Tag Archives: madness

The Voices

The Voices
The Voices

Format: Cinema

Release date: 20 March 2015

Distributor: Arrow Films

Director: Marjane Satrapi

Writer: Michael R. Perry

Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Anna Kendrick, Gemma Arterton and Jacki Weaver

USA, Germany 2014

103 mins

It’s no wonder that Marjane Satrapi’s directorial debut borrows so heavily from the comic genre. Her work to date has been entirely in that domain, with a number of graphic novels to her name. Most notable among them are twin novels Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood and Persepolis: The Story of a Return, which recount her experiences of growing up during the Islamic Revolution in Iran, and her subsequent move to Vienna.

The transition to filmmaking happened with the adaptation of these two novels into the animated feature Persepolis, which, in the English-language version, featured the voices of Sean Penn and Iggy Pop. Satrapi co-directed and co-wrote the film, which went on to become a joint winner of the Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival in 2007.

The Voices is her next big project (there was a live-action adaptation of her novel Chicken with Plums starring Mathieu Amalric, but it had limited distribution outside of France), and it really is big, with Ryan Reynolds in the starring role – lending it serious box office muscle – and Gemma Arterton and Anna Kendrick among the supporting cast.

Reynolds plays Jerry, a worker at a bathtub factory with a sweet nature but severe mental health issues. His universe is as simple as a 50s sitcom, with his ‘aw-shucks’ demeanour and old-school-Americana surroundings inflected with pops of bubblegum pink. Life bumbles on quite merrily as he flits between warehouse work, his room above a deserted bowling alley and sessions with his sympathetic psychologist (Jacki Weaver). He also receives counsel from his two pets: a dopey, kind-hearted dog, Bosco, and an acerbic Scottish cat, Mr Whiskers (both voiced by Reynolds), who take on the roles of angel and devil respectively. So far, so manageable.

Things take a darker turn when he falls for office vamp Fiona (Arterton) and, on a night out, ends up accidentally killing her. Having dispensed with his medication, Jerry falls into a maniacal tailspin, leading him to live in squalor among Fiona’s remains and submitting to the fiendish goading of a chorus now made up of Mr Whiskers and Fiona’s disembodied head.

The film is simultaneously horribly gory, terrifically funny and terribly sad; a combination which could be confusing in any other hands than Satrapi’s. It’s cartoon-like elements temper the horror: sound effects – from bones being sawed, to death blows being delivered – are heightened to the point just shy of adding ‘Pow!’-style captions, while the polished, stylised vision of Jerry’s world elevates the film from gritty horror to camp satire. Furthermore, the women are not simply victims. Weaver’s psychologist posits deeply logical, compassionate views on mental illness, self-doubt and spirituality, and Arterton’s character, in danger of being the arch bitch, redeems herself through humour. We are repulsed by Jerry’s crimes, despite being thoroughly subsumed into his mindset.

Coursing through all this is a dark, throbbing vein of black humour that brings life to each scene, starting from the film’s heart – the naïve, troubled Jerry in a game-changing performance from Reynolds – and ending in a surreal, celestial coda.

The Voices is released in the UK on DVD, Blu-Ray and Steelbook on 13 July 2015.

Lisa Williams

Watch the trailer:

A Quiet Place in the Country

A Quiet Place in the Country
A Quiet Place in the Country

Format: Cinema

Screening as part of Elio Petri: The Forgotten Genius at the ICA, London

Screening date: 11 September 2014

Director: Elio Petri

Writers: Elio Petri, Tonino Guerra, Luciano Vincenzoni

Cast: Franco Nero, Vanessa Redgrave, Georges Géret, Gabriella Grimaldi

Original title: Un tranquillo posto in campagna

Italy 1968

106 mins

Whenever Franco Nero is asked about Elio Petri, his heartfelt appreciation for the director he worked with only once in his career, performing one of his most demanding roles, is as poignant as it is powerful: ‘Elio Petri is the greatest Italian director of the past, the only Italian director who made 10 films that were completely different from one another.’

This unqualified praise is certainly confirmed by A Quiet Place in the Country, Petri’s foray into experimental horror. It’s a film that demands repeated viewing as it is all too easy to get engrossed in the intricacies of the delirious plot. Once you know how this flamboyantly elusive tale of a troubled abstract painter obsessed with the ghost of a nymphomaniac young countess pans out, you appreciate all the more how brilliantly it is all set up. Blending sex, love, madness, identity crisis, alienation, death, art, consumerism and social commentary in a hypnotic, dazzling visual swirl of bold colours, powerful emotions and artistic expression, it is a feast of experimental visual imagery, but not without Petri’s typically dry, caustic touch.

Franco Nero stars as Leonardo, the young established painter afflicted with self-doubt and reckless fantasies, and looked after by his art dealer lover Flavia (Vanessa Redgrave). In an effort to help Leonardo overcome a creative crisis, she rents a derelict country house that he feels is the perfect place for him to work. But soon after his arrival, the previous owner of the house claims possession of her property in mysterious and increasingly dangerous ways. Mentally unstable and with a fatal weakness for beautiful women and vivid hallucinations, Leonardo gets more and more obsessed with the tragic story behind the elusive, free-spirited Wanda (Gabriella Grimaldi) and soon finds himself pushed to the limits of reality, myth and sadism.

The film’s original score by Ennio Morricone plays no small part in contributing to the moody, feverish atmosphere created in the film, while Petri, who had a passion for modern art, goes to great pains to illustrate the relation between present and past, in sinister and haunting, rather than nostalgic, manner. Perhaps A Quiet Place in the Country is best seen as a submersion in a dream that unfolds buried layers of unresolved affairs – emotional, sexual or psychological – to alluring and puzzling effect.

This review is part of our KVIFF 2014 coverage.

Pamela Jahn