Hitting my head for not watching this one in a theatre
I love to go to the cinema. Given the choice I’d watch all films in a proper theatre. Popcorn smell and mobile rattling aside, it gives an experience I never get at home. It’s epic. It’s immersive. It brings me to places. It captures my mind and locks out the trivialities of life with a power field, an almost impenetrable shield.
Hence I go a lot to the movies. Over the last year I’ve been scored about one cinema visit per week, which makes me a good customer and the holder of a golden card, the top level of the multiplex theatre’s loyalty program.
But I can’t watch everything in a theatre – for time reasons and for budget reasons. Unavoidably some movies will be left out for the moment, to be picked up later on after their DVD release. In most cases this works pretty fine but sometimes you watch something that you realize you should have watched in a theatre because it was made for a bigger format.
And you hit yourself hard in the head for not grabbing the chance where you had it.
I know a lot of people feel like that about The Tree of Life from last year. I managed to catch that one. But I missed out on another one for some inexplicable reason, which I’m finally caught up with now: The Way Back. I’m hitting my head. Hard. I should have seen it on a big screen when I could.
My love for Peter Weir
Peter Weir’s name should have been reason enough for me to see it the proper way. You see, I’ve liked quite a few of his movies in the past. They’re wildly different to each other and to be honest I can’t quite tell what the uniting factor is- apart from that they’re good.
Truman Show! Picnic at Hanging Rock! Even Dead Poets Society warrants an exclamation mark. It was unfortunate that I somehow was overexposed to it for a while, which has given it a backlash in my memory. But I think it’s more a case of an overdose, like when you’ve had too much of a certain type of food and suddenly start question if you really like it than that the film actually is bad.
Another Weir film that deserves a special mentioning is one of his earliest, The Cars that Ate Paris from 1974. This is a weird little movie about a small town in Australia where the inhabitants make a living of causing car accidents, picking all the valuables from them. It oozes of low budget and has a 5,4 rating on IMDb, which of cause increases my love for it. Don’t we all need to have a little darling that few people have heard of and even fewer like?
Then there are other Weir movies that are more forgettable. I’m thinking of Green Card, with Gérard Depardie and Andie MacDowell arranging a pretence marriage. It’s a standard romantic comedy, no less, no more. So let’s just forget about it and pretend someone else made it.
All in all Weir is a director I want to follow so I should have watched it. Besides it had a theme that was right up my alley: survival in the wilderness under harsh circumstances. It’s a genre I never grow tired of that includes movies such as 127 hours, Into the Wild, Alive and Touching the Void. I might even include The Road in it. Movies that are designed to make me thankful of what I have in life: the ability to sneak into the kitchen to have a sandwich at night. The option to take a shower in the morning. A soft pillow to hug.
The Way Back is exactly that kind of film, telling the story about a group of prisoners who escaped a gulag camp in Siberia and walked 4 000 miles, ending up in Tibet. It’s a long trip and they endure everything you could possibly think of – hunger, thirst, snow- and sandstorms, mosquitoes, illness and exhaustion.
What makes it especially well suited for a theatre experience is the grandness of it. Those people aren’t just poking around in one small spot where they eat roots, snails or whatever they can get hold of. The landscapes they’re moving through are no short of magnificent. While the actors are just fine (with a special mentioning to Colin Farrell who shows that he’s far more than just “that actor with the eyebrows” and to Saoirse Ronan, who quickly is becoming one of my favorite actors – astonishingly good for her age), they’re still kind of small and interchangeable compared to the one who has the leading role: Nature itself.
Without knowing, my guess is that The Way Back probably wasn’t a huge hit at the box office. Such a long movie, which basically mostly is just a long stretched out walk of suffering – no romance, no giggles, very little excitement or action – is a hard sell to most people.
But I’m a weird person (no puns intended). I loved it.
And next time a Peter Weir film turns up at a theatre I promise to watch it at once. No matter what strange new direction his career will take next.
The Way Back (Peter Weir, US, 2010) My rating: 4/5