1. My initial reaction to the film was a mildly negative one. Mixed feelings, in a way. I had made a journey from hating everything about it from the start to feeling more neutral-ish by the end.
My dislike at the time stemmed from the fact that it seemed like I was watching two stony-faced teens talk about how crap their lives were for an hour and a half. Dialogue like ‘So what’s your story?’ made me cringe in its clumsy set-up for exposition – and generally seeing the machinations behind the story just gives off an air of the unprofessional. And try as I might to get immersed in the story, I didn’ t empathize with these characters at all. They were a bunch of racist country teens who hated their families and I just wanted to go away and watch something that didn’t have all these Australian accents. Also – intense naturalism. I’m not a fan. We’re in Australia. I get that. Doesn’t mean it’s interesting. I am tired of sunflowers and lonely desert roads.
I found some of the points brought up by the characters interesting. My sadness at the revelation about Vaughn’s mother was ruined by my own stupidity. I got caught up on the oxygen tank or whatever was lying on her bed. I thought maybe the ambulance had been here. Maybe she was okay… I almost knew she was dead. But I wasn’t sure. So I sorta ruined whatever effect that could have had on me right there.
I think what saved my first viewing was the ending. The ending felt good. It was well done. There was atmosphere. Dramatic tension. An ambiguous conclusion for Lena, a traumatic one for Vaughn. It ended on a good note. Yet, I still came out of there feeling mediocre at best. I think the second time around was better. I was more prepared for the style of the thing.
In retrospect. I don’t know. The dialogue wasn’t that bad. Just a few key points that made me unnecessarily hate-tastic. (The first police scene involves the driver looking back, seeing the cop car and saying ‘Fuck!’ We watch the cop car for minute. ‘Shit!’ Great furthering of the plot there.)
Every time I watch this film I feel less judgmental. I am learning to accept.
a) The film was very realistic. I’m pretty sure it’s based on the directors’ real-life account of his childhood, and it was made with a very clear natural edge. Sparing music, mostly diagetic sound. The pace of the action was set with a lot of pauses and spaces – no Hollywood quick-cutting action guff. Everything was realistic, intended to be immersive. I think I got that effect eventually.
b) The start of the film just makes me feel depressed. The day-to-day lives of Lena and Vaughn are not particularly enviable ones. It’s an unpleasant experience to watch these events – to live this. We don’t want to be here. Narrative-structure-wise, Beneath Clouds places the ‘problem’ all throughout the film; but we are treated to a true sense of dystopia in the introduction scenes. The road-trip itself provides a generally tranquil atmosphere. We sit back and listen to these two talk about their philosophies. Leading us to –
c) The film talks a lot about heritage. Ideals passed on through bloodlines. This connects with Vaughn’s resentment of white people, Lena’s belief that she ‘belongs’ in Ireland, and the fact that ultimately, these characters are the way they are because of how they were brought up. Where they were born. How much their parents were around.
Sen lists his two core themes as ‘purpose and identity.’ I can see that. Everything seems to come back to ‘culture’ with this guy. It explores identity through your ‘cultural background’ and purpose through ‘that one scene in the church.’ That was probably another reason I didn’t like this movie on the first run through. Lena’s idea of magically ‘belonging’ in Ireland because her dad comes from there really rubs up my pretentious existentialist views in all the wrong ways. “NOOOO! YOU’RE WRONG! You’re wrong you’re wrong you’re wrong. Stop talking. You’re wrong.”
And yeah. I could be open-minded to her point of view. But this way’s way funner.