It’s about time that I finally get to write about female-centric films, particularly these three titles that are captivating and stimulating in their own strange ways. A gothic period drama, a foreign thriller, and a psychological drama, each film probes the female psyche with stylish finesse that creates canvasses of individualism in poignant, kinetic and disquieting atmospheres, respectively. These films are also notable in spawning a fountain of new talent: auteur directors and auspicious actors in their flourishing filmographies. More than what meets the eye, these eponymous characters are kindled in varying dark undertones; their complexities shed in an intriguing new light that undresses a deeper characterization of women in cinema.
JANE EYRE (2011)
Before True Detective and the upcoming Crimson Peak, Director Cary Fukunaga and Mia Wasikowska teamed up in the moody yet mesmerizing onscreen adaptation of Charlotte Bronte’s literary classic. Oozing with passion and pulsating with conviction, Fukunaga’s JANE EYRE revives the fictional heroine with gothic intrigue and unflinching grittiness that shape Jane to be the redeemed protagonist she truly deserves. The tribulations she experienced in her formative years have steeled her as a woman of agency that is tested when she becomes a young governess to the ward of the enigmatic Mr. Edward Rochester (Michael Fassbender). Wasikowska ideally captures Jane’s willowy physique and youth but her acclaimed performance is anchored deeply on her mature beliefs and impassioned declarations that reverberate to the core of her character. She contains the emotional flare of Jane to a nuanced effect, much like Fukunaga who deftly infuses gothic and supernatural influences in a romantic period drama and remain consistently perceptive throughout the film. Fassbender fills in the role of Mr. Rochester with charismatic mystery, breathlessly piquing the audience’s (and Jane’s) curiosity about his identity and secret. Judi Dench also stars as the benevolent Mrs. Fairfax. JANE EYRE is palpably fervent both in its feminist nature and sensible commentary on its narrative setting, thus stirring itself as an empowering and potent film, not just among the earlier cinematic versions of its source material but also in the history of period adaptations.
RUN LOLA RUN / LOLA RENNT (1998)
Transported to a world where fate and willpower collide, RUN LOLA RUN’s tenacity is one-of-a-kind; an experimental showcase of mixed art whose thematic strength comes from the unwavering determination and stamina of its titular character. With only 20 minutes to fulfill a call for help, Lola (Franka Potente) runs along the streets of Berlin, carrying with her numerous possibilities in her brief social interactions. RUN LOLA RUN toys around the casual dynamics of cause and effect with fortitude as the main variable; thus surprising in its unnatural execution of three scenarios, albeit three runs that Lola undergo to achieve the best possible outcome. Despite following the same route, the film becomes unpredictable on the obstacles which Lola encounters differently. Through her agility, persistence and resourcefulness, she becomes an unlikely heroine to cheer for. RUN LOLA RUN may be uncanny on presenting how willpower could win against chance. Perhaps this is what the film suggests; a philosophy on how destiny and determinism plays and duels in infinite circumstances and what prevails in the end is the matter of one’s consciousness, which this German thriller has vividly and effectively depicted.
MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE (2011)
Elizabeth Olsen makes a startling debut as a young woman who escapes a cult and struggles back to normalcy in Sean Durkin’s harrowing psychological drama. Stripping its lead star of naivety for a revealingly complex role, MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE unmasks the workings of a cult through the broken and manipulated mind of Martha (Olsen) who reconnects with her sister, Lucy (Sarah Paulson), after abandoning the abusive cult ran by its beguiling leader, Patrick (John Hawkes). Implied to have a troubled life before joining the group, the mystery behind Martha’s two-year excursion is illuminated through flashbacks that maliciously blur her adjustment to the normal life. As the camera captures in cool yet murky colors the questionable daily routines of the cult, Martha accustoms herself to the blind beliefs Patrick instilled on his followers which rationalizes the abnormal nature of their household. But the real challenge is grasping Martha’s behavior whose damaged personality makes her an ambiguous yet affecting character that Olsen outstandingly pulls off. She shows an overwhelming emotional complexity that grounds the film’s authenticity. With a solid supporting cast pulling Martha’s mindset in a tug of war of false and true realities, MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE is an intimate yet vicious dip in the mind of a victim, a prey psychologically vexed by a predator. Closed by a vague cliffhanger, the film maintains its perplexity since the beginning, but with a more troubling afterthought on Martha’s impassiveness towards her future than her tormented past.