ANONYMA: THE DOWNFALL OF BERLIN. (2008) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

THE DOWNFALL OF BERLIN: ANONYMA. (2008) WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY MAX FARBERBOCH.
BASED ON THE MEMOIR, EINE FRAU IN BERLIN: ANONYMA (A WOMAN IN BERLIN: ANONYMOUS) BY MARTA HILLERS.
STARRING NINA HOSS, EUJENY SIDIKHIN, JULIANE KOHLER, ROMAN GRIBKOV AND AUGUST DIEHL.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This superb but harrowing film is based on the memoirs of a real-life German woman who lived through the end of World War Two, and that turbulent period when Berlin was occupied by the Russians and it was said that up to 100,000 German women were raped by Russian men.

The Russian Army was the first triumphant force to reach and overcome Berlin, which by then was being poorly defended by members of the Volksturm, the raggle-taggle ‘People’s Army’ comprising young boys and old men that didn’t stand a chance in hell of standing up against the Russian tanks.

Remember Hitler’s last public appearance, an informal ceremony in the garden of the Reichschancellery, presenting the Iron Cross to boys no more than ten or twelve years old? These boys, though they did their best, were all that was standing between a battered Berlin and the might and anger of the Russian Army. They were bound to fail. They had no chance.

The author of the memoir remained anonymous for as long as she could, until she was identified as German journalist Marta Hillers. The book was widely read but not by the Germans, who literally couldn’t stomach the thought of their women being made impure by the mass invasion of Russian cocks. Some folks will have you believe that the book is not just a sensationalist book about rape, but the subject of rape certainly comes up in it.

In my own opinion, EINE FRAU IN BERLIN is an important book, a book that holds just as much meaning as a war general’s remembrances about the military battles that were fought in World War Two. The women’s battles are just as relevant, just as much so as other wartime experiences, even if these experiences arouse rage, anger, hatred and disgust in the bosom of the German male.

Anyway, our heroine-narrator, whose name we don’t know, is in Berlin when the Russians invade, living in an apartment building with a handful of other women, some old, some young, some old men declared unfit for fighting and a few children.

The Russian Army make their presence felt quickly, by putting up their flag and sexually violating every available woman they can find. Age is no barrier to them. Our narrator is raped several times by different men, after which she makes a Scarlett O’Hara-type promise to herself, one which she intends to keep. ‘No-one will touch me again without my consent.’

So, how does she intend to keep this promise to herself? She seeks the protection of first one and then two Soviet officers, the handsome dairy farmer Anatole and then the tormented widow, Major Andrej Rybkin, with whom she has a doomed but at least reciprocated love affair.

It’s all in return for sex, though, and she receives not only their protection but also food and other hard-to-get supplies. Berlin’s shops have been gutted in the war, but the Soviets have access to food and soap and even goodies, so the women put out for them and they’re- the men, at least- perfectly happy. A fair exchange is no robbery, after all.

I wouldn’t judge these poor women for doing what they have to do in order to survive. Their German husbands will do enough of that when they come home from the front, or from manning the death camps, or from wherever they’ve been… What rights do the husbands even have to pass judgement, anyway, after they’ve been away at war for so long?

Juliane Kohler, who was absolutely fantastic as Hitler’s missis Eva Braun in the 2004 film DOWNFALL, turns up here as Elke, our anonymous narrator’s friend.

“How many times?” queries the narrator.

Elke doesn’t even need to ask her friend what she means.

“Four times,” she answers, before changing the subject gaily with a forced brightness. Four? Sounds like she got off lightly, considering what went on.

Women in those days didn’t have access to birth control, did they, so how did they keep from producing dozens, if not hundreds, of little Russian-fathered babies? Most likely there were hundreds of Russian babies floating around in the post-Third Reich Germany. And, if a woman was raped by more than one Russian soldier, which certainly happened, she mightn’t even know the identity of her own baby’s father.

Did their mothers lie to their German fathers about their babies’ origin, and to the babies themselves? And what effects, if any, did that have on the children concerned, because most of those children would never know the men who fathered them…?

The Russians were fierce and formidable opponents in war, and, of course, Hitler’s biggest military mistake was to open up a war on two fronts, against the Soviets as well as against the Allies. However, in the film, the Russian soldiers seem amiable, generous and friendly towards the German women, children and old men who treat them civilly.

They love to laugh, to love, to live, just like the Germans and the people of other nations. They pray, they dance, they drink like fish, they eat like horses and they adore to sing patriotic songs that venerate their beloved Russia.

The people in our anonymous narrator’s apartment building build up a comfortable rapport with their ‘invaders,’ and life takes on even just a tiny semblance of normality. They even laugh and hold raucous parties with their ‘liberators.’

Which were they, the Russians? Were they the conquerors of Berlin, or the liberators? We’re liberating you from your Nazi overlords, they said as they rolled into the German capital in their massive tanks. I suppose the German people who hadn’t supported the Nazi regime were pleased to be ‘liberated.’

