Archive for the ‘Catherine Hardwicke’ Category

Claiming the Blood of a Virgin

The Twilight Saga

Teenage Love…

As the thunder rolls and the clouds are slate gray on a dark afternoon, I break my silence on the cinematic phenomenon that is the Twilight Saga, based on the teenaged marketed books by Stephanie Meyer. Starting with Twilight in 2009, and now with the release of Breaking Dawn – Part 1, the Twilight movies have made instant stars out of Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart and Taylor Lautner, helped with a great supporting cast including Peter Facinelli, Dakota Fanning, Kellen Lutz and Michael Sheen, this saga has the world divided. You either a fan or your are not. Twilight is similar to the Star Wars phenomenon and more recently the involved and magical Harry Potter films.

While so far in the series, the first film Twilight directed by Red Riding Hood and Lords of Dogtown visionary Catherine Hardwicke, is in my opinion still the best in the series, capturing the full flush of uncertain flirtatious love between local girl Bella Swan and the mysterious and wealthy Edward Cullen, who also happens to be a friendly and nefarious vampire, whilst New Moon and Eclipse start losing their originality and their cinematic focus. The eternal love affair between Bella and Edward is further complicated by Bella’s attraction to Jacob, the hunky Red Indian Washington state local who also happens to be a werewolf.

Whilst Bella becomes the focus of both Edward and Jacob’s love, their mutual competitive hatred transforms into a fraternal bond to protect Bella in the face of all forms of danger from ancient and vicious vampires to ferocious wolves, while maintaining a fragile truce between the two opposing worlds.

Bella, a human caught in a love triangle between the vampire Edward and the werewolf Jacob, is the basis of all narrative conflicts demonstrating the oldest plot in all fairy tales, an innocent maiden caught between the dashing yet mysterious prince and the ordinary but protective woodsman. Whilst Twilight captured the anguish of the original teenage love crush and subsequent bitter feuds, New Moon and Eclipse expand the worlds of the elegant vampires and tribal werewolves respectively.

Blood Red Sky and the Dawn of Immortality

But Bella is far from innocent! She wants the best of both men, and marries one while gaining protection of the other. Breaking Dawn, Part 1 while drawn out in parts follows the progression from the wedding to the creepy honeymoon in Brazil to moonlit impregnation and subsequent labour of her first child, a union between human and vampire. While Bella’s ordeal is really the shedding of virgin blood as part of the price for being a Vampire’s Bride, the Twilight series, whilst tapping into a wealth of mythology about vampires, first love and folklore is essentially a journey of a young girl from purity and innocence to the losing of her virginity at the cost of forsaking her mortality for the love of not one but two men and her transference from her own community to a world of eternal immortality.

Don’t expect brilliant acting from any of the leads, while Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson go through the motions of a seemingly happy newly married couple, not realizing the horror they in for, which is a watered down version of Rosemary’s Baby, Taylor Lautner’s Jacob seems as confused as ever, whether he wants to run with the wolves or protect the baby in the wood is not clearly portrayed. The Twilight saga is popular for its luminous love story set against some brilliant and spectacular Washington state scenery, and like all saga films, the original film is always the best.

The Twilight saga’s hidden message of no sex before marriage is also entwined along with the pitfalls for indecisive teenage girls who are caught between two vastly different male species, the charming seductive and moody prince or the caring and earthy woodsman, a tale as old as the bride of Dracula itself… a love triangle as treacherous as when time began. Whatever the outcome, the goal for the maiden is to lose one’s virginity and shedding blood and purity whilst dialectically opposing tribal forces clash over the loss of innocence and fight to claim the prize of the vanquished virgin. As for Part two, will there be a happily ever after?

 

 

What Big Eyes You Have…

red_riding_hood_ver2

Catherine Hardwicke’s film version of Red Riding Hood remains firmly in the realm of fantasy. With soft focus cinematography, clever use of primary colours, lush woods, breathtaking landscapes and a pale Valerie, donning her red hood, the teenage marketed fantasy tale is as entertaining as it is enduring.

The ever alluring Amanda Seyfried reprises a similar role to that in Diablo Cody’s film Jennifer’s Body as an innocent girl caught up in a community governed by terror. In Red Riding Hood, the village is terrorized by a werewolf whose first victim is Valerie’s sister.

Werewolf hunter Solomon and self proclaimed protector, played with relish by Gary Oldman arrives in the village to hunt the werewolf following the initial attack. Valerie known as Red Riding Hood played by Seyfred is torn between the Woodcutters son Peter played by Shiloh Fernandez and Henry, a nobleman son’s played by Max Irons, son of actor Jeremy Irons. This love triangle so similar to Hardwicke’s previous film Twilight is further complicated by the revelation that the werewolf in its human form is one of the villagers, and more closely hinted that that person comes from Valerie’s lineage. Virginia Madsen plays Valerie’s mother and Twilight saga star Billy Burke reprises a similar role to Bella’s father in the Twilight series and is given much more character development as an actor as Valerie’s uncontrollable father, Cesaire.

Suspicion is cast upon the reclusive Grandmother to Valerie, a wonderful cameo by veteran actress Julie Christie. Solomon uses Valerie who can communicate with the werewolf as bate in a wonderful midnight fire-ringed offering, red cape and all.

All folklore aside, the sacrificial offering of a Virgin to qualm the evil powers that threaten a community’s livelihood is found in many ethnographic communities mythology and in the case of Red Riding Hood, the origins of this Fairytale are grounded in the hapless virgin being ravaged by the brutal force of nature, symbolic in the werewolf or its human male form, with the spilling of first blood thematically tied up with the red cloak of Valerie as a dazzling signifier.

In Red Riding Hood, Hardwicke’s emphasis is firmly placed on the symbolism of the Red hood, looking ever more dazzling against the translucent face of Valerie especially in the scenes shot against the white snow covered slopes and helped by Seyfried’s superb eye popping performance as the only maiden able to lure the werewolf to reveal its human identity.

Hardwicke keeps the action fast paced and there is an economy of dialogue, characterization and setting, which makes Red Riding Hood an entertaining tale all packed into a 90 minute of film.

Fans of Twilight will no doubt love Red Riding Hood, but most notably the tale is brought vividly to the screen by a director who understands the complexities of the teenage film audience, an age group so brilliantly tackled and explored in Catherine Hardwicke’s previous films Lords of Dogtown and the Oscar nominated Thirteen.


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