Our coverage of the 2014 New York Film Festival, which opens today, continues - here's Jason with an askance look at some of the unsung heroes of The Wonders and their cinematic precedents...
Earlier this week Glenn wrote up a review of Alice Rohrwacher's really very fine film The Wonders, which I also heartily endorse. I was sitting next to him at the press screening and besides being communally delighted (that sounds dirty but I mean it in the most innocent way possible) by the movie together we squirmed, writhed, and let out little moans of discomfort (alright it sounds dirty again, just bear with me here) when the screen repeatedly filled with bees - so many bees! If I'd given it any thought beforehand I might have skipped the film because despite not having an allergy I am a total melissophobic and watching them crawl on human skin is akin to water torture - you might know me as a horror movie fan, a badge I wear with pride, but nothing will make me cover my eyes and climb backwards in my seat quicker than a plain ol' minding-his-own-business honey-bee. Know the real enemy.
That said there's a surrealistic beauty to ways the bees are shot in The Wonders (there's a reason that the poster uses the imagery), and also another animal in the film (which I won't name since it contributes a nice jolt of WTF), and all this got me thinking about the use of animals as surrealist props. It's got a long, sometimes sordid (think of Jodorowsky blowing up all those poor frogs in The Holy Mountain or the tortoise being slaughtered in Cannibal Holocaust) history - I'm sure there have been plenty of dissertations written on it but what I think it comes down to is the unfathomable interior life of The Beast - we cannot know what is going on behind the eyes of these creatures, and so they will always remain strange, the Other. They're a nice short-cut to Uncanny Land, in other words.
And now, because I agree with Nathaniel that lists are super fun, here are the 5 fun instances of animals being used to inject a little surrealism into a film.
The Giraffe in The Great Beauty
The Escaped Zoo Animals in Twelve Monkeys
The Cat Attack in Let the Right One In
Chaos Reigns: The Fox in Antichrist
The Elephant Funeral in Sante Sangre
Name some of your favorites in the comments!