EIFF ’11 Day Six – Perfect Sense, By Day and By Night & The Divide

 

Perfect Sense
Okay so now that the film has premiered and the embargo has been lifted, I’m finally able to tell you about Perfect Sense; the Ewan McGregor and Eva Green starring, David McKenzie directed British production that tells the story of two people who fall in love as an affliction spreads the earth that causes the population to lose their senses one by one.

When I told Chris that I wasn’t allowed to write about the film until Sunday his instant reaction was the same as mine; isn’t it only shit films that are embargoed? If Perfect Sense is anything to go by then we can firmly answer that questions with a resounding NO! Let’s not beat around the bush on this one, I loved Perfect Sense and it’s been eating me up that I haven’t been able to tell you about it until now.

In true Chris Madden roundabout style I’m going to tell you what I loved about this film by talking about another one. Around four years ago when Children of Men came out I remember thinking “that looks like the stupidest idea for a film” yet despite my early inclinations I saw it and was blown away; it was such a grand tale told on such a personal level, it tapped into innate fears that I believe we all share, the direction was fresh and interesting and I really bought into the concept despite my distaste for the actor in the lead. All these things are true of Perfect Sense too; this is a story that is heavily influenced by events taking place on a macro-scale, yet we never lose sight of the two characters at the centre of it all, both trying to find a way to carry on living their life each time they lose one of their senses.

There are so many good things about this film that I’m really going to struggle to limit myself (for length’s sake) but if there was any one thing that really really stood out as being great about this film, it would undoubtedly be the score. Max Richter (who last year contributed to the excellent Shutter Island) has really pulled it out of the bag with this one; the music is subtle when it needs to be, poignant when it’s appropriate and is absolutely harrowing at the most emotionally involving moments. Outstanding.

Perfect Sense verges on having one of the most tragic endings I’ve seen, quite a drain after the emotional day I’d already had with Angels Crest and Project Nim – this isn’t a film to watch then when feeling vulnerable; but is one that will prompt you into appreciating what you have in life and, if you’re anything like me, cause you to re-evaluate the things you think are important. Top notch stuff.

Should you go see it? Yes – it’s a long time since I’ve been this emotionally affected by a film. It’s solidified itself in my top ten of the year so far and I can’t quite see it being shifted out anytime soon – even if it does star Ewan McGregor.

 

By Day and By Night
Overpopulation has (for some reason or another that I couldn’t quite fathom) led to the inhabitants of the Metropolis being split by the use of an enzyme into two “shifts,” half who live during the day and the other half that function through the night – a nice side effect (at least for those running the Metropolis) is that the enzyme should regulate the population’s emotions making them nice and manipulatable in the process.

Aurora is a mother living in the day shift who is desperately seeking out her child Luna who has gone missing, Urbano is a night shift scientist who prevents Luna’s death and somehow in the process manages to make her switch shifts so that she now functions solely at night. In the background we are slightly exposed to two of the men not bound by the shifts, one a scientist partially responsible for the introduction of the enzyme to the population of the Metropolis, the other a typical “overseer” character who isn’t happy about Aurora’s actions given that the enzyme should have eliminated any attachment she had to her child. They are forced to interject and after successfully tracking Urbano and Luna down, Aurora is left communicating with them solely through recorded messages being as they can never be conscious in the same time period. They decide to escape the Metropolis to see if they can find any way to break out of their shifts and live life together.

A lot of plot given there, but it’s such an interesting concept that it bears writing down just to see if I actually understand it myself… That’s not to say the By Day and By Night is an overly complicated film, quite the contrary as the above is mostly all there is to it – its simplicity is actually quite deceptive given the concept that frames the film’s reality.

This is a very minimalist production in almost all aspects and it takes a few very bold strokes along the way – in the last half an hour once Aurora, Urbano and Luna have left the Metropolis there are around three lines of dialogue; the very nature of their diametric existence means they have no one to talk to – in this period it’s the score carries the weight of the film and fortunately it manages to a very good job. As much as this stripped back approach might engage some people, I can see how it might be very off putting to others. To say that this film is slow just doesn’t come near to describing it and depending on your preference you’re either going to come down saying that it’s masterfully paced or frightfully dull…

By Day and By Night is an extremely interesting film and proved to divide audiences in its native Mexico; it’s a very arty film which I enjoyed a lot, but even as I was watching it I really couldn’t imagine a full audience of people ever going to watch it – one for hardcore indie sci-fi fans then perhaps.

Should you go see it? I get the impression that the very nature of this film won’t appeal to most people so I’m going to leave this one up to you. I can see how it would bore the pants off some, yet I found it a beautifully subtle, often moving watch.

 

The Divide
BOOOOOO!

Can I finish there? No? Okay then…

In the opening scene of The Divide we witness as an unidentified American city goes down in flames; panicked building inhabitants flock down to a well stocked bunker that just so happens to be under their building and somehow the thin metal door manages to protect them from nuclear armageddon and a building collapsing on top of them. Pretty soon I was wishing that the door had stuck and I was made to sit watching their charring corpses for two hours. It probably would have been more of an entertaining watch.

Locked up in the bunker we have the usual requisite mix of end of the world survivors; a mother, a child, a paranoid schizophrenic, some wiseguys, a timid guy who wears glasses, a black guy who won’t take no shit and an interchangeable main character, played in this instance by the best Milla Jovovich-alike in the business. It’s a real shame then that precisely none of these people can act; seriously this film features some of the most ham-fisted performances I’ve ever seen, particularly from Michael Biehn who many of you might remember used to be able to actually act.

Ten minutes in and I was severely bored; we were already going through the standard motions of the delirious people trying to escape, the self assumed leader shouting at everyone and half of the bunker’s inhabitants not trusting the other half, but then something great happened (I’m using the word “great” liberally there); hazard suited soldiers break into the bunker, steal the child and then make off with her. The ten minutes which followed that teased at something greater going on were a breath of fresh air, but almost as soon as the concept had been introduced, the soldiers seal up our survivors in their bunker to mete out their own fate. It’s been a long time since I saw such a disappointing turnaround in a film; any promise it might have shown was quickly snuffed out. This is further compounded by the fact that this film is far too long, after the door has been sealed shut we’re left going through the standard motions of watching the few survivors gradually be whittled down and terrorised by the ones whose screws come loose earliest; it just takes its sweet time doing it.

It’s a shame then that the film has such a pleasant score; it doesn’t fit with the film whatsoever but is really standout on its own. Kind of makes me a little sad that it wasn’t used in a film where it actually worked. Knew I could find one thing nice to say about it…

If anything The Divide just reinforces the fact that if you’re ever facing an end of the world type situation you’re either best going at it alone or topping yourself there and then, because other people are just shit. Shame it took it so bloody long to get that point across…

Should you go see it? No, nope, no way, no how.

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