Monday, April 21, 2014

I Hated Calvary So Much...

...I decided to go to the cinema again, this Bank Holiday Monday, just to get the taste of it out of my mouth.

I went to see Captain America: The Winter Soldier. As I've mentioned before, I'm not too impressed with the whole superhero genre. I think there are far too many superhero movies, I think they're rather ridiculous, and I wince when they pose as Serious Drama.

Having said all that, I'm coming to think that any superhero movie is better than a sordid piece of junk like Calvary. Any superhero movie, any horror movie, any thriller, any romantic comedy, any science-fiction movie-- anything that accepts the basic values that underlie healthy story-telling.

Such as, that life is worth living. That the world is basically a good place. That good usually triumphs over evil. That beauty is better than ugliness. That there is a sharp difference between good and evil, no matter how ambiguous a particular situation might be. That keeping your promises and standing by your friends is a sacred duty. That the world is full of reasons to be cheerful. That love conquers all.

Those are the moral values that underlie healthy story-telling. Then there are the narrative values-- that the story will involve some element of excitement, that the story will actually progress, that boredom and vacancy will be kept at bay, that there will be some inspiring or uplifting message, and (for cinema) that the visual possibilites of the medium will be exploited.

Why make films that cultivate boredom and vacancy, with long scenes without dialogue, or with pointless and inconsequential dialogue (which typified most of the dialogue in Calvary, or the ludicrously overpraised Lost in Translation?). Why waste your running time on lingering shots of scenery? (I'm not complaining about a little of this. I'm complaining about the tendency to fill out half of the movie with it.) Why go out of your way to mortify the natural human appetite for the noble, the dramatic and the uplifting? Is it a kind of conspicuous consumption?

There is so much boredom, disillusionment, ugliness and disappointment inherent to the human condition that making movies that dwell on such things seems like a kind of treason against humanity, a treason against the life-force. We wash and groom ourselves to present ourselves to the world, and we make an effort to pleasant and cheerful and stimulating in company, I think fictions should seek to do the same, even when they are trying to make a statement about the human condition. When they deliberately abandon that effort, I think it's a very sinister form of decadence.


  1. Since I didn't see it I can't really comment, but maybe they thought making such a bleak film would encourage people to be nicer in real life.

  2. Maybe! But it didn't have that effect on me!