Monday, 2 September 2013

Review: Magic magic

Year: 2013
Director: Sebastián Silva
Screenplay: Sebastián Silva
Starring: Juno Temple, Emily Browning, Micheal Cera

Synopsis is here

A film that is destined to polarise the audience with its abstractness, Magic Magic is a film that will take people to the brink of irritation or sympathy but if it gets one thing right, it’s the fact that it doesn’t wait around for you to get your head around it.    

Set in Chile, Magic Magic is a thriller plays with cultural arrogance in the same vain as Repulsion or Frantic, yet seems influenced by the fractured psychology of Polanski’s most famous features also. Here we have a woman who is culturally and emotional isolated amongst a group of people too juvenile and ignorant fully understand what may be at play. The film can feel distant as there’s no sign posts telling you where to go, but even when the film treads on the line of obtuseness, the basic aspects of the narrative is simple enough to follow.  As a whole the film doesn’t pound its note as hard as Aronofsky (Black Swan) or hold the pomp of Von Trier (Melancholia), but it understand simple dreads and fragile emotions with an assured deftness of touch.

The island, in which the film is set, becomes the largest signifying aspect, morphing into a physical and emotional quarantine for the pale faced Alicia (a brilliant Juno Temple). One scene has Alicia out with her new found friends as they go cliff jumping. All except Alicia are able to jump in. She is quite literally unable to take her feet of the island, a place which has brought forth a huge amount of disconnection to her. Like Polanski at his best, the island slowly shapes itself into a prison.  Cinematographer Christopher Doyle takes centre stage here, capturing the off kilter mood with near perfect composition, and shooting the landscape in such a way that even nearby animals take on ominous presence with their gaze.

The films main strength is in how it maintains its tone throughout. The ambiguous nature of the film is kept in balance due to Temple’s fragile performance. It becomes apparent that the film subtly changes from a more conventional thriller with horror tropes into a subtle cry for help. We are once again seeing yet another “delicate woman in trouble” and Magic Magic doesn’t reach the same heights as the likes of Amer, Black Swan or Carrie But Temple keeps us engaged throughout. Having such strong casting in place, makes the “woman in peril” such a sticking point in cinema.

Cast-wise; it will very likely infuriate more casual viewers that the film cares little about the fact you may know these actors from Harry Potter, Superbad or otherwise. That said I'm not shocked to see Emily Browning in this considering her work in The Uninvited/Sucker Punch. Michael Cera does well with a one note performance.  

The pacing is a little wayward and the film doesn’t really push anything in the way of originality. However Magic Magic is a nightmare film which unsettles well as it toys with the lead’s fractured state. Magic Magic will only really turn on those with a particular taste for these things. The films conclusion can possibly leave you aggravated, but only if you don’t fall for Doyle’s beautiful camera work and Temple‘s display.