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Tuesday, September 20, 2016

White Bird in a Blizzard (2014) and The Power of Words

"Because I never saw my mother again, she remains in absence to me."
Starring: Shailene Woodley, Eva Green, Christopher Meloni
Written By: Gregg Akari
Directed By: Gregg Akari
Release Date: October 14, 2014

Words are the most important part of any story. In a book, they're written and they make up the entirety of the work itself. In a film like this one, they're spoken and the create the context behind the work and in some cases, they also determine what we understand about what's going on. Whether or not they reach you in both of those cases determines their strength. White Bird in a Blizzard is a film that reads like a novel and a very good  one, at that. The film's beautiful prose is one of its many highlights, but what makes this film different from others is it's detachement from everything going on while seemingly keeping it together to create a worthwhile film.
When I saw that the film reads like a book, I mean that basically all the information we need is given to us via dialogue and the connections that we do make on our own are very, very ambiguous. When you read a book, you're reading everything in detail and you imagine a world based off of the details you receive from the book, including the mood, the protagonist, the setting and much more. You can infer and build your world as you move forward in the book, but, in the end, is all your own. When you watch a movie, the process is completely different. Most of the things that you'd infer for yourself are given to you visually and audibly. The color palette and cinematography tell you how to feel even before an any of the actors or actresses have said anything. While dialogue in film is also imperative when talking about character development and relationships, how the lines are uttered is also very important in comprehending film. 
And the words that begin this film are, "I was 17 years old when my mother disappeared." And the plot is as simple as that and soon we're introduced to Kat, played by Shailene Woodley, who now has to pick up the pieces of not only her own life, but her father's, too, (played by a surprisingly, well-rounded Christopher Meloni) as she grows up without her mother. However, what appears to be a coming-of-age story about Kat's sexual awakening in lieu of her mother's disappearance soon turns into a chilling thriller when Kat begins to really question just what happened to her mother. But before anyone can figure out just what happened to her, what they must do first is figure out who she was before she went missing and that's exactly what Kat is doing her, but now she's realizing just how much her mother's life has touched her own. 

The timeline of the film explains not only who Kat's mother (Eva Green) was, but it gives us a bit of background on the whole family. The timeline jumps around obscenely, but it's because of this obscene skewed timeline that the dysfunctions within Kat's family come to light. Her mother was this picture perfect woman to Kat and pretty much everyone around her. However, she slowly became bitter as time went on and her marriage sort of fizzled out and she became ordinary and this appears to have driven her a little bit crazy. And as the innocent bystanders of this dysfunctional household, we, like Kat begin to slowly notice how things have changed even though the film keeps bumping around from flashback to flashback. When we're introduced to Kat's parents, we can sense that strain already at the dinner table as no one speaks to one another. When they look at each other, it's full of contempt and awkwardness. Then we jump into the past to see how much her parents loved each other in the past, then we see them fight as Kat lies down in her bed, listening. And then we cut to Kat and her own boyfriend (Shiloh Fernandez) who were more in love than ever, but then we see their relationship starts to fizzle out just as her parents did, but its only after her mother goes missing that she begins to see the relationship for what it truly was. However, it is not until the film's final act where we see everything come together as Kat as aged into a full-fledged adult that we truly see how everything has affected her relationships with her friends and father and most importantly, her love life and the poetic dialog and narration help aid us along to know what Kat thinks about her transformation, as if we were reading her diary.
And this film is one that reads like a novel, or a diary of sorts, and while it is based off of a novel, each piece of dialogue between the characters and each narration over a scene sounds is so otherworldly and poetic, it's dreamlike and unrealistic, yet these are real people saying and doing these things. This movie is like a giant dream sequence itself, not exactly a thriller, like it's proposed to be, nor a real drama, both because of the fact it lacks the realness or authenticity to make the intensity of our lead's mother's disappearance anything worth looking into ourselves. And neither does it make her sexual awakening and frustrations with her mother and boyfriend anything worth caring about or tying into our own lives. And I must say, it's because of the unique beauty of the dialogue and narration that we're pulled out of the story, as there seems to be such a disconnect from what she's saying and what we're seeing, but what we see on the screen is what draws us back in to what's going on in this maddening, beautiful film.


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