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Anders

The Wicker Man

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Finally saw this film last night and, wow, lots to chew on.

Sgt. Howie is a really interesting character, and one that we don't encounter too often in film. His tenacity, piousness (one of my friends said "self-righteousness") as a devout Christian character is intriguing in its own right. And this is one of the best Christopher Lee performances. Lord Summerisle himself is a great character.I just found the entire film to be surprisingly engrossing.

The film builds suspense not through cheap thrills or by making things overly mysterious, but as the evidence builds, we are drawn into Howie's investigation better than most horror films I've seen. The film in that sense starts out as a straight mystery, and then descends into horror, but not the kind of horror we are used to. This is a smart and well written film.

Question? The film opens thanking Lord Summerisle for the opportunity to observe his islands pagan religous rites. I'm assuming this is just a "Coen Brothers" kind of thing, like in Fargo, to add more realism to a film that is already frighteningly realistic.

Actually, maybe this afternoon I'll go and watch "The Enigma of The Wicker Man" piece on the dvd. Should answer my questions.

spoilers1.gif

However, what does the ending have to say about Howie. Is he a dupe? A Punch? Or are we supposed to admire him and his martyrdom?

I found this film to be much more frightening than most "cult/pagan" films I've seen because so much of what they do seems to be rooted in real practices of Medieval Europe.


"A director must live with the fact that his work will be called to judgment by someone who has never seen a film of Murnau's." - François Truffaut

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Can't really comment on the film, Anders, due to my aversion to almost all horror films. I've passed this one by on the library shelves many a time.

BUT...did you know the director intends to revisit this theme in his upcoming film, May Day, which will also star Christopher Lee? IMDB doesn't say much about it, but I seem to remember that Sean Astin was once connected to this project, too. I think he was going to play an American preacher, but it looks like he's not part of it anymore. The film's listed as being in production, but the lack of info makes me wonder if it will be a go or not.

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Thanks for the reminder, Anders.

I heard about this film years ago from a co-worker, but it wasn't until last month that I borrowed my brother's DVD copy of the film. I haven't watched it yet, but it's on my list. Maybe I'll post here again after I've seen it.


"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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Actually Diane, I think this would be a great film for someone who doesn't like "Horror Films." It has barely any blood (unless you count dead animals), and none of the typical cheap shocks that you find in most horror films (Shyamalan included). The feeling of dread and horror is incredibly palpable at the end

However it does have a lot of nudity in it. ohmy.giftongue.gif


"A director must live with the fact that his work will be called to judgment by someone who has never seen a film of Murnau's." - François Truffaut

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I've heard of the Wicker Man, and have read about it, and have not seen it because I'm... uh... sceeeeered of it.

I like scary horror films, as opposed to gory horror films, and have expressed admiration for the original Halloween and Nightmare on Elm Street films, (but not their sequels).

But The Wicker Man seems to have too many elements that may completely throw me off. Maybe I'm wrong, but did the occultic elements in the film bother you in a good way or bad way?

Maybe I just need a little bit of prodding to see it if I can be convinced that it will not attack my faith, but instead provide good conversation fodder... I know, this sounds all so irrational, but that's what's kept me from it.

Nick


Nick Alexander

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spoilers1.gif (but barely) for Nick

I wouldn't even go so far as to call the film "occultic", in the common sense, as it is more classical paganism/ druidism that is on display. The occultic elements definitely scared me in a good way, and did so even for my non-Christian friends whom I watched it with.

I don't see the film as an attack on Christianity, and I think it definitely could lead to some excellent Christian discussion, which is why I wanted to talk about it here.


"A director must live with the fact that his work will be called to judgment by someone who has never seen a film of Murnau's." - François Truffaut

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Guest Russell Lucas

(spoilers)

It's in a class of its own. I don't think it's a great film, but it has a ton of guts for going through with the premise.

I really didn't know how to react to the story's resolution, Anders, and I'm not sure there's any way to apply conventional reactions to it. You witness that climax, and the natural question to ask is whether you feel that he met his deserved end or whether he was wronged. The answer seems obvious on some level, but I certainly couldn't say with any degree of conviction that the film was trying to portray the pagans as obviously evil. I don't think I trust the film enough to credit it for commenting on the nature of identification with one character or another. There's the interesting conflict between the worldviews (and the ways in which Cowie's views conflict with many of his own countrymen), but the rest of it seems to play out a satirical farce with admirable straight-facedness.

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I think the screenwriter, Anthony Shaffer, saw the film as anti-religious in spirit, at least according to what I remember from Allan Browne's intriguing book Inside the Wicker Man.


Drop by The Grace Pages, a rest-stop for fellow pilgrims.

