The New Weird: The Mystery of Alex Garland’s Men

Horror movies aren’t just horror movies anymore, like Alex Garland’s. Menthese marauders could be an emerging subgenre, and so far we could borrow a label from a recent sci-fi trend and call it “The New Weird.”

From death list (2011) and Berber sound studio (2012) to rising color (2013), Lobster (2015), Salt (2017), Border (2018), Midsummer (2019), Us (2019), Atlantics (2019), she dies tomorrow (2020), On earth (2021), We’re all going to the world’s fair (2021), etc., is a new trend for independent genre filmmakers, to use the tropes and impulses of horror to do… something else, mysterious, metaphorical, and often inexplicable. Occasionally these movies get bogged down in psychology and get lost in their own refusal to nail down a story. But the fumes created by the movies’ maddening stubbornness can be intoxicating.

Until now, Garland has stuck closer to eccentric science fiction, with scripts for 28 days later… (2002), Sunshine (2007), Never let Me Go (2010), former machine (2014) and Annihilation (2018), the latest based on a famous science fiction novel “New Weird”. Here, she opts for more vague and introverted ghostly territory, but his love of conceptual nipple kinks continues to dominate the show. What may be the first problem this nervous and inventive film has to grapple with: our preconceived ideas, based on that title, and in the conceptual casting flourish of all the male characters in the film being played by the same actor (Rory Kinnear). So every man the traumatized heroine (Jessie Buckley) meets is a variation of The Man, blatantly presenting the film’s #MeToo agenda.

Expectations, and their evil twin brother hype, aren’t concerns filmmakers generally entertain, but they can be an overwhelming part of our experience. So in Men we are from the start ready for the battle for isn’t-that-this freaks, or at least the side steps of subjective psychology, which more or less pisses on the film’s narrative parade. Buckley is Harper, a woman marked by the suicide of her husband caused by divorce (Paapa Essiedu, the only other man in the film), and so, as characters in contemporary films often do, he goes on vacation to the country to clear his mind.

The Airbnb he gets in Hertfordshire, rented by a local chump (Kinnear), is a massive gratuitously mansion, whose lavish real estate and presumed expense for a single tenant is our first clue to the film’s progress. unreality. Wracked with guilt, all Harper wants is a cup of tea and a walk in the bush, which she gets when she meets a strange, scarred, and very naked man (Kinnear) who follows her out of the woods. The policeman arresting the naked man, the local priest, a deranged teenager, and a saloon keeper are all Kinnear, complete with various wigs, teeth, and digital adjustments. She doesn’t seem to notice her (or does she see it, and she’s just not surprised?), even when they subtly start criticizing her and accusing her of driving her poor husband to commit suicide.

This is an interesting and perplexing place to be for a while, but the narratives progress so we wonder where we’re going and why, another question Garland doesn’t seem too interested in. Instead, it dives headlong into folklore and iconography, particularly the legend of the Green Man and his expression of nature’s manic fecundity, which the way it ultimately plays out here seems to be next to every other point about it. the table, and fabulously, hysterically crazy. Did that baptismal font have an embossed icon of an open vagina? Did I see a completely white chessboard, referencing Yoko Ono’s famous anti-war/anti-toxic masculinity artwork?

Garland does things you’ve never seen before (putting Kinnear through several literal doorbells), but unfortunately the mythology and gross effects and sly air of misogynistic menace only add to a metaphorical test, a masked procedure of trauma and healing. The apples and the single floating dandelion seed are symbols, see?

For all its New Weirdness, the movie proves ultimately conventional. It’s not hard to pine for earlier film eras, from the ’20s through the ’80s, really, in which expository backstories were minimal, adults were who they were, and decisions made in the present fed the stories, not the children. tearful memories of the past. Garland chooses the easy and elegant route instead, and makes heaven and earth shake over a woman’s remorse.

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