Many Germans feared the arrival of the Russians and chose to commit suicide rather than be invaded.
A woman in the film tells another what she’d heard from a German soldier; that, when the occupation happens, if the Russians do to the Germans even a fraction of what the Germans did to the Russians in the Russians’ very own country, then God help the Germans.

The Nazis initially had horrendous plans for Russia; they wanted to steal her acres and acres of ‘lebensraum’ or ‘living space’ for themselves, an expanding nation, and for a time there were plans to take Russian food and leave Russian people to starve to death. And that’s not even mentioning what the Nazi Einsatzgruppen or death squads did to the country’s Jews. It seems like the Germans had every reason to fear Soviet retribution.

Anyway, to sum up, I admire the anonymous narrator’s courage and determination in deciding that she’s going to survive the Russian occupation, whatever way she needs to do it. She even begs her Major lover and protector to stop the rapes of other German women, but his uninterested reply is simply: ‘My men are all healthy.’  

When her German fiancé returns from fighting the losing battle against Russia and the Allies, it’s almost certain that he’ll be intolerant of her survival tactics and look down on her as a ‘fallen woman.’

But how hypocritical is that? Don’t tell me that he’s never, whether in the Wehrmacht or the SS, done something during this awful war in order to survive that he’d be ashamed to tell his wife or priest. Needs must when the devil drives, you know.

This is an excellent and thought-provoking movie. If you think you’re up to being punched in the kisser with the weight of an extremely turbulent part of history, then watch it. At one hundred and twenty six minutes, it’s a long one but a good one.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

Her new book, THIRTEEN STOPS EARLIER, is out now from Poolbeg Books:

Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:

The sequel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS LATER,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Thirteen-Stops-Later-Book-ebook/dp/B091J75WNB/

THE SILENCE. (2010) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS.

THE SILENCE. (2010) WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY BARAN BO ODAR. BASED ON THE BOOK OF THE SAME NAME, DAS SCHWEIGEN, BY JAN KOSTIN WAGNER.
STARRING WOTAN WILKE MOHRING, ULRICH THOMSEN AND KATRIN SASS.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

I thoroughly enjoyed this German thriller film based on a famous crime fiction novel by a German writer, inasmuch as anyone could enjoy a film about a pair of paedophile murderers and rapists. It’s beautifully shot with gorgeous scenery, it’s not overloaded with useless dialogue and it grips like a giant squid all the way through from start to finish.

The story begins in the summer of 1986. Do you remember what you were doing back then? It’s a long time ago. In the summer of 1986 in a small provincial German town, two men meet by chance in a children’s playground.

Shortly afterwards, an eleven-year-old girl called Pia is cycling happily through a cornfield when she is raped and murdered by a fully-fledged paedophile who may have killed other children before now.

He is watched from his car by his new young ‘friend,’ a fledgling paedophile horrified by what he sees the older, more experienced man do to the child. The younger man helps with the body disposal, as he feels he has no choice, but then he walks away from the older man, who is actually greatly saddened at the loss of his new ‘buddy.’

I suppose that when your interests revolve around looking at things and doing things that the rest of society would vomit to witness, you don’t have too many people around you whom you can call friends.

This is a daring film indeed if it’s making us examine the relationship between two paedophiles, one older and desperately lonely, who knows the ropes and probably accepts himself as he is by now, the other one younger, inexperienced, and crippled with guilt and shame about where his mind is taking him.

Twenty-three years pass in the little village. The mother of the murdered girl, Elena Lange, still lives in the village, as does Pia’s still-undiscovered murderer. When another little girl is suddenly found to be missing after visiting a local fun fair, in identical circumstances to Pia’s murder-abduction, the townspeople start to get a serious feeling of déjà vu. Everyone immediately assumes she’s dead too, like Pia, and all that remains is to find her waterlogged corpse in a ditch somewhere.

The older paedophile, Peer, has been the caretaker for the same building complex for thirty years. The younger man, Timo, has moved away, changed his own surname to his wife’s and had a family with her.

We don’t know if Timo has committed any child sex abuse crimes in the last twenty-three years, but we would have little difficulty in believing that Peer has certainly ‘dabbled.’ Not that he seems evil, exactly, just ‘competent,’ if you get me. More competent than Timo, at least, which wouldn’t be hard.

Has Peer killed this new missing child, Sinikka? And, if so, is the older man sending a message to his younger ‘friend’ across the deafening ‘silence’ of twenty-three long years? A message that says, maybe, I miss you, friend! Come back, we can have fun together and do stuff like this together all the time…?

 Who would ever have thought that paedophiles could have such tender feelings? I’m deliberately using the word ‘paedophile’ in nearly every sentence just so I don’t start to feel sorry for these particular two men, which would be easier than you might think.

Peer is a quiet, mild-mannered man, a good citizen and a conscientious caretaker. Timo is a good husband and father. On the outside, they both present as perfectly normal, nice quiet men, good people. And Timo doesn’t welcome or accept his paedophile tendencies; rather, he tries to reject them and fight them off, and, when he can’t, he’s disgusted and sickened by himself. He literally can’t stomach himself. Peer, on the other hand, has had longer to get used to it all than Timo, and, although we can’t know this for a fact, has probably given up trying to fight it.
  
