João Pedro Rodrigues’ The Ornithologist is the first work that I have seen from the acclaimed film maker and judging by the reviews of the film, probably the best introduction to the rest of his works. Known for his erotic and disturbing images, The Ornithologist, is filled to the brim with Christian symbology mixed with pagan rituals contained in a blasphemous and irreverent reinterpretation of the trials of St. Anthony of Padua. Although many reviewers claim that it isn’t necessary to be familiar with the story of the saint, it certainly provides a deeper appreciation and at the same time, adds to the ambiguity of the film.
Fernando (Paul Hamy) in an expedition to study the black storks ends up wandering in a surreal landscape of the Portuguese forest after his kayak capsizes. He is initially rescued by the two lost Chinese pilgrims who inexplicably re-creates the martyrdom of San Sebastian by stringing up Fernando to a tree. Thus begins Fernando’s journey and travails that parallels those of St. Anthony of Padua. Meeting a number of characters along the way from the deaf-mute goat-herd, Jesus to Amazon huntress in what appears to be his own pilgrimage towards enlightenment.
Morose and complex yet strangely hypnotic and engaging. There is a lot of things to ponder and dissect in this film. A lot of this has to do with Paul Hamy’s compelling performance whose most mundane daily rituals and more so of his perseverance in his journey keeps the audience rooting for him.
William Oldroy’s debut film, Lady Macbeth, is adapted from Nikolai Leskov’s 1865 novel Lady Macbeth of Mtsenk District is delicious macabre tale of a passion and revenge. Florence Pugh as the eponymous, charismatic and unrepentant killer delivers an intense and star-making performance. Running only under an hour an a half, the film packs a lot of meat-not only in the performances but the complications that it presents that is sure to give many of its audiences a lot to talk about. Bringing in themes of sexuality, violence, race and class.
Set in 19th century rural England, Pugh is a young woman sold into marriage for a piece of land to a sadistic and oppressive son of a wealthy mine owner. Both the father, Boris (Chistopher Fairbank) and the husband, (Paul Hilton) admonishes Katherine to keep to the house despite her expressed desire to be outdoors. The cold manor house and the daily ritual of getting into her corset and the prolonged absence of the men highlights Katherine’s oppression and solitude. A condition that the mutinous and headstrong heroine refuses to suffer. She eventually crosses paths with Sebastian (Cosmo Jarvis), an equally passionate young estate worker, whom she begins an affair with. From here on, the couple deals with the complications of their situation with ruthless abandon until its dark conclusion.
A movie worth watching not only for its macabre elements but also for its rather sly take on different issues such as race as embodied in the characters of Sebastian, the housemaid, Anna (Naomi Acke) and even the young ward, Teddy (Anthon Palmer). Or, its treatment of female sexuality subjected to the tyranny of patriarchal order and its consequences. In short, a must-see movie and an incredible debut for both Oldroy and Pugh.