Friday 20 – Saturday 21 November 2015
‘The Crow’ is currently showing on one of the TV channels here tonight. SBS2 is broadcasting the original film that garnered cult status not so much because of the story, but more because of the tragedy that unfolded eight days prior to the conclusion of filming – the on-set firearms incident that claimed Brandon Lee’s life. I think it was an important, and perhaps seminal movie release in 1994, and certainly a movie that I’ve never forgotten.
Conspiracy theories abounded after Brandon Lee’s death. They ranged from the Lee family suffering an age-old curse to the Illuminati ordering the assassination of Brandon. I don’t put stock in any of the conspiracies. It was a terrible and tragic accident. Nothing more. Nothing less. But it’s not Brandon’s death that I particularly wanted to write about. It’s the darkness of the film. It got me thinking.
‘The Crow’ is an inherently dark movie. It stems from a dark comic book, and Alex Proyas took that darkness, enhanced it, and made it integral to the feel and narrative of the movie. I’d go so far as to say that the darkness is perhaps as much of a character in ‘The Crow’ is Eric Draven. It envelops the entire narrative, the production and, of course, the death of the lead actor.
The darkness in ‘The Crow’ is a gorgeous blend stemming from the post-apocalyptic world in which the story is set, and a sort of modernised gothic energy that I’m assuming Alex Proyas has woven into the film. To my mind, if a storyteller wants a good quality dark feel about their work, s/he really can’t look past gothic tales for it. The writers of the original gothic tales obviously didn’t have our technology, or level of knowledge regarding psychology to fall back on in creating that atmosphere. They relied on folk tales, legends, what little they knew about human nature. They created horror, terror, and darkness that played on base human fears, and it was, and is, good stuff.
Take Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë . . . it’s a love story of sorts, sure, but there’s that haunting ghost story wrapped inside. Heathcliff sees Cathy’s ghost outside his window, he’s haunted by the past, the landscape plays an integral role as a character in the story, and then there’s the dark, brooding nature of Heathcliff, and some of the other characters, that contributes to the overall darkness of the novel.
And don’t we love the darkness? It’s the reason we’re drawn to horror movies, some of us more than others, but drawn none-the-less. Horror movies allow us to delve into the dark in relative safety, as do psychological thrillers. For an hour and a half, we get to step into terrifying worlds that are often only a small step away from our own, and witness the horrors that occur without compromising our own safety. And we love it because we keep going back to those sorts of movies. Look at the success of horror films, such as ‘Saw’, that are set in what is conceivably our world. I think that success lies in the fact that the premise of the movie is that it pushes the audience to consider what they might do if they found themselves in the same situation. It pushes us into, and requires us to face, our own personal darkness.
I like films, literature, and drama that lead us into the dark, but I don’t think I can really explain why, at least not in a way that would make me seem sane after I did. ‘The Crow’, ‘Kalifornia’, ‘Irreversible’, ‘The Crucible’ – much of what we watch, what we’re exposed to takes us on that perhaps uncomfortable journey to the side of humanity that we might not be happy to deal with.
It often surprises me that we’re happy to watch these films and pieces of theatre, read these books, listen to the music, and view the art when there is so much darkness in humanity around us. The news presents us with atrocities committed by members of our species on a daily basis. We are exposed to wars, terrorism, murders, rapes, genocide, torture, imprisonment, killing, maiming, abuse, evil on a global scale, and still we’ll sit down to be entertained by darkness on our TVs, in our cinemas. It’s almost as if we need it in order to feel some sort of control over the real darkness that weaves itself through the real world. Maybe there’s some sort of survival imperative that pushes us to face the dark at whatever level we feel comfortable with, and I suspect that if you consulted a mental health professional, each one would subscribe to a different theory as to why this is so.
All I know is that there’s some satisfaction to be gained by facing the dark, and what scares the sh!t out of us, and coming out the other side alive and well, knowing that by exposing ourselves to it via films, art, literature, theatre, we can be terrified but not have to give up total control to the darkness.
And all of this sparked by watching ‘The Crow’ . . .