My Life in Films

Bartok the Magnificent

I am not a film person. It’s not like I don’t want to not be into films, but I just don’t have the time (nor the concentration capacity to sit down for two hours without making some sort of sarcastic comment). My parents were never into films either, meaning I am possibly the only teenager on the planet to not have seen Elf, Back the Future, Pulp Fiction, Grease… need I go on?

However, there are various films that standout throughout my life, with one of the most poignant being centred on an albino Russian bat. ‘Bartok the Magnificent’ features Rasputin’s fun-loving bat from the Disney hit ‘Anastasia’. Now, to be honest, I can’t remember a single thing that happens in this magnificent epic (apart from a cracking fight seen between Bartok and the evil witch Baba Yaga which includes a lot of fire), but what I do remember is laughing my little six year old socks off at Bartok’s quick witted humour. A classic adventure film that is bound to capture the imagination of any six year old, centering around Bartok’s journey to save Prince Ivan from the evil Baba Yaga, it is a refreshing take on life in pre-revolution Russia. A film that I spent many hours of my childhood watching, and you should have too.

Spirited Away

Yes, the ultimate tumblr film. I remember watching this about seven times in the summer holiday of 2002 when I was five years old, and not having a bloody clue what was going on. A little girl’s parents tuning into pigs? A mute spirit named No-Face? A mysterious blue haired boy who turns into a dragon? Pretty confusing stuff for a five year old.

However, Spirited Away proved a beautifully crafted film full of mystery and a subtle magic that is still enduring twelve years on. While I may not have appreciated the complex messages of the passage from childhood to adulthood in my infancy, what I did take away was the themes of friendship and determination the film carries. That, and a lifelong crush on an animated, blue-haired boy named Haku. *Blushes*.

The Dark Knight

Well, what is there to say about The Dark Knight?

Heath Ledger transforms himself into human art throughout, showing how the most threatening of figures do not need guns, henchmen and a face full of metal (*cue Bane*) but, instead, the scariest of figures are often psychological. What Ledger created in his role of the Joker was the idea that this lack of fear that is perhaps most villainous: The Joker doesn’t fear death; doesn’t want money; isn’t interested in power but only cares about destruction. And it is the lack of fear that separates him from humanity.

Batman’s failure to gain a sense of hope at the end is also hallowing, yet completely enduring. A perfect film from start to finish, it was so worth the twenty-plus quid I spent on seeing it at the cinema, then again, again, again and again.

An Education

This film is literally my life summed up in one hour and thirty minutes of cinema perfection. Or should I say, what I wish my life was. Carey Mullingan perfectly portrays the journey of a geeky, Literature boff and Oxford wannabe whose life is transformed after meeting the older and mysterious David Goldman. David offers Jenny the perfection juxtaposition of her monotonous grey life (filled with studying and cello practise), with the beauty of lavish clothes, fancy food and, ultimately, success.

It is Jenny’s normality at the beginning of the film that is so enduring. To people who know me, the similarities between me and Jenny are startling: the sarcastic comments, the pale skinned, dark haired English boff who has played a classic instrument since the age of eight, tediously studying in order to get into a top university. A film that strikes a perfect balance between reality and fantasy, Jenny’s small but eye-opening insight into the a world miles away from home is both moving yet dark and a complete tear-jerker.

– (500) days of Summer

When I first saw this film, I felt so sorry for Summer. Yeah, of course, I felt sorry for Tom – I mean, how could you not just want to cuddle up to a heart broken Joseph-Gordon Levitt? But it was Summer who always had my full sympathies. ‘Summer the heartless bitch’, ‘Summer the player’, ‘Summer the SLAG’, were all titles that I saw flying about soon after the film’s release, however, none of these titles were appropriate in my eyes.

Instead, I read the hipster classic as a tragic story of unrequited love, rather than a story in which the cute and innocent Tom gets played over by the girl of his dreams.

I saw many aspect of Summer in myself, leading a certain friend of mine to nickname me ‘Summer’. I often got into arguments with this guy about the morality of Summer’s actions, with him insisting that she was a heartless player, with me insisting you can’t help who you fall in love with or, in this case, who you don’t fall in love with.

And while I have since given in to some critisicm of Summer, I still maintain that this is the true message of (500) Days of Summer: love is unpredictable. You can’t help if you fall in love with the cute girl in the lift who happens to like ‘the same bizaro crap as you’, in just the same way you can’t help if you fall in love with a guy who comes and sits at your table as you sit reading alone. Love doesn’t always last forever nor is it always perfect, which is what (500) Days of Summer portrays perfectly.

Originally wrote for The Indiependent 27/12/14

Words by Juliette Rowsell


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