Tag: Rachel Weisz

The Favourite

tfThe darling of deadpan, Yorgos Lanthimos has once again worked his enigmatic style to deliver a film that is part period piece and part anachronistic satire. Anyone who has experienced the quirkiness of The Lobster or the uneasiness of The Killing of a Sacred Deer will know that the writer/director has a cynical view of humanity. His unique style, often touted as a humorous Kubrick, twangs on the raw nerves of his audience as much as his dark humour tickles their funny bone. The Favourite is no different and tonally this film snuggles comfortably in between his two previous outings.

Rabbit rearing, peculiar dance sequences, duck racing, opulent sets, outlandish costumes and more wigs than a drag queen’s wardrobe flesh out the Lanthimos world. The Favourite straddles that surreal space between spoof and serious period drama and is a satirical glance at a warring nation as well as a direct stare at the human condition.

The story takes place in 18th Century England and focusses on three deeply flawed characters; Olivia Colman (Broadchurch) as the incompetent, needy and childlike monarch Queen Anne, Rachel Weisz (My Cousin Rachel) as her ruthless but trusted adviser Lady Sarah, and Emma Stone (Birdman) as the interloping, scheming social climber, Abigail. 

Refreshingly, men for the most part are cast to the margins, sent to war, or form impotent chattels which Abigail and Sarah use in their contest for Queen Anne’s affection. 

It is a delightfully venomous pair of performances from Weisz and Stone who serve and volley salvos of shrewd deceitfulness at each other.  But it is Colman’s portrayal of Queen Anne that steals the show with a pained but often hilarious performance that packs equal measures of giddy glee and pathos.  Lanthimos’s cinematic flourishes further enhance proceedings, with intentional camerawork that manages to reduce giant sets into cloying and claustrophobic spaces. 

The absurdist dark humour won’t appeal to everyone—depending on your level of cynicism, you will either witness a masterful work of profundity or an overcooked piece of silliness. I loved it.

The Favourite opens Boxing day.

See my reviews for the NZ Herald here and for Witchdoctor here.

Cinematic complexion and “feeling” colour: The Fountain


I have explained in my previous posts the significance of cinematic colour complexion to aid the spectator’s ability to “feel” films. You can read my entire thesis on Aronofsky and phenomenology by following this link. Here I will illustrate this using the colour signature and colour barcode of Darren Aronofsky’s third feature film, The Fountain (2006). This signature and barcoding technique offers a concise visualisation of a film’s dominant colours. The colour signature (the solid bar above the barcode) is a consolidation of all the colours used in a film and serves to distinguish a film’s propensity to lean towards a particular hue. The signature is broken down into the RGB (red, green, blue) colour-space and the values represent the brightness of each hue (the higher the number the brighter the hue). The colour barcodes (below the colour signature) represents the colour of each frame in the film. Each frame has been captured and squeezed into a strand of colour. When the colours are placed side-by-side chronologically, the result reads like a colour barcode of the film. Starting from the beginning of the film at the left, the barcode can be read as a colour timeline and indicates the dominant colours for large portions of the film.

The Fountain has the darkest complexion of the colour films studied here, as indicated by the lower colour signature values. The significantly lower blue value confirms the film’s propensity towards golden and earthy hues. Unlike Requiem for a Dream‘s changing hue, The Fountain only changes the brightness of the same hue. Furthermore, The Fountain‘s colour palette operates in the opposite temporal direction to Requiem for a Dream‘s undulating descent towards the winter of addiction. As the title suggests, the The Fountain thematically explores ascent rather than descent as is immediately apparent in the barcode’s increasing brightness from left to right. It achieves this structure through various methods. The theme of ascent is illustrated through the progression of multiple narrative arcs: Tomas’ (Hugh Jackman) progress through his quest, the completion of Izzi’s (Rachel Weisz) book, and Tom’s progress towards Xibalba. There are also visual motifs that support this theme: Tomas’ ascent of the Mayan pyramid, Tommy and Izzi’s constant gaze towards the heavens, and Tom’s vertical (as opposed to horizontal) ascent through space. These motifs dramatically illustrate the film’s progression from dark into light. However, these thematic markers require immediate cognitive assessments on the part of the spectator. Consider Tom’s ascent towards Xibalba. His journey towards this dying star represents his journey towards accepting death. The journey lasts for the entire film, and, as the spectator, I am cognisant of his progression due to narrative clues contained within the film’s script, paired with visual clues, such as stars flying vertically past the spaceship. However, the feeling of ascent is strengthened through the treatment of colour. The Fountain‘s colour barcode clearly illustrates the film’s ascent from darkness towards light. This gradual treatment of colour is something that the spectator is not immediately cognisant of. Through the use of colour, The Fountain helps the spectator to feel the theme of ascent non-cognitively, and therefore phenomenologically.