The town is understandably in upheaval with this new horrific event. Sinikka’s parents are at each other’s throats, each blaming the other for their difficult relationship with their teenage daughter. They torture themselves by listening over and over to her last telephone message to them both, saying she was sorry they’d fought but she loves them anyway.

The retired detective who unsuccessfully investigated Pia’s murder years ago is now sleeping with Pia’s mother because they’re both so goddamned lonely, and the two detectives in charge of Sinikka’s sinister disappearance are at odds with each other over the possible number of perpetrators and the motivation for this new monstrous crime.

It’s undoubtedly a difficult subject, but if you think you can stomach it, this is an excellent police procedural mixed with domestic thriller. It will make you think outrageously unpopular thoughts, such as, are paedophiles people too, but, if you don’t care to give headroom to such things, you can always do what I did and bonk them on the head with a metaphorical hammer until they’re good and flat.

 AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
 
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:
http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO
Her new book, THIRTEEN STOPS EARLIER, is out now from Poolbeg Books:
https://amzn.to/3ulKWkv
Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:
https://www.amazon.com/Thirteen-Stops-Sandra-Harris-ebook/dp/B089DJMH64
The sequel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS LATER,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:
 https://www.amazon.co.uk/Thirteen-Stops-Later-Book-ebook/dp/B091J75WNB/

THE FALLING. (2014) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

THE FALLING. (2014) WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY CAROL MORLEY. PRODUCED BY LUC ROEG AND CAIRO CANNON. DISTRIBUTED BY METRODOME UK.

STARRING MAXINE PEAKE, MAISIE WILLIAMS, FLORENCE PUGH, JOE COLE, MONICA DOLAN AND GRETA SCAACHI.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This is a strange, but strangely compelling, mystery drama film. You can’t really call it a horror film, as it doesn’t have all that much horror in it, but at first or second glance you could be forgiven for thinking it’s a folk horror movie, as it definitely contains elements of same. Confused? You said it, lol. Let’s have a look at the plot…

We’re in a posh girls’ day school in England in 1969, where the beautiful Abbie, played by Florence MIDSOMMAR Pugh in her rather impressive acting debut, is best friends with Lydia, who’s not quite such a raving beauty.

The blonde Abbie is at the age where she’s starting to explore her sexuality, so she has sex with Lydia’s brother Kenneth (never Ken!) to try to dislodge a pregnancy that’s been implanted in her womb by another boy. Lydia is, understandably, jealous of her friend’s popularity with the lads. She needn’t worry. Kenneth Never Ken is as happy to have sex with his sister as he is to copulate with Abbie…

We never once see Abbie’s parents, and I can’t help thinking that if they’d been a little more present in their daughter’s life, she might never have gotten into quite such a pickle. As it is, the kids in this film seem to be able to come and go as they please without any kind of parental interference whatsoever, except for rare interventions by Lydia’s mum, Eileen.

Eileen is an interesting character. Played by Maxine Peake, who portrayed Myra Hindley in the absolutely superb television drama about the Moors Murders, SEE NO EVIL, HEAR NO EVIL, Eileen is an agoraphobic single parent who runs a hairdressing business from home.

Her husband is out of the picture and her children, Lydia and Kenneth Never Ken, seem to mostly do what they like. Lydia in particular gives her poor mum a ton of verbal abuse, especially about her agoraphobia, but Eileen has her own perfectly sensible reasons for not wanting to leave the house…

Anyway, after Abbie has sex with Kenneth, she starts having strange fainting fits. Soon, Lydia and the other teenaged girls at the school are all having these fits of fainting, in which they all swoon elegantly and artistically to the floor without ever hurting themselves or braining themselves off table corners and things like that.

It’s like a choreographed ballet of fainting, an orgy of delicate swooning that drives the headmistress Miss Alvaro and her second-in-command, Miss Mantel played by Greta Scaachi, batty with anger and exasperation. They become especially irked when the school has to be shut down after a mass fainting fit during a special assembly.

Neither the head nor Miss Mantel are prepared to believe any explanation for the fainting fits other than, one, the girls are faking it for the laugh, or, two, the girls are being unduly influenced by Lydia, Abbie’s best friend and sidekick. Lydia is acting out for reasons she’s unsure of, but a good therapist, and I don’t mean the snobby toff attached to the hospital, could probably help her to work it out.

Instead of feeling compassionate towards the greatly disturbed Lydia or trying to help her, however, Miss Alvaro decides to expel the unfortunate teenager. It’s then up to the psychiatrist treating the remaining girls to decipher whether their fainting fits are caused by a surfeit of female hormones or hormone imbalance coupled with menstruation and the onset of sexuality, or whether a thing called ‘mass hysteria’ could possibly be at work here, and the girls are picking up the ‘infection’ or the ‘bug’ from each other.

It could also be a sort of mass demonic possession, couldn’t it? The teenage girl is more likely to be susceptible to this type of thing than any other age group, due to hormones and changes in their bodies and maybe even a general propensity for drama and such. That’s just one theory, anyway.

