Tuesday, January 22, 2008

shaken to sleep

We saw Cloverfield this weekend and I had such a negative reaction to the movie I thought I should share. Like most people in the theater, I left jumpy, disturbed, and vaguely nauseous (someone actually left an acidic gift for everyone in the hallway before the film was over). This was mostly explained away as a consequence of 80 minutes of deep booming noises, shaky camera work, and a few exploding people. Feeling shocked after a movie is not a new experience. What was new was the black mood that set in almost immediately thereafter, which I could not shake for a full day. That, I believe is the consequence of what was missing, not what was actually there.

Cloverfield is a unique film in that it is almost completely absent of exposition, character development, and basic plot. What is left is a bunch of loud noises, grisly visuals, and the slow and steady revelation of what "Cloverfield" looks like, which reaches a somewhat disappointing climax in the final 10 minutes. To me, the lack of any explanation, greater story, or emotional attachment makes this something less than a film. As an experience it lies somewhere between a circus slideshow and being taped into a cardboard box and pushed down a flight of stairs.

Without the context provided by basic story elements, the 80 minutes of loud noises and visual shocks couldn't be processed as anything external to my own experience. So instead of spending my time after the film thinking about it as a piece of dramatic art, I instead just coped with a mild case of post-traumatic stress. Not my idea of a good time.

PS- There is something seriously wrong with our national culture that this movie is PG-13, but if I'd seen a nipple it would have been rated R.

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