Brit Marling has to be one of the strangest young “artists” to emerge from the indie movie scene in the last few years. She has a classic natural beauty, a deep whisper of a voice and an intriguing upside down smile that make her very watchable on-screen. She’s also a writer and ideas creator behind the scenes, cooking up thought-provoking roles for herself and her fellow actors Yet after seeing her in four interesting films (After Earth, Arbitrage, Sound of My Voice and now The East), I’m not entirely convinced of her acting ability. She has a vacant stare (which works to her advantage depending on the role), an aloof physical presence, and while she knows how to cry predictably emo-style in emotional breakdown scenes, she rarely shows any other emotion. It’s like she’s wading slowly through water up to her eyes on-screen.
Well, Marling has re-teamed with co-writer and director Zal Batmanglij for the eco-terrorism indie thriller The East. Whereas in their previous endeavor – the quasi-entrancing Sound of My Voice – Marling played a soft-spoken cult leader claiming to be a time traveler, here in The East she is the corporate operative assigned to infiltrate a clandestine vigilante terrorist co-op which targets corporate polluters and big pharmacy. The group is lead by the soothingly charismatic Alexander Skarsgard, who we eventually learn is a former trust-fund boy turned terrorist. Also on board for the well-rounded cast are Patricia Clarkson (excellent as always but underused) as Marling’s cold client-focused boss and Ellen Page (convincingly dedicated to the cause) as a key player in the terrorist group. Continue reading →
Lars Von Trier’s epic ode to depression and the end of the world – perhaps one and the same – opens with Richard Wagner’s Prelude to Tristan and Isolde playing over a series of breathtaking, beautiful and perfectly composed shots that at first appear to be stills until you realize they are moving in ultra slow motion. With the hauntingly operatic music full of swooning lilts and gasping rises into the stratosphere, Von Trier symbolically (and in some shots literally) transmits what we are about to experience. The slow motion represents the trudging through emotions while the music elicits thoughts of a great tragedy about to befall us all. And then boom! – he lays all of his cards right on the table as we watch in simultaneous horror and joy as two worlds collide. It’s an eerily quiet yet emotionally bombastic counter action to Terence Malick’s creation of the universe sequence in The Tree of Life. Both films, operating at opposite poles and giving us glimpses into the vast outward expanse of human imagination through the precipitous downward spiral into the mind and madness of one, are miraculous masterpieces.