Limitless Cinema in Broken English

August 5, 2008

THE DARK KNIGHT (2008, Christopher Nolan, A+/F)

Filed under: Uncategorized — celinejulie @ 10:39 pm

I gave THE DARK KNIGHT (2008, Christopher Nolan) “A-“ or actually “A+/F”, because I like the film very much, except its ending. I like the film because it gave me an atmosphere of danger, which is something I rarely find in most superhero films. In most superhero films, I feel the atmosphere of safety. I feel safe, feeling that nothing truly evil, truly cruel, will happen in these superhero films. But I find that the atmosphere in THE DARK KNIGHT makes me feel very afraid, as if I can be killed for no reasons at any moment. It is certainly corresponds to my feelings of living in Bangkok after the bombing events on New Year 2007 and during the current situation in which a civil war can erupt at any moment.

However, I think that the ending, in which BATMAN agrees to lie, is totally unacceptable for me. That’s why I give an F to this ending.

I think some films are truly redeemed by their endings, such as THE HUNGARIAN SERVANT (2004, Giorgio Molteni + Massimo Piesco, Italy, B+), and FRIENDSHIP (2008, Right Brain Team, Thailand, B+), while some films are truly ruined by their endings, such as SWAY (2006, Miwa Nishikawa, B), and THE DARK KNIGHT.

I also don’t like the ending of THE HAPPENING (2008, M. Night Shyamalan, A+/A). I would have given A+++++++ to THE HAPPENING if the film ended like THE MIST (2007, Frank Darabont, A+++++) or THE SEVENTH CONTINENT (1989, Michael Haneke, A+).

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This is a transcript of a radio interview with Scott Mazak by his friend. I think his comment on THE DARK KNIGHT is very interesting.

“MK: what about the ending?

SM: the final image was quite nice – maybe the idea of hope in the film is flawed. in other words, predicating hope on a lie (saying batman does things he didn’t, altho sacrificing one’s good name and perhaps legacy for a greater good are of course heady ideas, dent did what he did and hope must be built on that fact or it is false. truth isn’t good enuff, people deserve more, to have their faith rewarded – might be a problem.), as some religions might tend to do, will only lead to a potentially worse future loss of hope when the truth is revealed. then, after that, true hope must be forged anyway. so, instead of putting it off, do it right in the here and now. someone may argue that difficult times call for difficult decisions, however, in the body of the film, especially after the ferry boat decisions by the public, one could argue the populace in the film world was ready for truth. so, i might allow that the idea of hope promulgated at the end of the film seems awkward. nonetheless, the visual embodiment of it, not to mention the dramatic expression of it, are almost flawless, thus deepening the idea. particularly, the final image, which might be one of the most powerful graphic realizations of that idea of hope in modern cinema, especially in the complex, flawed, dark universe the film had created for its entire running time. the form of the titular character, moving upward along the planes that fan out toward infinity, with darkness all around, yet into the light, even if slightly obfuscating said light with his own dark form and wavering dark cape, totally enveloped by it right at the very moment the screen goes to black and the credits roll. and, most importantly, he is moving, accelerating away from the camera, out of our reach for the moment. possibly into a void, possibly into the light of truth. given that, the flawed hope flirted with at the end of the film could be up for debate, and as such, the next film would have a chance to explore that. so, really, the ending image is one of the better ones i have seen in modern film. and cinematically, with the fatalistic driving music, portentous voice over of the dark knight, accelerating engine effects – it is pure cinema. sound and image, backed by a dense, complex thematic web that truly unwinds all of its tentacles from throughout the film into one singular powerful point – the point the character is hurtling towards, and a point we must wonder about. so the film then could be argued to find its truest expression in that final sound image combination, not in any dialogue or idea on its own, and that must certainly be what any filmmaker must strive for – to realize his creative vision through pure cinema, ultimately, while deepening it with everything else possible. quite nice. the ending is simply up there with aguirre the wrath of god, 400 blows, distant thunder, etc – whether the entire film is or not. pure cinema. hollywood at its best. damn nice ending. art.

MK: Was there an element of the current political climate, with people arguing for or against action in the face of terrorism. Action, it might be pointed out, that is not necessarily democratic?

SM: yes, at some point, when faced with a foe’s attack, one must unleash. period. if that foe is using things like democratic protocol to gain an advantage, the answer is stark and unnerving – toss aside civilization and take care of the threat on the most primal brutal level, as it should be. a belief in an institution created by men should never restrain overall survival. on an individual level, each man can answer things as they wish, but not overall. at some point, like it or not, men have to decide which side is right, which cause is the most noble and just and true, and they must fight for it. they must kill and be ready to die for it, but most importantly they must be good at killing and really be composed and at peace with the idea of dying for it. and that takes work, practice and struggle. democracy and civilization perhaps somewhat paradoxically rely, at their base, on being able to know when to step back from them and return to the roots, in a crude manner of speaking. that is the way it is, and any other view comes after that. it wouldn’t be a paradox if one incorporates paradox into their world view. that is human life. it does not mean might is right. might could win. luck could alter things. timing. the energy of the superior moral stance. but nothing is guaranteed. men build society to be the best they can imagine, but the basis of it is survival. if you don’t respect the primal essence of survival, you don’t survive to civilize anything. that means swallowing down bad luck, treachery, loss, disappointment, inhumanity, death, torture, insanity, struggle and anything else that comes at you. And then not despairing. despair is the end of mankind. hope is survival. therefore, flawed hope could be useful, but one must be prepared for the day of reckoning for any flawed hope. i imagine the next film could do well to address that on some level.

the current film, and the ending of it, brings these issues up. people in the film act, and they then have to be ready to take on the consequences. dent was flawed because he was not prepared to swallow the shit, which means being betrayed, hurt and having all you love ripped away, at its worst. his snapping might mean he’s a human. and batman might be a little inhuman. but, both have costs. the terrible fact for humans is that if you want to live, you have to sacrifice some of your humanity. there is no other way. no other bargain available to us. get used to it. i think the film is exploring this. in slightly cartoon format, sure, but fables are fables. there are many ways to explore ideas in a civilized society. just dont forget that exploring those ideas relies on being ready to stomp viscera out of bodies when necessary. vigilance is the fertilizer of hope.

i agree the first film was pretty damn solid from them, but this one – they really went for it. really upped the ante. they doing their part to transform this current cartoon blockbuster industry into something more intellectually stimulating and striving toward art. certainly this is a good thing for the industry.”

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