Apparently Poe likes Peter Gabriel too.
‘The Raven’ finds Edgar Allan Poe (John Cusack) teaming up with a detective to search for a serial killer who has kidnapped the author’s fiancee and has gone on a murder spree that mimics the author’s work.
Edgar Allan Poe is by far one of the most influential writers ever when it comes to the world of horror. Even though I have only read and heard a couple of his writings, I can easily say that for his time, he was very different and many people in today’s world definitely take notice to that. That’s probably why it would be best for some of people to see this flick.
Director James McTeigue does know do one thing right with this period piece here and that is, make it look and feel as dark as you can possibly get it to be. The mood here is very somber as if it was one of Poe’s gothic tales straight from his mind, put out onto film. McTeigue also helps this tone out with a bunch of beautiful set designs that take you into 19th Century Baltimore. Seems like a random place to actually have a whole bunch of mystery, murders, crime, and poetry going on but somehow, McTeigue was able to make it all work and feel as if we were there watching all of this crazy ish go down.
I also have to say that a lot of the gore here, was used to great effect. In a day and age where we have films constantly trying to tone it down for a friendly PG-13 rating for the big box office take in, it’s pretty relieving to see a “horror” flick take so much pride in its gore and barely leave anything out whatsoever. It’s very gruesome and has a couple of scenes that reminded me of ‘Saw’ but with a cooler, 19th Century spin on it that worked as well. The most memorable scene of gory torture probably came from when they use a pendulum here that is not only really brutal, but also really clever by how the poor slob they use to kill, is actually a critic. Here I am, a critic, sitting in the press screening for this movie, seeing a fellow critic get his insides hacked up! Now I am definitely going to watch what I say next about what movie and what actor/actress.
Problem with this flick is that behind all of the beauty, it’s pretty much your standard thriller film that doesn’t really even deliver the goods on that at all. The whole whodunit side of this flick seemed half-baked in the first place because not only did it seem like it ripped off plenty of other mystery thrillers, but it also didn’t bring any tension to the flick either. If a film is going to go down the road of being a whodunit, then it should run with the idea by messing with the audience, giving us clues, giving us twists, and just having a whole bunch of fun with its silliness. Or, you can just not do it all, which is what I think that this film should have done after about the first 30 minutes it started talking about this mystery and the killer.
At the center of this mystery, the flick also tries to stuff a love angle down our throats and instead of giving us more reason to see Poe and his lady friend together, it didn’t carry much steam and sort of made me care less and less about what happened really. Alice Eve looks very sexy and obviously tries her best with the material that she’s given, but her chemistry with Cusack was barely even there. This wouldn’t have been such a shame if the film didn’t rely on this courtship to make this mystery stronger, but they do, and for that reason it sort of just didn’t hold my interest as much as the rest of this flick did. Come to think of it, I actually nodded off a couple of times but please, don’t tell the other critics that.
John Cusack definitely didn’t seem like the type of person that was destined to play Edgar Allan Poe, but then again, who is? Cusack brings a lot of energy and humor to a person that we only know through a bunch of eerie and creepy stories. Yes, Cusack brings him to life with a lot of flamboyancy to him but also made him a compelling person to watch which bummed me out more considering that I think this guy could have definitely done a lot better if the film was just based on Poe’s life, rather than just his final days surrounding some mystery. Then again, the box office returns for this flick may not be so hot so I guess we won’t ever get a chance to see that flick, will we?
Consensus: Gory, entertaining, and featuring a very good performance from John Cusack, The Raven is definitely an enjoyable flick about a figure in literature we don’t know much about, but with a weak script, weak whodunit subplot, and weak romance, the film feels like it should have been more of a biopic rather than one just disguised as a mystery thriller.
Marriage is a beautiful thing, that is until von Trier touches it.
A childlike, devoutly religious woman named Bess (Emily Watson) marries a foreign oil worker, Jan (Stellan Skarsgård), who must leave for the barges not long after the wedding. Distraught, she prays that he comes home, and immediately afterward, he’s severely injured, almost completely paralyzed. Thinking it’s her fault, when he requests that she sleep with other men and describe it to him so they ‘can be together’, she takes on the task with tragic determination.
