I only found out recently that the first movie my parents saw together many years ago was Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window, starring James Stewart and Grace Kelly.
They told me this not long after I’d been to see the new biopic, Hitchcock, starring Helen Mirren and Anthony Hopkins, at FACT in Liverpool.
So, who knows, perhaps these several shots of seagulls taken weeks later, might have been influenced in a subliminal way by the master’s classic movie. The Birds? There was certainly something menacing about them.
I was actually sitting in my car eating fish and chips when I spotted them all just a few feet ahead of me. That view is the North Sea at a brilliant seaside town called Saltburn. Weather was reasonably promising here. That wasn’t always to be the case as the shot below shows. More seagulls, you’ll notice.
Here’s one more shot of them – just for luck – this time, from down on the beach.
Ballet film, right? First those opening shots; it’s got be be set in Paris surely. It could be the Metro she’s riding I suppose. But no, it’s the New York Subway. Mystery solved. The rest of the movie is nowhere near as easy to fathom though. And all the better for it.
On the surface at least, this is about one young woman’s rigid ambition to succeed as a prima ballerina. Yet like any swan gently gliding along, there are often powerful forces churning away beneath the surface of the movie, driving altogether more sinister and disturbing motives. Nina, the innocent ballerina selected to be the Swan Queen, is most obviously prone to the dangerously deranged and obsessive influence of her mad mentor of a mother, played by Barbara Hershey.
Played with a chilling intensity, we watch Nina’s mother teetering on the verge of a sort of brittle madness. Nowhere does the insanity reveal itself more clearly than in the call sign MOM appearing with terrible regularity on Nina’s cellphone. By the end of the movie, however, you have to wonder whether that insanity had been contagious, with Nina falling cruel victim to it’s clutches. Just as in The Sixth Sense, it’s only then that you reflect on what you’ve seen and wonder whether it was indeed reality or the visions of a disturbed soul. You’re left with the distinct impression that Nina has a sharper focus as she spins and spins in the dance than she does in trying to retain a grip on her senses in the daily round of her life preparing for the opening night of Swan Lake.
Natalie Portman’s transformation within the role of Nina is mesmerising, no more so than in the closing sequences, and her Academy Award is well deserved. I probably won’t be rushing off to the ballet after watching this movie, but I’ll certainly make time to watch this over again sometime. Only sorry I didn’t see it on the big screen when it was first released.
Ever read Daniel Defoe’s ‘Robinson Crusoe‘? Young Robinson gets to travel the world with unfortunate consequences. An escapade triggered by the support of his father as he starts to make his way in life. The theme of the benevolent father, supporting a son, isn’t new. But sometimes the weight of a father’s expectations for his son’s future – whether the choice of a bride or career – can prove suffocating. Worse still, these expectations often preclude any consideration of the son’s hopes and fears – or indeed, his doubts and insecurities. Think Dustin Hoffman as Benjamin, the soon to be 21 year old young man in ‘The Graduate’. Parental pressures soon drive him into the all too willing arms of Mrs Robinson and an outcome his father could never have dreamt of. Read more