The director here is clearly channelling PICNIC AT HANGING ROCK, the floatiest, dreamiest mystery film about missing schoolgirls ever to hit the big screen. The school in THE FALLING has a lake and the most dazzling scenery, forestry, little hidden wooded paths and other natural charms on its very doorstep, giving rise to the notion that here be folk horror, and the girlies read poetry by choice, listen to music and draw and paint to their little hearts’ content. All the subjects guaranteed to arouse romance, glamour, sex and romantic longing in young girls.

If something floaty, dreamy and utterly mysterious doesn’t happen to the girls in this film, then I don’t know who it would happen to. Teenage girls are always doing something weird, whether it’s going for a Picnic at Hanging Rock and getting lost in the Rock or mass-fainting in a delightfully artistic pile of arms and legs and long, long swathes of hair in The Falling. Personally, I wouldn’t mind getting lost in the Rock myself, as long as that Rock was the former wrestler and now actor, Dwayne the Rock Johnson, but that’s another matter…

Guys probably won’t dig this flick, what with its being artsy and slow-moving and quiet and such-like. But women will like it, and fans of PICNIC AT HANGING ROCK will like it, so it will have its fans.

The Rock, good old Dwayne Johnson himself, probably won’t like it because it’s a movie where no-one really punches anyone or throws someone out of a speeding car whilst punching them in double time, but don’t you worry your head about that. There are plenty of other films out there for the Rock to enjoy. He’s gonna be all right…  

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

Her new book, THIRTEEN STOPS EARLIER, is out now from Poolbeg Books:

Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:

The sequel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS LATER,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:

Agatha Christie – Some Thoughts on Writing — thehomeplaceweb

As I mentioned in Part One, Agatha Christie did not include much about her writing in her autobiography.  There are references sprinkled here and there, and some observations, but no real advice.  It’s as if she regarded the writing to be a minor aspect of her life, necessary but not of that much importance, […]

Agatha Christie – Some Thoughts on Writing — thehomeplaceweb

I Got COVID Again. How Do My Lessons Hold Up? — Your Friendly Malaysian Writer

Don’t ask me how. Don’t ask me why. I live in a country where masks are mandated, I’m been vaccinated and boosted, and I don’t really go out other than to do the groceries, run, or walk the dog. But that doesn’t matter. I tested positive once more. Thankfully, the symptoms don’t seem as wild […]

I Got COVID Again. How Do My Lessons Hold Up? — Your Friendly Malaysian Writer

REBECCA. (2020) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

REBECCA. (2020) DIRECTED BY BEN WHEATLEY. BASED ON THE 1938 NOVEL BY DAPHNE DU MAURIER.

STARRING LILY JAMES, ARMIE HAMMER, KRISTIN SCOTT THOMAS, KEELEY HAWES, ANN DOWD AND JANE LAPOTAIRE.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

I’m not crazy about this re-make, to be totally honest with you. Let’s get something clear from the start. It could never have hoped to rival the original 1940 movie, directed by Alfred Hitchcock and starring Joan Fontaine and Laurence Olivier as the bride and groom respectively.

That original film is a masterpiece of gothic romantic horror and mystery combined, with superb acting, tension building and wildly beautiful Cornish scenery. It was one of Hitchcock’s finest films, and probably Joan Fontaine’s best performance ever.

She has a genuinely believable air of naivete and gullibility about her that makes us really see her as the frightened Mrs. de Winter Mark Two who doesn’t come close to her predecessor for sophistication and worldly-wise confidence, but that’s exactly why she appeals to tormented widower Maxim de Winter.  

Where was I? Oh yes. Harrumph. This re-make was never going to be fit to polish the boots of the original, but that’s okay. As long as it showed us something a bit different in it, we’d be okay with it, or as long as it presented some aspect of the original in a new light, say.

But it just plods along really, in a rather dull and pedestrian fashion, changing a few things here and there for the sake of change, and because it’s change for the sake of change, it kind of comes across as annoying and superfluous.

The handsome and muscular Armie Hammer is a bit wooden as the millionaire husband, and Lily James is whingy and irritating as the gauche, lower-class bride he brings to Manderley on the Cornish coast, a year or so after the death of his wife Rebecca. We know the plot inside-out by now.

The new Mrs. de Winter sees the deceased Rebecca’s stamp of ownership all over Manderley and her new husband, Maxim de Winter. Mrs. Danvers, Manderley’s austere, forbidding housekeeper, is still devoted to her now-dead mistress, having known her from a child, and she takes every opportunity to rub the new bride’s face in the fact that she isn’t a patch on Rebecca and never will be, so she might as well kill herself… Good old Danny, always looking on the bright side!

Socially, a chasm the size of the Grand Canyon yawns fearfully between Maxim and Wife Number Two. He lives in a fabulous mansion on inherited wealth and she is an orphan, reduced to providing companionship to sour, embittered old biddies whose glory days are long behind them. Maxim and his bride are sexually attracted to each other, at least, but their sex scenes are far from electrifying, sadly, more like a damp squib.

