realise what was happening to her, they would get over their addiction. I had this hope.
I was sobbing so hard that Mr. Human had to hug me for the remainder of the movie as I cried silently the whole time. We had to watch the Circle of Life and Hakuna Matata videos after the movie to try bring some small shred of hope back into our life.
I think it says a lot about a film if it was a true experience to watch it. And this movie really was an experience for me.