The Favourite: A Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

Yes, that is the name of a Kanye West album and yes it is the most fitting summary of this tragicomedy film set 300 years ago, bristling with outstanding performances and razor sharp writing.

Olivia Coleman, playing Queen Anne, has already picked up a Golden Globe for her portrayal of the disease-ridden, depressed, overweight and childlike monarch, while Emma Stone and Rachael Weisz have also enjoyed lavish praise for their own performances.

The film shows Stone and Weisz, contest for the favour of the mentally and physically fragile Queen, something which starts out as a game that the Monarch seems to enjoy, but quickly becomes much more sinister and damaging.

Rachael Weisz in the Favourite

That’s not to say that the film forgets to be funny halfway through, it simply combines its humor with the steady increase of suffering felt by Queen Anne.

As these moments arrive, the Queen’s erratic and sorrowful behaviour makes more sense, changing the perception of her as a spoilt child, to somebody who is tragically damaged, isolated and in need of real support.

Unfortunately, it never comes.

Olivia Coleman in The Favourite

Instead, she is seen as something to be toyed with and used the younger and more bloodthirsty women circling below.

Yorgos Lanthimos, Director of the weirdly wonderful ‘The Lobster’ and ‘Dogtooth’, toys with his audience, making you want to back the schemes of Abigail (Stone), while hating the imperialistic dominatrix, Lady Sarah (Weisz), until the tables turn and sympathies switch three quarters into the film.

The music employed is similar to the otherworldly and sinister score from ‘Under the Skin’, ramping up the dreamlike quality of the film while building tension with scratching violin and slow drum beats throughout.

Rachael Weisz and Olivia Coleman in The Favourite

The camera work also delivers a feeling of surrealism as it swings and flips in ways that simply don’t feel natural for a ‘costume drama’.

There are several lingering extreme close-ups on Abigail, Anne and Lady Sarah at key points which draws the audience even closer into their tangled world of lies and deception.

The Favourite is sure to enjoy a strong run over the next few weeks and it deserves to enjoy all of the success and coverage that it is currently receiving.

Many of the articles and stories are revolving around the performance of Olivia Coleman, but the performances of Emma Stone and Rachael Weisz are equally outstanding and it’s likely that most people will have different opinions on who is best, something that couldn’t be better for the success of a film.

Blade Runner 2049: Review and Analysis

Visually stunning and with reliably powerful performances from Ryan Gosling, Jared Leto and Harrison Ford, Blade Runner 2049 is easily one of the best films of 2017 so far.

But first, a little exposition…

10 years ago, on my 15th birthday, I was given the newly released Final Cut version of Blade Runner and from that day on, it became my favourite film. I didn’t necessarily know why but I was hooked. Like every kid on the planet, I had grown up watching Star Wars, so seeing Harrison Ford play Rick Deckard in the nightmarish dystopian landscape of 2019 LA, hit me hard.

There wasn’t a blonde kid with magic powers hopping around with a lightsabre and the robots in Blade Runner were a long way from R2D2 and C-3PO. They were murderous, philosophical, attractive, terrifying, tragic…

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This was a universe which was dark, dangerous and provocative.

Six years after seeing the film for the first time, I wrote my dissertation on how the novel, ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep’, was adapted into the 1982 film.

So you can imagine my anxiety, excitement, fear and dread when a sequel was announced a few years ago. They don’t have the best track record.

Fortunately for me and everyone else who feared the worst, the decision to bring Denis Villeneuve on as director has proven to be a masterstroke.

The visuals and sound design are stunning as the mix of special effects and real life were inseparable. There was one intimate scene between Gosling and two women, which proved this point with immaculate detail. When you see the film, you will know what I am talking about.

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The beauty of the film aside, questions about identity, memory, creation and the creator are all raised. Allegorical references and nods to fairytales are aplenty as echoes of Pinocchio whistle through the dialogue, “I always knew you were special, now you are a real boy…”

This is the perfect universe for Villeneuve to play with an audience. His pervious film, Arrival, is a stunning piece of work and is easily one of the best films from the past few years. He toys with the audiences preconceptions and ideas of what memory really is, flipping it around and showing us just how unreliable it is. 

Blade Runner 2049 is no different as the story highlights our reliance upon memory for defining our actions and the people we are. 

The visual focus on eyes is carried over from the first film as 2049 begins with an extreme close up of a bright green eye opening. It fills the entire screen and is distinctly unnatural in how brilliant the colour of the iris is.

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(One of the opening shots of Blade Runner 2049)

I personally believe that the decision to open with an identical shot in both films is a direct reference to the ‘Watchmaker Analogy’, which cites the human eye as proof of a grand designer in the shape of God.

The argument from creationists goes; ‘How can something as complex and perfect as the human eye, come from evolution? If you were walking along in a field and stumbled upon a pocket watch and opened it up to look at all of the tiny mechanisms, then you would know that somebody had built and designed it as it was so much more complex than rocks and trees dirt.’

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(One of the opening shots from the original Blade Runner)

This is where the term ‘Intelligent design’ comes from and the continuous focus on the windows to the soul in both Blade Runner films, highlights the relationship between man, machine and God.

I could write another 500 words on this film but I would be surprised if anyone has made it this far so I will leave it at this.

Blade Runner 2049 is a film which has succeeded in doing what most thought was impossible by improving on the original film. It is majestically mesmeric and is rightly being lauded critically. Go and watch it, you won’t be sorry.