Saturday, 21 February 2009

The Wicker Man original and remake

I instinctively knew the remake of the Wicker Man was going to be a disaster from a certificate 12a to the lack of any reviews in the Northern press. I intentionally held off checking the Online Film Critics in case the response was so negative that I would not go to see the film. It is so awful that I had to remind myself by watching both the original cut and the Director's variation which gives a better balance and strengthens the piety and suitability of our hero. One review echoed my reaction: Dustin Putman-The Movie Boy, proclaimed that everything which made the original film haunting and "deliciously provocative" has been stripped away, particularly its main questioning of traditional religion yet also demonstrating the significance of the original sacrifice in the struggle between paganism and Christianity between the old and new, the highest levels of morality on both sides of the divide.

Everything about the original was right, everyone had credibility and there was not a caricature figure in view in contrast to this afternoon's experience when everyone was unbelievable and failing to command any sympathy. The film misses the point by several miles and qualified as the worst remake ever.

An important feature of the original is the music and the songs. The freedom and the licentiousness of the original are appealing seductive and our hero is tempted, but has the self discipline and faith to withstand whatever pressures are placed on him. I can only assume the studio responsible for the remake had no regard for the intelligence of audience. The removal of the dodgy sex scenes and other frolicking is not the problem and for a time I thought by concentrating on the main issue this was going to be a more moral film but sadly all its subsequent values are awful, summed up by three just over 12 years olds proclaiming that was crap to each other on departing the auditorium, but whether they had seen the original or heard about it I do not know.

So what was the actual story, the plot? Originally a serious Scottish Christian working among the western islands of Scotland is our police sergeant hero, for he can fly a single engine plane to get quickly to inaccessible places. These days it would a helicopter He has a finance of two years and he is opposed to premarital sex and says so. This contrasts with the modern update where he is a traffic cop and it emerges that he has a child, the child he goes in search for not knowing it is his own, whereas in the original the child is of no relationship but his relentless search for her is only the more important, as this is a man who cares about life, about people although he views the world through a fundamental puritan perspective. This is a man who not only goes to church but reads the lesson, where as our modern hero goes to clubs and pubs and watches large screen TV.

Our original hero has nothing on his conscience to affect his daily methodical policing whereas our present day man is haunted unable to work by what he believes was an inexplicable natural phenomenon after he stops to pick up a doll a child has through out of her mothers car and they are moving somewhere. The child throws out the doll as soon as he given it back despite the warnings of the danger that happens and then the vehicle it is hit by a lorry which for some reason does not appear to stop or help in the attempt to rescue mother and child as fire breaks out. There is a question mark for me whether the mother and child existed and in fact if this is attempt to portray the Summer islanders as practicing the black arts when in the original they followed an ancient pagan religion which when their livelihood is threatened as a consequence of the unnatural use of a northern climate growing apples, its is only in desperation that there is resort to human sacrifice, a sacrifice in the knowledge, when this fails, because the it is the hybrid crop which has permanently failed, then the tribe will turn on its leader as the ultimate sacrifice.

In present version there are the cinema gimmicky attempts to portray transfiguration and mind influencing at a distance. In the original we are brought quickly to face with a closed community united and in defiance of the outside world. They have their special economy. It is an authentic community brought up in a particular way, enjoying life in their own way, a natural kind of life part of nature not attempting to confront or misuse nature, what they sell, how they teach is all part of their way of life beliefs. This is not a one day a week religion, but the community is normal in terms of the range of shops and activities. The young are at home here as well as the old they form the community and they enjoy themselves; they make their own entertainment they are not all working to get away for education or for work or just to get away….This may be an innocent, commendable lifestyle but it side steps basic human growth and development issues such as what happens when there is adolescent rebellion? Although in the original there is no time to raise such questions as you are drawn along believing in our hero and believing that there is nothing sinister behind the way of life which appeals to most people, except to our hero, because he is exceptional in his outlook and behaviour, the only hint of special about our highway cop is that he risks his life to rescue the mother and child and his whole personality is consequently disturbed. Whereas in the original it is evident that his fiancĂ©e is of a similar personality to his own and will fit as she does already into his life, it is quickly evidence when he gets the letter unstamped (ho ho now that's give away of evil powers), it is not anonymous as with the original but from a former relationship, and someone like the original hero would never take up with a wild flower child which we learn the girl is, whereas in the film the temptress she is the landlords daughter who not only fits the song of the same name but is open about her generosity of giving, and as she makes its plain to our hero has only to ask and she will oblige, he is tempted all right but he controls natural desires but with difficulty. Our man is shocked by the nightly revels in and out of the ale house, and by what is sold in the shops, what is taught at school and as a community activity, especially by the approach to burial and the treatment of death which like the north American Indians they do not refer as a death and resurrection but simply a passing on to a different form returning to the natural landscape, the spirit and eternity watching over and participation at a distance a concept but also a reality made real by the believers. There is something weird and unnatural about the modern community, a matriarch dominated society. An important aspect of both versions is the twist for the ending his belief that the child is to be sacrificed and the reality of what is to take place, in the original this is all believable part of the mystery thriller horror although the film becomes deadly and movingly serious, whereas in the latest version,, although it seems wrong to compare them together one is awful, trashy one reviews says, and he is right obscene yet there is no obscenity displayed directly in what is usually meant by the term in visual or language terms. What is meant to be the horror of fratricide just does not ring true, especial as in the original the children are excluded from the final ceremony.

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