Saturday, 20 June 2015

Movie review: Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) dir George Miller

Another dawn. Yes, another day has flashed like a shooting star across the dark hemisphere of your consciousness and you are one day closer to disintegration. One day closer to death. And then you are gone and your children are middle-aged and then they are entering the twilight years themselves. And on and on through the generations until one day you wake up and you are living in a world like you see in this movie where there is no happiness, only dearth, no water, only gasoline, no love, only hunger, no answer, only the claims of absolute power. No media, no debate, no political process, no numbers in the House. Just illness and want and miles and miles of sand.

The movie is full of surprises. The visuals are intense and all-enveloping. There's a strange irony there in the lengths the movie's creators have gone to to create a sense of overkill. The aesthetic is something that a 15-year-old boy might enjoy, for a start. From the drums and woofers of the doof wagon to the wispy negliges worn by Immortan Joe's "breeders", whose fine limbs look outlandish amid the grit and metal of the desert and its panoply of cars. The irony reaches a sort of climax in the silver spray the rev-heads apply to their mouths at moments of intense emotional high, as when they are about to face death. Their mouths robotically chime with appeals to Norse mythological figures as the unbearable blasts emanate from the heavy-metal guitarist strapped to the front of one of the outrageous 4WD vehicles.

On the obverse of this set of strongly masculine and consumeristic tropes sit the feminine absolutes of regeneration and stoicism. The standard-bearer here is the one-armed Imperator Furiosa who initially drives the war rig off the well-trodden path and thereby commits a sin that must be punished, and so the posse of pursuit cars is unleashed from Immortan Joe's rocky citadel, each populated by a handful of rev-heads motivated by greed and blood lust. Although, as mentioned earlier, the violence is here pure pastiche; there is pastiche upon pastiche until each physical act becomes just part of a vast stylised choreography as in Japanese Noh theatre.

There are quiet moments allowing more complete contemplation of things in the movie however, plenty of them. Nothing compares as an illustration of mankind's despoilation of the natural world, for example, quite like the sight of Nux prompting the war rig to winch itself out of the bog via an anchor point on a sole, leafless tree that is subsequently uprooted in the manoeuvre. The night scene is devoid of colour, and dreamy. Dreamy also is the way Nux and Capable fall in love in the back of the war rig amid the spanners and oily engine cloths, her red hair falling softly against her lovely face as the poor rev-head finally discovers hope in the darkness. Even the levers the movie's creators pull in their love scenes are covered in grime and soil.

Soil and water emerge as major elements in the movie's denouement, after the occupants of the war rig meet up with the bike-riding women who inhabit Imperator Furiosa's ancestral lands, which she discovers to be as barren and bare as the rest of the damned landscape. A bag of heirloom seeds one of the old women carries becomes a leitmotif of feminine ingenuity in undertaking the important tasks of nurturing and reproduction. As always, symbols are brought into the ambit of the movie's cinematic grasp but they remain essentially untouched. This is Miller's genius. While the movie seems to be stylised past compare individual scenes and cinematic elements are somehow rendered pure in the process. There is a lovely poetry at work here even as we cope with the demands of the movie's aesthetic overload. It is something of a puzzle.

No comments: