It’s hard to know where to start. The premise is compelling enough. An eclectic group of misfits hunt and kill Nazis in nineteen seventies America. Interesting idea, but not what provides the spice. It’s the tone of the show that’s gonna burn your tongue and make your sweat. It delves comedically into the post war policy of providing top Nazis safe haven in the states. It deals seriously with the trauma of life for those who survived the camps. All the time walking a razors edge of distaste, courting offence on one side of the blade and accusations of trivialisation on the other. They pull it off by blending at high speed exploitation flick and genuine holocaust remembrance, mixing in a comic book paste, and splashing in a chillies sauce of dark satire, the kind you might find in Kurt Vonnegut novel. It’s not a cocktail for everyone, but if you like your entertainment with flavours, this will take you on an journey.
An imagined conversation between a husband and wife.
I don’t know what to make of this low budget sciences fiction musing about the tension between humans and artificial intelligence. Visually it’s all a bit seventies practical effects. You can almost see the glue holding the props together. Personally I don’t mind this, it has a certain retro charm, but current audiences might find it a bit pants. The performers do their best with what they have, but are let down by a screenplay that’s a little on the nose. Where you should be discovering you’re taken to it. Where you should brushing up against enigma you’re given conclusions. Early films for both writer and director, that are reaching for something more than the usual cowboys in space. Interested to see what’s next from both.
Sean Penn steals the show as the madman, battling his psychosis while helping Mel Gibson’s professor write the Oxford English Dictionary. Ernest and interesting in equal measure.
It’s strange to think this film is 25 years old. Even after all that time it still packs an almighty wallop. It’s not just the performances or the writing, but the way it makes you take a deep breath and hold it. I know what’s going to happen. I can literally repeat the dialogue. But it still manages to take my breath away. It’s a film with many imitators, but none that live up to its essence. I wish contemporary films could summon up a quarter of its ability to make me feel. I miss that felling of being clawed by the throat, and made to gasp breathless, as a story unfolds. It’s exciting in a way thing just aren’t anymore.
The always interesting Abel Ferrara and Willem Dafoe team up again for another dive into the darker side of human nature.
Imagine what it would be like to watch an incompetent government screw up your life, and maybe get you killed as they do it. What would that look like?
Perhaps we’d watch them stagger through this COVID-19 crisis like Stone Trolls trying to escape the sun. Lumbering panicked from one broken promise to another.
How would you feel if the government lied, and lied again. Treating every citizen with the kind of contempt you might have for the gob of gum stuck to your shoe?
What kind of person would lead this chaos? He’d have to be someone unwilling to face and average person, look them in the eye, and speak from the heart?
The Stone Troll’s heart is a purely functional organ. Something so tough it can’t be scratched by emotions like shame or regret, compassion or humility.
If we had a government like that, we might look at their stage managed announcements and ask, why do they rattle past so quickly? Why do they go by unchallenged?
Would it be ruthless to think they’re hiding something? They must think we’re fools? Why else would they present failures as success, and expect us not to notice.
I might respond by calling them cowards, or point out their arrogance. I’m guessing their replies would let me know, they see us as weak, infantilising us for their own benefit.
Why would any government think of its citizens as children? Perhaps they want us to treat them as a parent, a strict and infallible patriarch, there to scold us, tell us what to do?
If that’s how it is, I want to know, has the tail always wagged the dog? And if the government’s wagging its citizens, we’re not living in a democracy, we’re living in a system of oligarchy. Where the many are ruled by the few.
A government like that might think we should take the virus on the chin, to “protect the economy!” If that’s their priority it might be reasonable, under the enormous pressure of a pandemic, to feel like their “democracy” might falter.
People might realise who the government is really serving. To protect itself a government might be forced to respond. Rationalise a system wide collapse, and offer to pay a companies staff, so they can implement a lockdown.
Win. Win. Protect the interests of the oligarchy while maintaining the illusion of democracy.
If that lockdown continued, how long before the mouthpieces for the few start agitating for a return to business?
Would the government relax the order to stay at home, knowing people will mix and contract and spread the virus? Is it wrong to think they’d put everyone at risk in this way?
But the Stone Trolls see us as feckless children too stupid to stand on our own two feet. If they thought something different, they’d maintain a lockdown until the danger had passed.
Which leaves one final question. What’s the point of government if all they do is service the needs of the few?
Second film in two days I’ve watch from Greece. It’s the second film about strange family dynamics, and overly controlling parents. The fathers are dystopian dictators in the way they treat their children. Very strange. Interesting but strange.