A movie for every day of the year – a good one
England and Scotland become the United Kingdom, 1707
On this day in 1707, the countries of England and Scotland officially became united in “one kingdom by the name of Great Britain” (according to the Acts of Union). By “England”, the acts included the country of Wales, which had become absorbed legally into England by the Laws in Wales Acts of 1535 and 1542. Though in terms of monarchy, the English throne had been seized by a Welshman, when Henry Tudor (later Henry VII) defeated Richard III in battle in 1485. This Tudor line persisted in England until 1603, when the Scottish Stuarts took over, James VI of Scotland becoming James I of England. The two countries continued to be considered separate legal and constitutional entities, though this “personal union” clearly paved the way for the two countries to become united.
Perfect Sense (2011, dir: David Mackenzie)
This dour and unusual sci-fi movie set in Scotland internalises the disaster movie almost entirely. Many hands feature in the production, but one of them is Zentropa, Lars Von Trier’s outfit, so the unexpected is to be expected. It’s a love story, about two people who meet just as a very odd slo-mo apocalypse is robbing humanity of its senses – first smell, then taste, then hearing, finally sight. Ewan McGregor plays a chef, Eva Green is a research scientist working on a cure for the problem, so both are intimately connected with the progress of the disease. As the film progresses, and people lose first their sense of smell and then taste, the chef’s restaurant obviously hits something of a bump in the road. Undaunted, well, very daunted but continuing anyway, its owner and kitchen staff come up with new ways to surprise and delight diners, focusing on texture rather than flavour, and the business comes back to life. They even get a glowing review in the local paper, which continues to be published.
In fact life, in spite of unrest and violence in other parts of the world glimpsed on TV, seems to be going on in this eminently practical part of the world. Which appears to be the film’s theme – that life goes on. The chef continues to ride around on his bicycle, the scientist keeps bombing about in her hot hatchback. Not for ever, of course, because the final loss – sight – will effectively make everyone in the planet a prisoner in their own body. And yet director David Mackenzie and writer Kim Fupz Aakeson have come up with a way of making even that awful fate less gruesome than it might be.
It was still too gruesome for many critics, though, who gave this film a terrible panning, those who noticed the film at all. And yet it is worth seeking out, for its intimacy, its focus on the two lovers (its lo-fi sci-fi romance would make it a good fit in a double bill with Gareth Edwards’s Monsters), its attention to detail, its strange optimism, and for the way its premise is worked through logically – in Nordic-noir-meets-dour-Scot style. As for the acting, this is real showcase stuff, and McGregor has the edge over Eva Green, who has probably never looked so sultry – those big panda eyes. One final thing. The sense of touch they retain, which justifies the frequent nudity.
- A strange high concept sci-fi film
- The support cast includes Stephen Dillane, Connie Nielsen and Ewen Bremner
- Giles Nutgen’s intimate cinematography
- That dark Danish attitude
© Steve Morrissey 2014