Friday, October 10, 2008
Perception. That’s what comes to mind as I reflect on the movie Spider which was released in 2003. Spider examines the burden of living with mental illness, providing insight through the title character Dennis “Spider” Cleg (Ralph Fiennes). The film cleverly provides insight into the internal workings of Cleg’s mind through the use of visual cues as well as through the changing appearances of some of the key characters. I thought that the script was intelligent and insightful but dragged at times. The slow pacing was part of the story, but will probably turn off many viewers.
Spider begins with a train pulling into a station somewhere in England. We watch, like a relative, as an eclectic array of people exit the train. We slowly move along the exterior of the train with people passing us until the very last rider exits cautiously onto the platform. If it is not evident from his disheveled appearance that he is suffering from mental illness, it soon becomes more readily apparent as he retrieves a sock from his groin area. The sock and a small satchel appear to contain all his earthly belongings. The journey to the halfway house is a slow laborious process with bits and bobs distracting our main character on his journey. The panoramic filming is breathtaking, filling the wide screen with photographically superior images. It’s not that the scenery is necessarily exotic, it’s the framing and isolation that is captured by the camera that is stunning. This might be lost in translation to a television with traditional ratio aspects.
Upon arrival at the halfway house, we are introduced to two characters who interact at times with Cleg, the Superintendent of the house and another resident, who seems to babble incessantly, but actually provides insightful dialogue at times. Much of the movie centers on Cleg exorcising his demons. We realize that he is in the town where he grew up. There is a scene where he lies in a garden and sobs. It seems unexplainable until later in the film. There is a correlation with this garden that I may not fully understand beyond the revelation of Cleg’s perceptions from his childhood. Much of the film is spent recalling his childhood, where memories flood back down to exact words. As his childhood unravels expectation builds on gaining clarification on Cleg’s condition. That clarification, like much of this film is shrouded in darkness. Perception. The cobwebs of time are trimmed back to Cleg’s recollections, errant and otherwise, leading to revelations hinted at throughout the movie.
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