All the main checkpoints are still here. The dreadful Mrs. Van Hopper, for whom the nameless bride is ‘a friend of the bosom.’ The old boathouse, and the crazy old man who says, ‘she’s gorn, isn’t she, into the sea? She won’t come back no more.’

The ill-fated costume ball, in which the bride plays right into the hands of Mrs. Danvers and wears a costume guaranteed to repulse Maxim, not delight him. The shipwreck with the decomposed corpse on board. The coroner’s inquest. The fire, but the person you think should die in it doesn’t die in it. They have something else in mind for themselves as a grand finale. Sorry, that’s a spoiler.

We really miss the smooth, suave, sardonically self-serving Jack Favell as played by George Sanders here. We miss his eccentric, half-hopping entrance through an open window, the way he taps his cigarette on the case before lighting up, and the air of sleazy sexuality that surrounds him permanently and that allows him to have a forbidden love affair with his beloved cousin, Rebecca, who, by all accounts, what quite a wee goer in her day.

Sam Riley as Jack Favell in the 2020 adaptation might cut it in a modern version of UPSTAIRS DOWNSTAIRS or DOWNTON ABBEY, but is somewhat lacking in the sex appeal needed to produce a good performance as the louche Favell.  

The one thing that’s completely new- and good!- is the addition of veteran British actress Jane Lapotaire (THE ASPHYX, LADY JANE) as Maxim and Beatrice de Winter’s Aged Grandmother. She shames the new bride most dreadfully by telling her stridently, more than once, that she’s ‘not Rebecca!’ The very idea that she could be the mistress of the house! The Aged Crone cackles mirthlessly at the notion.

There’s some lovely scenery and settings in the film, but it’s still a cheap, clunky imitation of one of the best mystery movies ever made. Watch it if you like out of curiosity, or if you like Armie Hammer (I do!) or nice views of the cliffs and the sea, but there’s not a lot else here to sea, I mean, to see, to be quite blunt. I don’t like being so negative about a film but I think that here we have a distinct case of all style and no substance. Sorry…!

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

Her new book, THIRTEEN STOPS EARLIER, is out now from Poolbeg Books:

Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:

The sequel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS LATER,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN. (2011) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN. (2011) DIRECTED BY LYNNE RAMSAY. BASED ON THE 2003 BOOK OF THE SAME NAME BY LIONEL SHRIVER.

STARRING TILDA SWINTON, JOHN C. REILLY AND EZRA MILLER.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This is the best film I’ve seen in ages, grim though its subject is. I hardly dared to breathe during it, it was so good at ramping up the tension over and over again. Tilda Swinton plays Eva Khatchadourian (what a great name!), the lead character and the mom in the story, which is seen from her perspective.

We see her in the ‘Before’ times and the ‘After’ times, before the bad thing happened and after the bad thing happened. Her hair is longer in the ‘After’ times, which helps us differentiate between the two separate time frames.

In the ‘Before’ times, Eva lives with her husband, Franklin, a straight role for John C. Reilly, in their fabulous suburban house. She’s a former travel writer and now a stay-at-home mom. They have two children, Kevin and his much younger sister, Celie.

We see right from the start that Kevin is a ‘problem’ child. He develops later than other children. He poops himself deliberately to annoy his mother, long after he should have cottoned on to toilet training. He appears to hate his mother and does things on purpose to antagonise her and make her life miserable and much, much harder than it needs to be.

Kevin only ever presents as a sweet little angel to his dad, Franklin, who in turn thinks Eva is exaggerating and making a fuss over nothing. This puts a huge amount of stress on the marriage, and Eva feels more and more isolated as she parents Kevin alone with no help from Franklin.

He’s the one who comes home at the end of the day when the kids are in bed and gets to kiss them goodnight but nothing else. The kids love him because he’s the king of the big gesture, the big present, while poor Mom is the villain who makes them do their homework, eat their greens and clean their teeth.

Kevin grows into a savagely sarcastic, sneaky, destructive and head-wrecking monster by his teenage years, though his dad, from whom he could have used some much needed discipline and tough love, is still determinedly wearing those Kevin-blinkers.

Who puts the family guinea pig, Mr. Snuffles, into the garbage disposal system? Who blinds little Celie in one eye, by purposely leaving the bleach bottles out unattended? Dad refuses to believe that it’s Kevin who’s responsible.

He thinks his wife has it in for Kevin and he talks about a separation, which devastates poor Eva. But what can she do? She’s spent Kevin’s whole life trying to convince her husband that there’s Something Very Wrong with Kevin, but maybe she hasn’t been forceful enough. Maybe he hasn’t been hearing her.

But by the time she tells Franklin that they need to sit down and have a proper chat, Kevin has done the Awful Thing that we, the viewer, could see coming a mile off, but that shocks his parents to their core, even his dad, who bought him the crossbow and arrows and taught him to shoot them in the first place. It’s every parent’s nightmare, especially these days when it seems to happen so frequently, but imagine being on the other side of it as Eva now finds herself…

Tilda Swinton is truly magnificent as Eva, a mother who tries her very, very best with a difficult child and whom everyone blames when the child grows up and does the most disgusting, despicable thing any human being can do to another. I’m much more inclined to blame the father here, who refused to see that his precious son was a psychopath in the making.

