Friday, March 11, 2011

Admiration: Andrea Arnold's Fish Tank

Fish Tank (2009, dir. Andrea Arnold)

Many a respected blogger and critic has been writing about Andrea Arnold's incredible Fish Tank since its festival run back in 2009 and release in early 2010.  I have been aching to catch up with the film and was finally able to a few weeks ago.  The hype that I'd heard up to that point was deafening, but I was excited to at least catch some more Michael Fassbender.  By the time the credits rolled I was struck by the entire experience, and also struck by just how struck I was.  (Got it?)

First off, the photography of the film is stunning.  I have to hand it to D.P. Robbie Ryan for taking the English slums and turning them into something ethereal.  The white walls, the flowing curtains, and the pink living room all work together to create this soft atmosphere in a typically 'hard' place.  Our protagonist Mia (Katie Jarvis) is a product of this environment, but it coyly winks at the audience behind its virginal and gossamer veneer.  Ryan is a master of photography because he takes moments in the script that the actors sculpt into wonderful moments and makes them sing.  He enhances moments and evokes emotion in a way that as a viewer feels like flattery.  I'm grateful that he is able to work on a film such as this.  I know I'm really waxing poetic about his work but it's truly remarkable.  Just the way he films the freeness and release of Mia's dancing juxtaposed against the seediness and oppression of the audition venue is such a magical work.

Then there's the acting.  It goes without saying that Michael Fassbender yet again shows that he is going to quickly be world-known as a once-in-a-generation talent.  First Steve McQueen's Hunger, then his part in Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds and now this?  I'm just as excited for his Rochester in Jane Eyre and his Magneto in X-Men: First Class as I am for anything that Nicole Kidman has on the horizon....and that's saying something.  But it's newcomer Katie Jarvis and her Mia that helps this film to reach transcendent heights.  I can write about it but it almost feels like compartmentalizing something that is so much more than the sum of its parts.  It must be seen to be understood, and it shocks me that she received little-to-no recognition on the awards front.  It's disgusting.

Of course all of this is filtered through the genius of Andrea Arnold's direction, and it is to her credit that the film is a complete work of art.  I saw it two weeks ago and it still hasn't left my mind.  The littlest thing will bring me back to the film and then I'm swept away in the story and what I recall of its images.  I'm brimming over with excitement for her next film, which'll tackle my favorite Bronte novel: Wuthering Heights.  That will be one hell of a challenge since that novel has NEVER been adapted well.  I'm hoping that if she can create something like Fish Tank she'll be able to create the definitive adaptation of Wuthering Heights.

Bobby Womack's 'California Dreaming', which plays an integral role in the film:

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