-- Dave aka Alvy

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Although I had read the book in college, I only recently saw the movie just before leaving for Kenya in June, and was disappointed by the disjointedness of the production. But it wasn't until this past weekend that I realized I had viewed the truncated 88 minute version (the only one Netflix has available). Has anyone seen the 99 minute release, which is available on DVD? I have yet to find it available for rent, although there is a packaged DVD available containing both 88 and 99 minute versions for sale. Is the 99 min. any better? Are the characters fleshed out a bit more?

And is anyone who has already seen "The Wicker Man", going to revisit this movie in the fall, when the original and rarely seen 102 minute version is finally released on DVD (there may also be a limited theatrical release of this version)?


Formerly Baal_T'shuvah

"Everyone has the right to make an ass out of themselves. You just can't let the world judge you too much." - Maude 
Harold and Maude
 

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Russell Lucas+Jun 16 2004, 11:32 AM

I don't think it's a great film

No it's certainly not.

(Baal_T'shuvah @ Jul 12 in-->

I was disappointed by the disjointedness of the production.

That about sums up my feeling for <The Wicker Man. Plus: kinda long, kinda boring, kinda go-nowhere, kinda predictable.

And is anyone who has already seen The Wicker Man, going to revisit this movie in the fall, when the original and rarely seen 102 minute version is finally released on DVD?

I'd rather clean hot gum off the bottom of my shoe.

Edited by Persona

In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the Universe.

Filmsweep by Persona. 2013 Film Journal. IlPersona.

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I'd rather clean hot gum off the bottom of my shoe.

The best remedy I've heard for this is to pop that shoe into the freezer for a couple of hours... then it'll pop right off. biggrin.gif


Formerly Baal_T'shuvah

"Everyone has the right to make an ass out of themselves. You just can't let the world judge you too much." - Maude 
Harold and Maude
 

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Guest Russell Lucas

I dunno, Stef. I think the film should get some credit merely for pursuing such an unusual narrative arc. Howie's the protagonist, yet the film isn't sympathetic to his point of view. Lee and his pagans are presented as earnest, though dippy, and responsible for murders (yet heroic and free!). Despite what the filmmakers would perceive to be the protag's flaws (uptightness, disdain for pagan freedom), convention still calls for the hero to solve the crime and escape the danger. When it becomes clear that the film won't permit that sort of compromise, it's a sober moment. The film may buy into a bunch of lies (I could never read just how far the writer's and actors' tongues are planted in their cheeks), but it is true to its own vision, at least. I know that sounds like a cop-out, but on a dramatic level, I find it somewhat more satisfying than your typical lousy horror film that tries to affirm the right things--security, honesty, family-- through a contrived and poorly-plotted menagerie of murder. I mean, most horror films are at their root perversions of OT justice narratives, despite their indulgence in carnality. Here's one that is pagan through and through. It might be the best example of a anti-Christian film.

I found it really odd and it left me saying I-can't-believe-they-actually-went-through-with-it.

Edited by Russell Lucas

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This is the last film in the world that i want to be drawn into a debate on. I honestly don't think it's worth all that much time. However, because it's you, Russell...

(russell the wicker modok lucas)

I find it somewhat more satisfying than your typical lousy horror film that tries to affirm the right things--security, honesty, family-- through a contrived and poorly-plotted menagerie of murder.  I mean, most horror films are at their root perversions of OT justice narratives, despite their indulgence in carnality.  Here's one that is pagan through and through.  It might be the best example of a anti-Christian film

But its not a horror film, or at least it wasn't horrifying to me. Horror films by their very definition should be horrifying, shouldn't they? You can certainly make the point that what is happening at the end of the film is horrifying in a literal sense, however, there's a lot of (forgive me Matt) bland English film in this film, and i couldn't be moved to care. It's like watching horror on the news and not being affected in the slightest. The tension, the suspense, the shock, the pounding pulse you're supposed to feel in your chest -- it just isn't there in The Wicker Man. And that's really the problem i have with the film -- it doesn't know what it wants to be. Some have tried to call it a horror film, and it is, from a distance. But its also a made-for-TV movie. And a detective show at that (for some reason i'm thinking about Columbo all of a sudden).

(russell the wicker modok lucas)I found it really odd and it left me saying I-can't-believe-they-actually-went-through-with-it.

Well, OK, i can give you that. But they went thru with it in the most bland manner possible. And there's where my problem comes in. I have a hard time with boring films, we all know this by now. But FWIW, i did watch the last 20 minutes of The Son at Flickerings and have decided that i'm really looking forward to seeing that one again. I don't think a second screening of Wicker Man would do that for me.

(russell the wicker modok lucas-->

Lee and his pagans are presented as earnest, though dippy, and responsible for murders (yet heroic and free!).