Ezra Miller, the actor who portrays the teenage Kevin, plays him brilliantly. He even looks evil, strangely enough, as if he might just genuinely be the son of Satan. But the disturbing thing is that the real-life Ezra Miller is on the run from the police at the moment for offences that might get him cancelled in Hollywood if they’re found to be true. It’s not looking good for Ezra Miller just now.

There really needs to be a conversation- in America, yes, but in other places too, places like Ireland- about why the Thing that Kevin Does in the Film keeps on happening over and over again. Why does it keep happening?

It’s not just about the easy availability of guns (or, in this case, a crossbow and arrows) and inadequate school security, is it? Is it about copycatting? One asshole does it so another asshole must do the same thing?

What is it about these children, because some of them are just that, children, that makes them do it? What is it about their upbringing? Is it a cry for attention? Kevin gets plenty of attention, at least from his mum.

And his behaviour and track record of hurting animals and small children should have raised a big red flag with his parents, and it did, but, sadly, with only one of them. The other was in deep, deep denial…

Remember the scene where Kevin bows theatrically to an empty auditorium? Does he think he’ll get kudos for what he does? Awards, plaudits, a medal? Surely he understands that he’ll be hated for the actions he chooses to commit?

Even in prison, doesn’t he realise that he’ll barely make it above the paedophiles in the pecking order, if he’s lucky? Some of the most dangerous criminals you could mention might look askance at someone who hurts children.

It’s a brilliant film, anyway. And it raises important questions that parents, kids and teachers should all discuss together. Even if we believe, as I’ve been told, that ‘it couldn’t happen here,’ I still think we need to talk about it.

We may not like the idea of living in fear, but there are precautions we could and maybe should take to guard against such things happening anywhere. As for Kevin, the original ‘bad seed,’ let’s hope they throw away the key…

 AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

Her new book, THIRTEEN STOPS EARLIER, is out now from Poolbeg Books:

https://amzn.to/3ulKWkv

Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:

The sequel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS LATER,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:

WOMAN WITHOUT A FACE. (1947) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

WOMAN WITHOUT A FACE. (1947) DIRECTED BY GUSTAF MOLANDER. WRITTEN BY INGMAR BERGMAN. STARRING GUNN WALLGREN, ANITA BJORK, STIG OLIN AND ALF KJELLIN.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

There is no faceless woman in this movie; the facelessness is a metaphor, lol. Even if the heroine had been sans a working visage, I don’t think I’d have minded and would still have loved the film. It’s a black-and-white melodrama about a doomed love affair, penned by the Swedish movie maestro, Ingmar Bergman, and it made me forget temporarily how uncomfortable this bloody ‘Big Heat’ is making me. And I know I can’t complain, because other people, across the UK and Europe, have it so much worse. Who knows where it’ll all end, I can’t help asking myself…

Anyway, Martin Grande is our male lead character. He’s a handsome young man, still a student, who’s already married, with a wife called Frida and an adorable little blond-haired boy called Pil.

Martin’s character is weak, soft. He’s been spoiled and over-indulged by his parents and his wife Frida, who does everything for him but who sees more of Martin’s best friend Ragnar than she does of her husband.

One day, Martin and his son Pil are in a florist’s shop buying ‘sorry I was a big jerk’ flowers when Martin sees a woman. Her name is Rut Kohler. She is beautiful, with wavy blonde hair, huge eyes and a wide sensual mouth which I’d say would have been one of the actress, Gunn Wallgren’s, biggest trademarks back in the day. The two are quickly smitten with each other.

Rut cleverly contrives to see Martin again very soon, without his son. Before you can say cheatin’, lyin’ sumbitch, Martin has moved in with Rut, much to the devastation of his own little family.

Frida and Pil have no choice but to struggle along alone without Martin, hoping against hope that the errant husband and father will see sense and come home after the affair has blown itself out. But will it? That’s the thing, you see.

Rut and Martin are the kind of people who are bad for each other, who should never have got together in the first place. They have big dreams they’ll probably never achieve because they’re all talk. Big talk, granted, but still just talk. They fight, they squabble, they argue. They have sex like it’s the Apocalypse and Death himself is galloping towards them on a black charger with his scythe thingy at the ready.

Martin deserts from his National Service stint in order to see her all the time. He risks actual jail time to be with her. She sleeps with other men and taunts him about it. He loses his temper, she stabs him in the hand with a fork. That’s the kind of couple they are. They fight, they make up, they make love, then they fight again.

It’s the kind of relationship that gets described as passionate and tempestuous, which are often just synonyms for sick-making, poisonous, toxic. It’s like Mercedes saleswoman Gloria Trillo’s relationship with mob boss Tony Soprano in HBO drama series, THE SOPRANOS. Best television series ever, bar none, by the way. Not even BREAKING BAD. So there.

Both Gloria and Rut are deeply damaged women. Gloria is a self-confessed ‘serial killer’ who has ‘murdered’ seven relationships… Rut has been sexually abused in her youth by her mother’s odious boyfriend, the rich businessman Victor.

