The hours

The hours is one of Daldry’s many master pieces after winning the Tony Awards for best director of a musical for Billy Elliot (adaption from the book called ‘Billy Elliot’). Given a pattern of multiple book adaptions, The Hours is no exception. It is based on the Pulitzer prize winning novel of 1999, ‘The Hours’ by Michael Cunningham. Stephen Daldry honours Cunningham’s brilliance by deploying one of the best music composer of his time, academy winning actors, and directs a story that one continues to reminiscence years after watching the movie.

Daldry grew up to study english, was trained as an actor, managed a production company, and came to direct movies. As a result, most of his works are a reflection of his varied interest in art, life, and literature. The hours is a perfect example: complex characters;, lesbians, an isolated HIV positive bisexual, a post world war veteran, a depressed women in rural England, and most importantly, revolutionary music by one of the most influential crafters of the 20th century, Glass.

The hours revolves around the lives of three different women set against different time periods.

It is the beginning of the 21st century in New York city and a women called Clarissa Vaughan (Merly Streep) is looking forward to give this, ‘wonderful party,’ for her friend Richard. Richard is an HIV positive and he is in ways a reminder of what life was like for most gay men post the ‘Gay Plague’ in America. As the movie descends, viewers gradually understand that Clarissa, too, lives in fear and anxiety.

On the other coast, it is 1945, post-world war, and middle class America is booming. Daldry is genius in making sure his characters are none than two typical middle-class Americans ; a war veteran, and his wife. Set against the suburbs of California, the peculiar wife, Laura Brown (Julianne Moore) is trying to find deeper meaning in her life. The real question lies: will she look for it or will it come to her?

In rural London, 1923, Virginia Wolf (Nicole Kidman)  belonging to an upper-middle class society suffers from depression. Leonard, Wolf’s spouse is an idle husband: strong, loveable, and he doesn’t seem to control Virginia’s life style too much.  Despite that, Wolf spends her days avoiding any intimate contact with her spouse, and has little interest for food, and life in general. Viewers soon realise that Virginia is seriously ill and the only way to put an end to her madness is to welcome the inevitable; death.

The hours is a very emotional movie, and with music by Glass, there is nothing that could go wrong. It is a uniquely dangerous movie for its time, because it gets too personal, and reveals too much about women, mental health, and the gays and lesbians of their generation.

 

Carol

 

Set against the backdrop of grey sub-urban nights, a growing economy, and the middle class; Carol is a lightheaded melodrama in the 50’s revolving around a young woman called Therese, played by Rooney Mara, and her lesbian lover Carol, by Cate Blanchett. Blanchett is famously known for her role in ‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,’ and more importantly for scoring the Oscars in the lead role of an Actress in 2014 for ‘Blue Jasmine.’ Directed by the century’s greatest independent filmmaker Todd Haynes, Carol is based on the book ‘The Price of Salt,’ by Patricia Smith. The scene, half way through the movie where Therese wakes up to find Carol leave is one of the most thought provoking scenes depicting the fragility and the inconsistency of their relationship as it was for most lesbian societies in the 50’s.

Carol is dominated by low key lightening, from the first few scenes of Therese and her supposed boy friend biking to work to her working in the doll section of the store. Haynes smartly has no scene where Therese complains about her life, rather, he makes her work in the doll section of the store because just like the dolls, Therese lives in another world; she crushes on women, and has a habit of saying yes to a lot of things like an exciting life of travel and leisure with her soon to be estranged lesbian lover.

The scene begins with a full shot of both Carol and Therese, the two major characters in the movie. The hotel room is not too bright; a dimmer version of light is coming only from one side of the room giving one character more control than the other. In this case, Carol seems to be in power and Haynes does it in a very mature way because Carol is older, more experienced, and definitely wealthier than Therese. And At this point, the two have already met and made love a couple of times, so, there is zero tension in the air.

The camera angel remains to shoot from the corner of the room with a full shot of both Carol and Therese and Carol calmly says, ‘You don’t have to sleep over there.’

At the end, Therese wakes up to Abby, (an associate and ex gay lover of Carol) smoking in the room with no sign of her. Haynes really does not make a big deal out of Carol leaving because at this point, a lot of storms have already passed: she tried shooting the detective her husband hired to spy on her ‘unusual’ venture and Therese has already cried a river on the night before they got to the hotel. Due to the lack of dramatic response from Therese, it tells viewers that there is possibility again for the two to meet in the near future like before.

Carol, is a very sad movie and Haynes celebrates ‘unhappiness’ by portraying it through Theresa and Carol; both unwilling to give up on each other despite monumental risks. From the choice of a brilliant cast to an intricate pattern of scenes, Carol is almost perfect. If you love art, music, and revere poems that celebrate unhappiness, then Carol is your go to movie.

 

The visitor

The Visitor” is an intriguing drama about the hopelessness in the world of Middle-Eastern and African immigrants in America. Before writing “The Visitor,” Tom McCarthy spent time in the Middle East where he realised how warm and communicative the people were (“NO VACANCY”). Although the bigger picture revolves around the widowed professor Walter, the underlying theme is about the reality of immigrants and the lack of legal help they are subject to. The movie had substance in it: “His second project as a director-writer, The Visitor, won the 2008 Independent Spirit Award for best director” (Farber 4). McCarthy’s use of camera angle and setting brings out the message to the viewers. The scene in the beginning of the movie is one of the most thought-proving scenes because it shows Walter’s willingness to move on from the past and live life easily.

The first scene begins with a full shot of Walter standing at the door, introducing him in-directly as the main character. Walter is wearing a grey blazer, and grey is associated with loss, depression, and dullness and that makes perfect sense for Walter’s current situation.

The camera continues to take a full shot, introducing the middle-aged woman who gives Walter piano lessons. The Mise-En-Scene plays an important role because the wall is painted in white with his tutor wearing a black blazer, which sums up to a black and white aura. Black and white backgrounds in films symbolise high intensity. Walter’s piano tutor is the archetype for sickness, lack of energy, and death because she is an elderly woman. McCarthy giving a close up shot to Walter’s piano tutor for about ten seconds intensifies this point because the elderly women has a dead expression on her face, with the layers of wrinkles on her forehead. Walter seems hesitant while playing the piano and this is evident by his facial expressions through the close up shot. It almost looks like, Walter realizes or is starting to realize that playing the piano is not his cup of tea because Walter has had about four tutors in the past teaching him to play the piano. The piano as we learn later signifies the past for Walter because first his late wife used to play the piano and second the piano remains in Connecticut while he moves to the bustling New York City.

At the end, when Walter’s tutor leaves, the camera is angled towards Walter’s backyard, broadcasting green, beautiful scenery and it is a very happy setting, foreshadowing good things that will happen in Walter’s life from that moment on. For example, his encounter with the west African musical instrument, djembe and his interest in living an honest life. This is in fact the most important part in the scene, where Walter finally tells his tutor that he wont be requiring her anymore, and when she asks, “Are you quitting?” Walter replies with a huge smile saying, “No.”