Yeah. Some of the scenes with the naked dancing ladies were soooo cheesy. I think that's about where i emotionally tired out. I couldn't figure out at that point whether i'd accidentally switched the channel and had it on Nova on PBS or something.

Bottom line for me:

1. English film, automatic mark against it (wow, i know someone's going to crucify me for this, but i don't care, this my personal view and we all know that if given proof and time i am willing to change my mind on things).

2. New age hippy hoopy fluffy wuffy pagans are always a turn off.

3. No horror in the horror.

4. I saw what was coming a mile away.

5. They went there and i couldn't have cared less.

PS El Wifebo just chimed in with "Tell him its horrible!" Case closed. Oh, now she's going off on it from the other room! You go girl!! She said something about setting a wicker chair on fire and dancing around it naked and having more fun than watching that film again.

Edited by Persona

In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the Universe.

Filmsweep by Persona. 2013 Film Journal. IlPersona.

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I found the film to be very wary of making value judgements about anything, Christianity or paganism, human sacrifice or self-righteousness. What I found more interesting was the clash of worldviews which pervades the film. I find the film pretty much equally respectful towards both Howie and the island inhabitants. I don't think you can say this film is necessarily anti-Christian, more that there are simply more pagans littered thorugh the film and Howie is consistently shown to be struggling with his Christianity while the pagans are utterly happy to be pagan-like.


"Art is the most passionate orgy within man's grasp."

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But its not a horror film, or at least it wasn't horrifying to me.  Horror films by their very definition should be horrifying, shouldn't they?  You can certainly make the point that what is happening at the end of the film is horrifying in a literal sense, however, there's a lot of (forgive me Matt) bland English film in this film, and i couldn't be moved to care.  It's like watching horror on the news and not being affected in the slightest.  The tension, the suspense, the shock, the pounding pulse you're supposed to feel in your chest -- it just isn't there in The Wicker Man.  And that's really the problem i have with the film

Agreed. The movie was, frankly, laughable until the final moments.

But oh, those final moments. They did give me pause, make me rethink my reaction to the first hour-and-a-half of the movie. Still, I come down on Stef's side. The movie has a whopper of an ending (in the good sense), but it completely lacks suspense and is unintentionally funny until then. It's a prime candidate for MST3K.

Also, I try not to hold grudges against films that are dated, but sometimes it's just too much to bear. The acoustic soundtrack to The Wicker Man is painful to listen to -- and I like acoustic music -- and completely inappropriate to the supposed building of tension. Anyone else notice how, during the lead-up to the climactic scene, the music switches to Shaft-style funk? How silly.

Edited by Christian

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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After reading the 40 Best Directors thread, I was looking into a project that was supposed to be pairing David Cronenberg and Nicholas Cage. I couldn't find anything about that particular project, perhaps it has stalled or Cage has dropped out.

But I did find this interesting bit of info... Nicholas Cage is set to produce and star in a remake of The Wicker Man, with writing and directing credits by Neil LaBute. Currently in pre-production in Vancouver, with a 2006 release.


Formerly Baal_T'shuvah

"Everyone has the right to make an ass out of themselves. You just can't let the world judge you too much." - Maude 
Harold and Maude
 

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Why? There is no need to remake The Wicker Man. There's no need to remake any film, in my opinion, but especially not this one.

Dear Lord, please let the plans for a remake of The Wicker Man go down the drain with plans for Mad Max 5.

Edited by Persona

In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the Universe.

Filmsweep by Persona. 2013 Film Journal. IlPersona.

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There have never been plans in any history, recorded or unrecorded, to make a Mad Max 5.


---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

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UM, 4? grin.gif

You know what I mean. I always lose track after the sequel's sequel.

-s.

Edited by stef

In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the Universe.

Filmsweep by Persona. 2013 Film Journal. IlPersona.

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New age hippy hoopy fluffy wuffy pagans are always a turn off.

I'm glad this thread reappeared just so I could read this sentence again. I actually considered using this as a sig line once.

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Link to the thread on the remake.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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I was listening to Scott Foundus (LA Weekly reviewer) on KLOS the other morning, and he revealed that the new version of The Wicker Man is not going to be screened for critics before its opening date in September. Can any of you confirm this rumor? Not the greatest of signs, especially for a film that has Neil LaBute and Nicholas Cage attached.

Edited by Baal_T'shuvah

Formerly Baal_T'shuvah

"Everyone has the right to make an ass out of themselves. You just can't let the world judge you too much." - Maude 
Harold and Maude
 

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I wrote:

: Link to the thread on the remake.

And now I hear that there is ANOTHER "re-imagining" of this film coming along ... and that Robin Hardy and Christopher Lee, the director and star of the original film, are both involved ... and it is called ... Cowboys for Christ.


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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