Sunday, January 17, 2016

"In fear" - an intense study of psychological collapse

"In fear" - an intense study of psychological collapse

One of the greatest, most intense fear of Man is the thought of getting lost: physically, psychologically or spiritually. Self-consciousness and rational thought, our twin vehicles of success on this planet, is definitely a boon considering whatever we have achieved as Humans. But the flip side is the perpetual, persistent goal driven life that such self-conscious thought projects and sustains. Other species don't face this problem. They live with an intensity in the moment, and die as naturally as they live. I wonder if they even know what a "goal" or an "end" means? Curiously, our fear is not about total annihilation per se (unfortunately we all know that we have to die), but this nagging existential feeling of not knowing what would happen after that. We assiduously cultivate our moral, intellectual, social, ethical and spiritual walls in such a way that we are, at the very least, lulled into a false sense of being in control and know where we are going. We build our heavens and hells to shield us from this unknown. And we take refuge in them like a child curling in its mother's womb. Every kind of insecurity we face, is a repercussion of our compulsive need to remain in control of our destination. It we can’t reach it, we will then find solace in creating an idea about it and try our best to stay in tune with that idea. Meticulous planning, knowing each other, investing in a future, believing in a God - all of them are examples of shields made of tortuous thought material to make us feel safe and secure - for God knows what, I don't know!!!.

Horror and slasher films exploit this deep sense of fear and insecurity admirably well. Some of the best made movies in this genre are ones where protagonists are driven to face something they never expect. All common notions of right and wrong, happy and sad, good and bad, darkness and light come into question, and the emotional walls of everyday life crumble slowly into nothingness. In a typical slasher movie, a group of young kids would take off on a road trip for sheer fun. Initially full of confidence and positivity; slowly, without warning or forethought, they would reach a dead end, or take a wrong turn finding themselves in unknown terrain, where hell breaks loose in the form of a killer, a ghost, a vampire - or some form of unknown, unplanned, unsought phenomenon. Their bonds of friendship are stretched, passions erupt, distrust builds, and what began as a pleasure trip soon turns into a nightmare. In conventional B- grade slasher movies, you could switch off at this point, because all that happens next is bodies piling up one after another in gory ways. And after sometime, it gets monotonous, predictable and boring. What they miss out is the psychological state of Human beings caught in such a predicament - the slow degeneration of mental stability and health. That needs a master director and good actors to bring it off, and conventional slasher movies don't work with that kind of budget.

I just got off watching a wonderful 2014 movie titled "in fear" directed by Jeremy Lovering. His first effort in movies. It is set in Ireland, where a mature, serious, intellectual couple, barely having known each other for two weeks, set off on a car trip to join their friends for a music festival. Enroute, they choose to stay a night at a fancy hotel (advertised on a website). The movie revolves around their drive to this hotel. The road maps, GPS takes them though rough terrains, dark and narrow roads with overarching, brooding branches; but they never seem to reach their destination. Sign posts at regular intervals direct their progress, but it takes them back in circles to same place. Tom and Lucie (couple) make intelligent conversation trying to make sense of their platonic relationship, but slowly as night creeps in, light begins to fade, and a slight drizzles adds to the heaviness of the moment - they start losing their balance ever so slightly. What started as a "knowing" relationship now begins to come apart at its seams. Their conversation dwindles; silence and darkness fills the screen; Tom opens his bottle for few quick swigs. All along the camera traces the car, fuel gauge and the volatile faces of Tom and Alice as it moves from trust to distrust to fear. They continue to believe that they are in control, and the hotel is just a turn away; but as time progresses that certainty fades, and distrust, loneliness and uncertainty creeps in. For ninety minutes, Director Jeremey gives us a taste of psychological condition of two individuals whose tough walls of emotional and physical security cracks. He has wonderfully captured that transformation. There is, of course, a little bit of blood and gore, as a third actor joins them during the journey, but it doesn't take anything away from this marvelous study of insecurity that Lovering brings to screen.

The ending was ambiguous. It looked like the director did not know where and how to finish. But that is excusable in a first time effort. Few years ago, I remember watching another film titled "Dead end" with a similar theme. But "in Fear" the treatment of gaping psychological spaces is bit more sincere and real than the other.

To conclude, Art like myth is symbolic, and Movies are perhaps the best modern art form to depict fluidity of Human behavior in visual terms. Drama also offers a great stage to do this, but Movies can perfect this art to no end. Alfred Hitchcock froze terror for all times in single slashing frame in "Psycho", and Richard Donner packed ages of evil into a single innocent smile from Damien. "In fear" - its director has aspired high, and to a great extent touched the bar as well.

Watch it if you care for quality film making.

God Bless…

Yours in Mortality,


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