How many special movies do you have the chance to see, every year?
I mean, very special ones, movies able to change your perspective on something, able to move something deep inside you, to leave you breathless and speechless? Not many, as far as I’m concerned.
In these last years, I’ve seen two movies by the same film maker that had such a big impact on me and I’m very happy to write that the man behind the camera is… well, a woman.
Her name is Andrea Arnold.
Born in England in 1961, Arnold won an Oscar in 2003 for her short movie Wasp. She wrote and directed her first feature film, Red Road, in 2006 (winner of the Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival and part of the Advance Party project created by Lars Von Trier) and this year she’s been back with Fish Tank (winning again the same prize at the same Film Festival).
Arnold’s stories are very bleak. They are set in bleak places around UK and they talk about bleak people: not happy, not rich, not particularly beautiful and very often traumatised by some not-very-funny event.
So, I know what you’re thinking right now: why on earth Zazie is telling us to go and see such depressing movies? Well, it is because these movies are not depressing, are just great.
Red Road tells the story of Jackie, a Glaswegian CCTV operator, a lonely and sad woman in her 30s who spends her life watching other people’s lives through the monitors, until the day she catches a glimpse of a man and this seems, somehow, to change her life dramatically. I’m not going to tell you who this man is or why he is so important for Jackie: if this movie’s atmosphere is so fascinating, it is mainly due to this mystery. You don’t know anything about it, you desperately try to understand why she is doing what she is doing, and you’ll be aware of that just towards the end. Red Road is a very dark and very slow movie but there is a fire burning inside it, and you can feel it since the beginning. This woman seems dead, inside, but she is not. You are touched by her fragility, fascinated by her willing to pursue her idea (wherever this will lead her) and when you finally find out what’s going on, you just want to cry for the rest of the movie. In Red Road there is one of the strongest and most beautiful sex scenes I’ve ever seen on screen and, I know half of the population will disagree with me, but I think this is because there’s a woman behind the camera. Ok, I wrote it. And I take full responsibility for that.
Mia, who spends her time defending herself against other people and the world outside, by meeting Connor (probably the first adult who seems genuinely interested in her as a human being), opens up to new feelings and new hopes. Things won’t turn very well with him, in the end, but the process has started, and a new phase of her life is spreading in front of her.
Supported by an outstanding cast (newcomer Katie Jarvis, found by Arnold while furiously fighting with her boyfriend on a station’s platform, English actress Kierston Wareing, already appreciated in It’s a Free World by Ken Loach, as Mia’s mum, and the above mentioned Michael Fassbender, by far the best actor of his generation), Fish Tank is a vibrant, emotional story.
There are at least a couple of perfect moments: every time Mia finds herself close to Connor and this simple contact produces in her a physical upsetting (like a crack in the fish tank she constantly feels trapped in) and the dancing scene between Mia, her mum and her (irresistible) little sister.
Maybe they’re desperate, maybe this world is a shitty place to live in, but everybody has the right to hope and to look for bliss.