Thursday 30 November 2017

Cult Cinema #9: The Invitation (2015)

(Finally I got my computer working again. Ever cloned a hybrid SSD/physical hard disc? It takes ages. But now? Now comes catchup.)

Sometimes the thing with cults is that they're hard to spot, initially. You might see the signs, but you doubt yourself. You doubt your perceptions, all the more when it's someone you know. A friend or a loved one or an ex is sort of different somehow, starts waxing lyrical about how happy they are and the newthing they've found, there's always that suspicion there in the back of your mind that there's something wrong with it, and then you dismiss it. You do. People find ways to get through life, you tell yourself. And they'll wax lyrical about what they've got, their religion or their self-help thing, or their diet, or their running (and oh God, runners). And then they'll try to convince you that you need it too. And this is awkward. And this is uneasy, and I think it's a bit uneasy because we see someone we knew or thought we knew and they're not the person we knew, not really, not anymore. Something's changed. They're in lockstep now, saying things that seem pat, rehearsed, talking in formulae. It's as if something's been crushed in them, some drive to self-determination that is gone now.

And the signifier of that is the way that our newly-converted acquaintance proselytises. Evangelism makes people uneasy. It's a social faux pas, and the very fact that people who we thought we trusted break the unspoken rules of conversation to push whatever idea has overtaken them on us, that makes alarm bells ring. It's worst of all when it's an ambush, when it becomes apparent that someone who we used to think had a genuine regard for us now engineers a meeting, a visit, or even a party for the sole reason of evangelising.

This happens. For example, UCCF, the organisation that controls evangelical Christian Unions in British universities, has actually in the past published material encouraging student members to do just that, to have parties for the sake of telling people just about Jesus. Looking back, it's how I can tell I was never really a proper evangelical, because the little switch in my brain that says "this is morally and ethially wrong" never got switched off. I never managed to do it. I couldn't. Although I've been at proselytising parties more than once, presumably because I was considered an ally of the host, and I can tell you they have been some of the most painfully awkward experiences of my life. Friendships have ended over these things. 

Karyn Kusama's 2015 film The Invitation deals with this exact phenomenon. It portrays an act of ambush evangelism; and it plays on that fear, that the converted friend might have given themselves over to something awful, and the doubt that it hasn't. When everyone else is saying, "Wait, they're a little weird, but honestly it's still them, isn't it?" do you still go with your gut or do you make a scene?

Thursday 23 November 2017

The Roman Polanski Rule

My expression on reading Polanski's Wikipedia page. 
(First, I need to say that my writing here has faced another setback, with the death of my hard drive. I'm in the process of getting a new one and I've backed up everything but typing without a computer is hard. In fact, I'm typing up this post with my thumbs, on an Xperia XA1 Ultra. Sorry about that.)

It's come to this. Do you have secret rules you don't talk about? Is this just me? See, I have a Roman Polanski Rule.

Monday 20 November 2017

I am ambivalent about his death

Yesterday I received notice, sensitively given, that someone I had once worked for had died.

Wednesday 15 November 2017

We Don't Go Back #71: Without Name (2016)

Lorcan Finnegan must have seen A Field in England before embarking on the production of Without Name. The sense of menace imputed to an area of land that's not especially remote, as if it's a character in the drama, the use of stroboscopic effects to represent an altered state of consciousness, and the epic mushroom trips that lead to a sort of twisted enlightenment, they're all there. But all of these things are cosmetic.

All of my film essays necessarily give away plot details; some more than others. This one is most decidedly on the more side. 

Monday 13 November 2017

We Don't Go Back #70: Take Shelter (2011)

It's been a couple of weeks  since I've posted. Life got a bit complex, in ways both good and bad, and I needed to take a while to get back on the horse. So I'm starting again, now that half term is done, and, well start as you mean to go on, right? Let's talk about something scary.

The things that most frighten us are often very personal. I'm not going to bare my heart here, but I think it's fair to say that, while it's not really what I'd call a horror film, I found Jeff Nichols's 2011  Take Shelter terrifying.