Somehow, they crave the drama, the abuse. It might be the only kind of ‘love’ they’ve ever known. They can be manipulative, intensely jealous and even dangerous. Certainly dangerous to a man’s peace of mind and his marriage, anyway, if not occasionally dangerous in an actual physical sense.

They’re both the kind of girl who’d say to a guy, hit me, go on, hit me, I know you want to, and then cry, you hit me! when he gives in to their pleas, their demands and entreaties. Head-wrecking, beautiful, sexually alluring, frustrating, even annoying, and seriously addictive.

Oh, and ultimately tragic. Someone who lives like that isn’t likely to die peacefully in her bed after a long, fruitful life. The future doesn’t look too bright for Rut and Martin, no matter how many chimney sweeps’ concerts they gleefully attend…

I found this little Swedish language gem on Netflix, of all places, poor beleaguered Netflix that was plenty good enough for us when we had nothing else but which we’re now deserting in our droves because we’ve got ‘shiny new penny’ syndrome and there are too many other glittering distractions out there trying to grab our attention. Well, don’t worry, Netflix, I won’t desert you. I love you to the ends of the earth and back. You’re my life. I’m nothing without you. Go on, Netflix, hit me, I know you want to…  

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
 
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:
http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO
Her new book, THIRTEEN STOPS EARLIER, is out now from Poolbeg Books:
https://amzn.to/3ulKWkv
Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:
https://www.amazon.com/Thirteen-Stops-Sandra-Harris-ebook/dp/B089DJMH64
The sequel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS LATER,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:
 https://www.amazon.co.uk/Thirteen-Stops-Later-Book-ebook/dp/B091J75WNB/
 

WITHOUT NAME. (2016) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

WITHOUT NAME. (2016) DIRECTED BY LORCAN FINNEGAN. WRITTEN BY GARRET SHANLEY. STARRING ALAN MCKENNA, NIAMH ELGAR, JAMES BROWNE, DONNCHA CROWLEY AND OLGA WEHRLY.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

There’s not a whole lot to say about this Irish eco-horror film, and I still can’t really decide if I liked it or not. It’s about a bloke called Eric who accepts an assignment to survey a forest in Dublin from a businessman who won’t tell him what the survey is for. Don’t get too excited about that last bit, lol, as it doesn’t turn out to be relevant.

Eric is more than happy to take on the assignment, as it means he’ll have to live on the job for as long as it takes, and not with his family. He has a disastrous relationship with his wife Margaret, and we get the distinct feeling that it’s Eric’s appalling lack of communication that’s to blame. His desperate wife is just about ready to give up on him, and even his teenage son Justin is getting in trouble at school purely, we feel, to grab his dad’s attention at long last.

While doing the surveying job, Eric will live in a creepy old house on the edge of the forest we later find out is called Without Name, or Gan Anam, pronounced ‘Gone Annem,’ in the Irish.

He hears from the regulars in the tiny local pub (anyone hear the sound of duelling banjos?) that the previous incumbent of the house, an old man called Devoy, was found naked and gibbering in the forest one fine day, his mind gone. We know this to be true because we see Devoy in the mental hospital. In. His. Pyjamas, if you please.

Eric’s student assistant Olivia, a beautiful young blonde woman with whom he’s having an extramarital affair, comes to the house and they have wild, passionate sex before commencing on the job.

Olivia is no happier than Margaret, the wife, because Eric is uncommunicative with her too, on top of which he’s clearly going back on his promise to leave his wife for her, citing the teenage Justin as an excuse. Quite hypocritical of him, as he hasn’t done a whole lot for the lad lately.

The forest gives both Eric and Olivia the creeps. More than that, Eric keeps thinking he sees a dark, eerie silhouette of a human figure through the trees. His visions don’t exactly improve after a night of ingesting magic mushrooms with Olivia and Gus, a weirdo who lives in a caravan in the forest. In fact, things get much, much worse.

Is Eric doomed to go the way of poor, mentally ruined Devoy, and just how much of what he’s seen and heard is real, and how much is just a figment of his crumbling sanity…? The woods and scenery in this are gorgeous, but then Ireland is filled with such fabulous woods. It’s plot, narrative and storyline the film is short of. Sorry, but not a lot is happening here horror-wise to satisfy your average fan.

The most interesting thing to me about this film was that the part of the publican in the miniscule local pub is played by Donncha Crowley, who was Father Billy in the Christmas episode of FATHER TED, one of the priests who gets lost in the lingerie department on Christmas Eve.

