Friday, March 28, 2008

2007's Films: Acknowledging Isolation

In my last two post I've talked about the challenges in developing community as well as media's nichification that makes us have a more individualized culture, as opposed to a collective pop culture.

And while I have previously recognized that many of 2007's films dealt with violent themes, many of the most critically appreciated films also dealt with the concept of isolation. I've noticed in watching 1980s films recently, that many of those films seem to deal with "becoming," making decisions about who we are as individuals, and differentiating ourselves by rising up to the challenges that society places around us. Yet, in 2007, while many main characters where able to make lemonade out of their lemons, they were thrown into a world of isolation, usually not by choice.

What films I'm I thinking about:

In The Diving Bell and The Butterfly, Jean-Dominique Bauby's real-life story is bitter (yet intriguing) story with just a taint of sweetness as he struggles to deal with ultimate isolation when he get's locked-in-syndrome, robbing him of all physical mobility and communication, painting the ultimate picture of Isolation.

While locked-in syndrome is more rare, Alzheimer's disease is not. And Sarah Polley's Away From Her is a strikingly real and sad story of isolation. While much of the isolation occurs in the character of Julie Christie, the lady struggling with memory loss, the real story of isolation lies in the isolation that her husband Grant (Gordon Pinsent), who suddenly has a wife who not only doesn't remember him, but who relies upon another patient at the assisted living center. Grant is now completely alone in the world.

Yet, these pictures of isolation are not far off from the isolation we see in the life of Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum. As a legendary assassin who doesn't even know or understand his own past, who doesn't know who he can trust, and who's own government is tracking him down, Bourne is thrust into a world of isolation, not of his own chosen, but an isolation that is forced to deal with.

I've discussed previously about the similarities between Atonement and The Kite Runner as the stories central characters (Briony and Amir) are forced and given an opportunity to repair and atone for the past. These stories similarly show isolated characters who because of the combination of secrets and horrific world events are thrown into worlds of separation, dark secrets, and isolation that stemmed from childhood into adulthood.
I could go on-and-on with 2007's most critical films, Juno a girl who get's pregnant, but really the story of isolation is seen even more in Vanessa (Jennifer Garner) as the story plays out.

Or how about No Country for Old this not a story of isolation from the angle of every character. From Kelly Macdonald, Josh Brolin, Javier Bardem and Tommy Lee Jones characters, this film is deep in it's dealing with isolation. In fact the tag line for this film could be "alone together."
Similar thoughts could be drawn from Michael Clayton, Assassination of Jesse James, American Gangster, 3:10 to Yuma, Zodiac, There Will Be Blood, Gone Baby Gone, Waitress, and the list goes on.

Even "redeeming family films" like Ratatouille and Enchanted dealt with Isolation (a rat who wasn't like all the other rats, and a Princess who was forced to go to the place called New York, where everyone is mean, pushy, and unfriendly)

I'm not sure if these films help us learn to become community. Rather, I think the role of these films is the creation of characters whom we can relate with: people with passions that can't be understood, pasts that cannot be fixed, and lives that are forced to be lived out independently.


Fox said...

Good post.

What I liked about *Waitress*, and *Enchanted* was the building sense of community. You could say this happens in *Juno* too, but I didn't like that film.

In some of the other films you mention, the theme of isolation/anti-family bothered me immensley. This was especially the case in *There Will Be Blood*, *Gone Baby Gone*, and *Zodiac*.

On the flipside, there are films with family/community themes that the critics don't seem to care about b/c they are aren't fashinobly bleak. Just this year, *How She Move*, *Be Kind Rewind*, *Step Up 2 The Streets*, *First Sunday*, *CJ7*, and others, have released to poor critical support.

Meanwhile, the loathsome *4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days* sits atop the heap with a 97 score on Metacritic ... so it goes.

Anonymous said...

Control -

Story about front man, Ian Curtis, of joy division. Probably the quintessential film of 07 acknowledging "isolation". In fact, Ian Curtis wrote a song titled "Isolation"...pretty depressing considering he committed suicide in the end.

Heather said...

I'd never thought about that theme running through some of my favorite stories. Very intriguing.

Magnus said...

It isn't a 2007 film, but I'd throw in About Schmidt

Unrelated to the kind of isolation you are bringing up is 1995'sKjærlighetens kjøtere or Zero° Kelvin, a Norwegian/Swedish effort. Very good and should be seen.