‘Writers Choice’ is a monthly segment. Each month a theme will be chosen and the contributors asked to choose a film to mini-review based around said theme. This months theme is ‘Rebellion’
On the Waterfront is considered a cinema classic, the story of hardworking men rebelling against their corrupt union boss. Marlon Brando plays a boxer who famously laments that he “could have been a contender!” but fell under the mafia’s thumb. Terry, and many other dockworkers on the waterfront of Hoboken, New Jersey, all work for the mob-connected union boss Johnny Friendly. Their union is filled with corruption, extortion and racketeering. The dockworkers just want to be able to work an honest job to put food on the table. Terry gets caught up in playing a large part of his friend Joey’s murder at the hands of Friendly. Joey’s sister, Edie, demands justice against the mob-controlled union not only for killing her brother, but for ruining the lives of so many workers. Terry is eventually offered to testify against Friendly, and after wrestling with his conscience decides to do so. After the testimony, Friendly promises that Terry will not get any work at the docks. Edie tries persuading Terry to leave run away with her, but he nonetheless shows up during recruitment. Terry is finally ready to rebel against the mafia who has controlled and ruined his life for the worst. Terry and Friendly get in a brawl, and Terry is nearly beaten to death. The dockworkers also rebel against the gangsters, in solidarity with Terry. They push Friendly into the river. The final moment is a moving and powerful piece of cinema that shows the triumph of rebelling against those who cruelly try to take advantage of the hardworking. Terry shows that he is beaten but not broken as he limps to the dock ready for work. The other longshoreman follow, the angry cries of Friendly being shut out by the doors closing behind them. –Caroline Madden
We Need to Talk About Kevin, directed by Lynne Ramsey is a horrifying story about a mother and son’s relationship gone awry. Ezra Miller plays Kevin whose rebellion is not only against the norms of society but primarily against his mother (Tilda Swinton.) Since birth Kevin does everything in his power to mentally torture his mother whilst behaving completely opposite in the presence of his father. It’s like he decided the day he was born that he wanted to punish his mother for not wanting him in the first place and he sticks to it until he’s a troubled teenager who finds pleasure in the most sadistic things. Throughout the whole film, you know something terrible is going to happen and while the film is told out of order, it teases you with vivid flashbacks that hint at some kind of massacre with lots of blood and police sirens and panic. You can tell from the beginning of the film that Tilda Swinton’s character is hated by her neighbors and has a hard time assimilating back into society after the big event. Kevin is one of the most terrifying film characters in existence and making it to the end of the film to find out what he’s done is a very chilling experience. –Shaianne Hugh
Nothing is more rebellious than Punk; girls participating in Punk-even more so. A trio of 3 young girls in Stockholm do just that in We Are The Best. Set in the 1980’s, Vi Ar Bast Follows best friends Bobo and Klara’s journey to their school talent show. The girls are both interested in Punk Rock, they wear oversized or hand-me-down clothes and they sport cropped hair and a Mohawk. Their entire presence in their school alone is rebellious; their continued love of their ‘look’ and DIY mantras is a huge ‘Fuck You’ to the bullies in their school who claim that punk is dead. One day, after being irritated by some boys in their class, Bobo and Klara get their own back by booking out the music room the boys use so that they can’t use it. Struck by boredom and wanting to bring some life into the talent show they think is dull, they pick up the instruments and start playing. They have no experience; they don’t know about tuning, chords or drum patterns. But they pick those instruments up and start writing songs. They enlist the help of a goody-two-shoes girl Hedvig, a talented guitar player, and give her a punk rock makeover and make her join the band. With Hedvig’s knowledge of music and guitar, they can form their songs properly and write their own little anthems such as ‘Hate the Sport!’, a song about their detest of P.E. The girls stick it to their teachers, their parents, the kids at school and the phoney poser punk boys they originally idolised and through their rebellion, realise friendship was all that mattered anyway, not living up to some constructed idea of what punk might be, they were punk, and the way they were doing it was right for them. –Chloe Leeson
The Ukrainian film The Tribe by Miroslav Slaboshpitsky is perhaps one of the most unique premises for a film that I have ever come across. It takes upon the theme of “rebellion” but to the highest degree. There is no redemption whatsoever, making it incredibly disturbing. A boy is enrolled into a boarding school for deaf students, but things start running a muck when he is forced into a violent gang. It essentially tells the story of the main character, Sergey, rebelling against a rebellion, but not in a positive way. He seems to be a good person, but just put in a bad situation. This film had me wondering about morality in general though. Can you really be that badly influenced that you become a part of the problem, no matter how good you were in the past? Or can situations like this bring out someone’s true colors? I tried to put myself in his shoes, but I feel like he became worse than his fellow gang members. I think Sergey may have just taken it too far to the point of not remembering the rules. It oddly makes you sympathize with the other gang members, because they at least have structure to their chaos. Once that structure is tested, there are even worse outcomes. The two female gang members are used as prostitutes, but they seem willing enough to partake in it, since, assumedly, they get a cut of the deal. It’s strange though, because if Sergey was forced to join, they probably were too. This then makes me think that there is always turmoil whether or not you’re in the gang.
