Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Det Sjunde Inseglet (The Seventh Seal)

An existential knight, a chess game with death and the ever looming question of "God", don't worry! It's just an Ingmar Bergman film. The Seventh Seal takes place in mideval Sweden. Antonius Block (Max von Sydow) is a knight returning from a failed crusade in the Holy Land with his trusty (and sometimes cynical) squire Jons (Gunnar Bjornstrand) to a country ravaged by the Black Death. On their journey back to Antonius' house, they meet up with a family of actors/jugglers that follow them through the forest, the rest has too much to do with how the story ends so I won't give it away.

This film is the beginning of what many people call Ingmar Bergman's "Silence of God" or "Faith Cycle" films. This is strongly supported by the many sprinklings of existential themes trough out the film. Antonius Block is visibly struggling with the idea of god. He says "I want knowledge! Not faith or assumptions, but knowledge. I want god to reach out his hand, uncover his face and speak to me." Constantly during the chess game, he asks Death about the existence of God, who-- if I recall correctly-- does not answer them. At one point, they meet up with a group of knights escorting a witch to be burned who has been accused of consorting with the Devil. Antonius seizes the chance to talk to the witch about the Devil and whether he exists or not. For if he does, who to better know the existence of God then his mortal nemesis. After witnessing the burning of the witch the squire pretty much shoves the existentialism in your face by saying "Who will take care of that child? God? The Devil? The nothingness? The nothingness perhaps?" Do you even need it any more clear where the director/writer is coming from then that quote?

All in all probably one of my favorite movies. The acting is wonderful, the writing is wonderful, and the directing is awesome! Another must see for the Art House movie fan. I would give this movie a 9 out of 10

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Yoidore Tenshi (Dunken Angel)

Directed by timless master Akira Kurosawa, this film takes place in the Yakuza run, Taberculosis infested slums of post-war Japan. Alcoholic Doctor Sanada (Takashi Shimura) treats a rising star in the one of the gangs running his town, named Matsunaga (Toshiro Mifune) for a gunshot wound and also diagnosis him with TB. Their relationship in the movie seems to be on rocky grounds at first untill Sanada gains Matsunaga's trust and tries to help him save a young woman from falling back into the hands of a abusive relationship with a recently parolled head hombre of the Yakuza.

I found this movie to be very entertaining and quite before it's time. Kurosawa does a fantstic job of capturing, not only life in post-war Japan and the hardships that the people faced, but also the clash of ideas that came out of the war. The old Bushido morals vs. the new more existential ideas or even at times cynical ideas of a defeated nation. This clash is most evident with the cyincal/jaded Doc vs the passionate youth of Mifune's character. While the Docotor tries to help Matsunaga with logic and teaching him not to just follow passions all of the time, ultimately Matsunaga falls back into old habits and gives into his passions and naive views of his world.

Overall I'd give this movie a 8.5 of 10 a deffinate must see for any Kurosawa fan or someone wanting an introduction to Japanese Cinema, and Kurosawa Cinima itself.