Thoughtcrime: A New Film

Edinburgh Expeditions

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it is the moment you have all been waiting for. It’s the premiere of my first film, Thoughtcrime. Loosely based on George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, it plays on the themes of surveillance, love, and honesty.

The film was written, directed and edited by yours truly and is my first film. I advise that you watch it wearing headphones, the sound quality is not the best.

Thoughts on Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

General Geekiness

Something I should never do is see a movie while rereading it. All of the additions are fresh, the omissions glaring, and the result is sometimes less than satisfactory. As in the case, I am sad to say, with Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.

The movie is a good one, don’t get me wrong. It is entertaining, tense, and often uncomfortable. When it ends, you’re left in a sort of silence, unable to speak, to explain what you saw (a different sort of silence from this weekend’s other movie, Almodovar’s The Skin I Live In). I enjoyed watching it, seeing how the film would handle certain scenes and situations. I really liked how Ann Smiley is a shadow, a hand, a dress, a blurred body, a presence, just as Karla is.

Because of film’s shorter run time than TV (or indeed, a book), character development is sacrificed for tension. We never find out what the motivations for the suspects are, we never know of their more shining moments and their faults. The mole gets more screentime than the rest of the suspects (with the exception of George Smiley). Relationships are shortchanged, neglected, largely forgotten. Characters are omitted entirely, the politics of the Circus around Control’s death pushed aside. There is no sense of truly bad blood, of the rift, of the betrayal.

In thinking about the movie, there are more things that I dislike about it than I like. In terms of casting, Gary Oldman was very good as Smiley, as was Tom Hardy as Ricki Tarr, but it felt like the rest of the cast never was quite enough. Benedict Cumberbatch, while a good Peter Guillam, wasn’t tough enough. Toby Jones wasn’t pompous enough as Percy Alleline. Colin Firth, whom I was incredibly excited to see cast as Bill Haydon, fell a little flat.

I also am a bit wary of their moving the Prideaux storyline from Prague to Budapest, and the Ricki Tarr-Irina tale from Hong Kong to Istanbul.

I’ve also read that, rather than filming the Quest for Karla series as a trilogy, The Honourable Schoolboy and Smiley’s People may be combined into one movie. I guess The Honourable Schoolboy will have to wait to be its own movie.

Most amusing part? One of the production companies (I’m assuming John le Carre’s) is Karla Films.

Final verdict? Three of Five Stars.

Edit 21 September: It isn’t Prague that Jim Prideaux visits in the book. It’s Brno.

Silence. Fearful, Hollow Silence: Sonic Atmosphere in The Exorcist

The Twirl and Swirl of Letters

This weekend, I watched the 1973 movie The Exorcist for the first time.

One thing that struck me about the film was the use of silence, the creeping, ever present lack of background accompaniment. The theme played twice (to my recollection), once when Chris is walking past the row of houses when returning from the set, and at the very end of the film.

The lack of an instrumental soundtrack adds to the encroaching foreboding persistent throughout the entire film. I found the quiet, the still, the calm, when contrasted with Regan’s wild, possessed moments, disturbing. It was the sense of waiting, of the knowledge of something darker just around the corner, that the silence portrayed so well.

The scene that struck me most was not one of horror, but one of desperate contemplation. It is the scene where Father Merrin and Father Karras are seated on the stairs, resting after the first round against the demon.  As they sit, deep within their own thoughts, worries and fears, the silence envelopes them. The viewer, who, like the two priests, has just been through the harrowing first part of the exorcism, rests, like them. The silence that surrounds the priests surrounds the viewer as well, a perfect mirror.

Just earlier that day, I was listening to one of the music channels. On the bottom of the page, the phrase “Choose Your Mood, On Music Choice” appeared. This seemingly innocuous phrase made my mind run.

The Exorcist does a good job of effecting one’s mood, even with the minimal soundtrack. The silence that permeates throughout the film gives a sense of alienation, heightened isolation.

The visuals, too, add a stark quality to the film that mirrors the lack of sound. The colors are muted. The set decoration is largely minimal. Much of the action surrounding Regan takes place in either hospitals or in her frighteningly Spartan room. Even the basement, often a site of clutter for many families, is eerily bare.

As a writer, this stark, empty, disconcerting quiet had me thinking about creating atmosphere in my writing. How would I go about conveying that encroaching, crushing quiet? My thought is minimal dialogue, short sentences, descriptive ones. Something to explore!

Note on the title: It sounds painfully academic. I’ve been doing research for my two theses–one is on The Prisoner, which has been somewhat documented here. The other is about Psycho and that’s the first mention of it.