The entirety of the film is in sign language. There is no vocal communication whatsoever, and no subtitles either. I decided to look up trivia about the film; according to IMDB, all of the actors are deaf, Slaboshpitsky had to have an interpreter on set because he himself does not know sign language, and users of western European sign languages may only understand about 20% since it is Ukrainian sign language. The fact that I had to interpret what was going on solely based on the actions and emotions of the actors was fascinating, but it also made the experience all the more disturbing. The whole time I wanted to scream “WHY?! WHY?!” even though I knew I would never get answers.
At first I wondered if this film lacked any cinematic qualities. There is no music, a lack of diverse cinematography, and bleak settings. I now think these are the qualities that make it cinematic. The removal of music allows the audible sounds to be heightened, consequently heightening the situations themselves–which is interesting since music is usually used in film for this effect. This makes me believe silence is often overlooked as a stylistic choice. Everyone in the film is deaf, yet they cannot hear the sounds of violence around them. However, the general audience presumably can, causing us to feel a sense of anticipation that the characters cannot. This itself is a form of dramatic irony on both parts that binds the viewers and the characters. The way that the story is filmed is through tracking shots that suddenly turn into still shots when violence is depicted. They last a PAINFULLY long time. This impressed me because the actors had to memorize the choreography perfectly while maintaining authenticity. I also noticed that most of the terrible acts of violence are shown from afar. It’s as if we actually followed these characters closely behind, began observing their actions, and then were too horrified to look away or leave. I also felt as if someone was holding me there and making me watch, like I was led there to suffer myself. –Cristina Vazquez De Mercado
LES MISERABLES (2012)
I have always loved musicals. I have also always loved the idea of revolution. Consequently, a film that encompasses these two things would work its way up into my select list of favourites. This movie, of course, is ‘Les Miserables’; a sweeping story of resistance amongst the working class of 19th century France told almost entirely through rousing song. In all honesty, for a short period of my life, ‘Les Mis’ was one of the only things that I thought about. The socialist in me fell in love with the anti-monarchist, anti-classist theme that runs throughout the film while the romantic in me became wrapped up in the idea of enduring love, accompanied by sweet serenades. Others might make fun of the use of music in order to express the horrors of war and poverty but, for me, ‘Les Mis’ makes wonderful use of its’ score, as every possible emotion is targeted and tested; particularly when the film reaches its’ climax and ‘Epilogue’ plays, allowing us to lament upon the cost of rebellion and the sacrifice given in an attempt to create an equal society; resulting in what is arguably one of the most affecting endings in cinematic history. ‘Les Mis’ reminds us that, although revolution may be heavily romanticised in popular culture, it is both a concept and an action that has led to the loss of many lives. This, personally, appears to me to be the entire point of the film; that humanity must rise against inequality and that, while it is a beautiful, brave thing to do so, we must not forget that it also comes at the risk of heavy devastation, an idea that we should carry with us throughout life. For me, then, ‘Les Mis’ is one of the most pivotal movies that there is based upon rebellion. Without it, I would have struggled to realise that resistance always comes at a cost. –Hannah Ryan