Writer/director Lars von Trier is a guy that I can’t really find myself loving but at least admiring for whatever the hell it is that he’s trying to do. Now, I can maybe move even closer to loving him like so many others already have.
von Trier films this in his grainy, handheld camera signature style which uses only actual light for each and every shot and also no score whatsoever which is always a win win for me. These little elements added in there are what made me really admire this flick because I didn’t feel like I was actually watching a film after awhile, I felt like I was watching a real if bizarre true story play out right in front of my eyes. von Trier also uses chapters for this flick and each one is accompanied by a classic rock song ranging from the likes of Elton John and Rod Stewart. It’s a very strange idea but it’s still an idea that works somehow, even if it is von Trier just messing around like the mad-man that he is.
Where this film really works is its story even though its insane. The whole synopsis may have you scratching your head, as all von Trier synopsis’ probably do, but after about the third chapter, it all starts to turn into a real heart-felt story that I actually started to follow. The film isn’t enjoyable to say the least but the little romance that these two have and how sweet and sort of innocent it actually is, works in the films favor and gets us ready for all of the dark and sad shit that takes over the last 2 hours of the flick. Still, once it does start, I still felt the same way I did before.
I like how von Trier combines all of these ideas with sex, faith, religion, sacrifice, and most of all, love into one film but it never feels too jam-packed with ideas nor does it ever feel like its focusing on one more than the other, they just somehow get focused on all at the same time. You see how this girl is treated because she may be a little weird, but once she gets this husband it’s almost too good to be true of how happy and in love she is. Once that starts to go away though, it’s even worse to see what happens to her and that’s when the film started to make me feel something for this character probably because von Trier cared for her as much as I did.
von Trier may exploit these characters beyond belief but he never loses sight that these characters are just about as real as you or I am and the way he handles just about every scene that builds up the emotional punch until it’s through the roof, is a true testament to von Trier’s writing/direction. We actually feel something for this character and every decision that she makes has another lasting impact not on how we feel about her, but us as well considering that the film never lets us lose sight of who we are dealing with here. She’s not a mean, cruel, or bad person she’s just a girl who’s doing something for her husband, no matter how twisted or effed up it may be. The film even brings up the whole point about what she is doing could be referred to as “good” and I can’t say that I am against that idea either.
Where my problem with this film was, lied in the fact that for every heart-breaking moment here had a nonsensical, bizarre, and strange moment just ready to follow it up, which is what I expected but since this story was so rich it almost feels like a rip-off in a way. von Trier shows too much of the controversial vision of love and faith that he has here and it starts to take away from the believability of things here and give us a firm belief of what we are watching. I know I sound kind of like a cheese ball considering I knew I was going to get a lot of this going into the film but it just seemed unreasonable for von Trier to put all of this crazy and wild sexual stuff in this flick even when it doesn’t really need it with the story that it has.
The real reason to watch this film though is for the performance of Emily Watson here who plays Bess McNeill. Bess is a very strange, weird, messed-up girl who also has a very vulnerable, loving, and playful side to her as well and even though at first it may seem very hard for us to actually get involved with her character, Watson makes this one of the best characters I have seen on the screen in awhile. Watson plays every emotion that goes through Bess perfectly with all of the crying, moping, anger, joy, and downright pure neediness and makes this somewhat schizophrenic character seem very believable in her portrait. A lot of the things Bess does here is pretty effed up but I still thought she was a nice and sweet girl despite all of the problems that she was going through. I think Watson definitely deserved this nomination that she got but I also think that she should have gotten the Oscar as well, even though I still need to see the other nominated performances from that year.
Stellan Skarsgård is also very good in an early role that shows him playing many different emotions as well and us never being too sure as to what really is going on in his mind at the time. Considering he is practically crippled throughout the whole flick, it takes a lot for Stellan to draw out some emotions and mystery within his character, which continues to work considering we never know what’s on his mind, if he is even in the right frame of mind, or if he wants to live or die. None of this is ever really made clear to us which I liked and I think that Stellan did a great job with this mysterious but also likable performance that he gives.
Consensus: Breaking the Waves has a problem with too many bizarre things occurring but it also benefits from a very good story that is weird but also very emotional, amazing performances from everyone involved, especially Watson herself, and a story as far-fetched as it may be, that still comes off as heart-breaking and true, even though it comes from the mind of Lars von trier.