I’m not sure if he’s the one was was ‘messing with the bras and the strap flung back and hit him in the eye,’ and the next scene he’s in he’s wearing an eyepatch. That’s just the funniest Christmas episode of a sitcom ever, bar none. Given a choice between it and WITHOUT NAME, A VERY CHRISTMASSY TED wins hands down. WITHOUT NAME? WITHOUT PLOT, more like.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

Her new book, THIRTEEN STOPS EARLIER, is out now from Poolbeg Books:

Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:

The sequel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS LATER,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:

THE RITUAL. (2017) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

THE RITUAL. (2017) BASED ON THE NOVEL OF THE SAME NAME BY ADAM NEVILL. DIRECTED BY DAVID BRUCKNER. STARRING RAFE SPALL, ARSHER ALI, ROBERT JAMES-COLLIER AND SAM TROUGHTON.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

I loved this one, a genuinely spooky folk horror set in rural Sweden but filmed in Romania. It’s kind of like THE BLAIR WITCH, but with adult males instead of excitable and impressionable teenagers. The effect of this was to make the film’s concept even more scary, I thought, because when adult males are fleeing in terror from something, then you damn well better flee too, lol, ’cause it means that something bad is coming.

So, we’ve got our four lads anyway, Luke (Rafe Spall), Hutch, Phil and Dom, all proper English blokes who’ve been mates since college and who still try to keep up with each other and with their heavy laddish boozing, even though they all seem to have wives and kids at home.

They’re planning a lads’ holiday when we first meet them. They’re even mentioning Ibiza as a possible destination, which is a bit ridiculous as the kids who go to Ibiza would all regard these four lads as pipe-and-slippers-category auld fellas. Go home to your cocoa, Grandad, type of thing.

In the end, the lads go to Sweden on a very out-of-character outdoorsy hiking holiday, to honour one of their original five who has died a horrible death in an off-licence hold-up. Luke, who was involved in the same hold-up, is suffering from terrible survivors’ guilt, and he’s also guilty because his own instinct to survive saw him not coming to the aid of his chum. The remaining lads seem also to be harbouring a grudge against Luke for not saving their mate, so some of these resentments may come vomiting copiously out of them later.

They leave a touching memorial to their fallen comrade on a rain-washed Swedish hillside, then they promptly get lost in the forest, miles from civilisation, because they think that cutting through the woods for a short-cut on the way to the lodge they’ve booked into is a good idea.

Come again? A short-cut through the deserted woods in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of a storm, in the middle of the night, a good idea…? That’s bound to turn out well, eh, fellow horror fans…? Jesus H. Christ, lol. Are these men or weak-witted morons? Morons who don’t watch horror fillums on d’television…?

The abandoned ‘cabin in the woods’ in which they spend their first night of being lost makes the Blair Witch house look welcoming. It makes it look like your granny’s house when you went there on holiday as a kid and you knew she was baking up a storm to prepare for your arrival.

Or your own little bed after a night on the lash fuelled by cider and onion rings that’s ended in disgrace as you puke in the taxi and arrive home wasted and without your knickers. I’ve never done that myself, of course, but it just seems like the kind of awful thing that might happen to people. Other people, naturally. Not to me. Never to me. Ahem. But I don’t even like onion rings, so there! Let’s move on…

The cabin is dark, damp, cold, gloomy, sinister, deserted, unliveable-in, and that’s just the downstairs. Upstairs is a hideous humanoid effigy with no head and antlers for hands, but which self-respecting cabin in the woods hasn’t got one of these, especially in Nordic climes? You can get them from IKEA and assemble them yourself, shure…!

The effigy has a very strange, very unsettling effect on the four lads. After a night spent in its malevolent company, they’re all having nightmares or experiencing nightmarish flashbacks to terrible events, eg, it gets into Luke’s head and so poor Luke is being constantly dragged back to that awful night in the off-licence where his mate Rob was brutally slaughtered. They need to get out of the cabin, and out of the woods which stretch for literally miles around, as soon as is humanly possible.

It’s when they’re fleeing through the woods that they discover that whatever was affecting them in the cabin is still with them. (‘Yes Bart, I never left you…!’ Hugo to Bart, THE THING AND I, THE SIMPSONS’ TREEHOUSE OF HORROR, Episode 7.) Only it seems bigger, much bigger now, and it makes rustling noises in the trees (which, incidentally, are carved all over in mysterious, runic-looking symbols) as it approaches and it seems like very much a  real and physical thing that the lads need to run from. Before it catches them, and kills them…

Rafe Spall is excellent as Luke, the lead character. He makes a great sort of Everyman, just an ordinary bloke living an ordinary life who gets caught up in a situation way, way outside of his normal comfort zone. He has to really dig deep down inside himself to find the courage to extricate himself- and his mates- from the hairy circumstances in which they find themselves. I’d love to see him as the dad in a story about a failing marriage, or about a man losing his kids because he can’t afford to pay the child support, stuff like that.

I was a tiny bit disappointed with the ending but otherwise, this is a perfectly acceptable horror film with some really spooky moments in it. The Swedish scenery and those miles and miles of isolated forestry are all staggeringly beautiful, until you come to the credits and see that it says there: Filmed in Romania.

So, is this Romanian scenery we’ve been admiring then, or is it Swedish scenery? Never having been to either country, I haven’t a clue, but it’s a gorgeous-looking film either way, and one you should check out if you get the chance. Tell ’em Loki sentcha…   

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

Her new book, THIRTEEN STOPS EARLIER, is out now from Poolbeg Books:

https://amzn.to/3ulKWkv

Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:

The sequel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS LATER,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books: