2.2.09

Twilight

Here is what the Guardian said about the film. It got four stars. FOUR. That's about the best a Hollywood fantasy film can hope for in the pages of the Guardian. Peter Bradshaw reserves his five star reviews for European arthouse films no one has ever heard of. Or bothers to see. But FOUR STARS? Huh? Did I see the same film?

As far as I understand, Twilight is being praised for restoring a bit of romance to the highly sexed-up high school genre of the present age. There is no hanky-panky here, as Edward (a vampire) will get murderous. So instead there is much fervent desire being repressed, and a lot of longing stares, sighing, and moodiness. It's like were back in the 19th century. Unsurprisingly, the Times were ecstatic about it.

Is it just me that finds all this slightly ridiculous, and also frustrating? I'm not being a cynic here. I have been known to enjoy my fair share of rom-com dross. I'm looking forward to seeing Baz Lurhman's new film, for example. But Twilight doesn't sell me on the romance between Edward and Bella. I found it difficult to care about either of them. They were boring. It was hard to believe in their relationship. Love is built on communication, and that wasn't shown convincingly. Well, it was -- in montages where you see the couple talking and smiling. But you don't *hear* this process. When it comes to the actual dialogue between them, its back to the awkwardness and frowning. Without showing you what their relationship is like, it gets difficult for you to care when that relationship is in trouble. I needed to see the good times, in order to be moved by the bad.

I knew something was wrong when I found myself preferring the company of Bella's highly annoying friends to Bella herself. It's hard to sympathise with her moodiness when that's all there is to her. I wanna stress here that I'm not dissing the actress, but the script. The acting throughout was great.

All this aside, there remains the problem of exactly what Twilight is trying to say. What does Edward's vampirism mean? Mark Kermode, the BBC's resident film reviewer, argues that it isn't really about sex, but rather about teenage angst and not fitting in. There are too many intense looks between Edward and Bella for me to buy this. More fundamentally, sex is a central component of the vampire idea. Biting the neck is a sensual as well as a violent action, so if there is any neck-biting, sex and death are immediately invoked. I think Bradshaw strikes closer when he talks about 'displacing an irrational horror of sex into a freaky emo crush' and how 'the world of the sexually active may indeed seem like an unlovely vampiric cult'. Fear of sex? My frustration with this film may be due to the difficulty for me to relate to this, and apologies for being horribly insensitive. But I don't think this is quite all of it. The metaphor doesn't quite work in the film, as both characters, minus the vampire problem, seem pretty ready to jump into the sack. Edward desperately *wants* Bella's blood, and has to restrain himself. So maybe it's really about abstinence -- that most traditional of vampire themes. Edward doesn't want to unleash the slavering beast inside him. He's already 'infected', and doesn't want to 'infect' the love of his life. But this is another idea I have difficulty with. Exactly what is so bad about teenagers having sex?

My sister tells me the book is much better. No surprises there. I'm gonna read it (soon...) and see. But so far, this teen phenomenon has been difficult for me to access. Man, does that mean I'm all grown up?

BTW I'm getting very angry at the description of Twilight as a 'post-Buffy' piece. As far as I remember, helpless Bella gets her life saved about three times by the macho Edward. Go feminism! And an audience can believe in and care about Buffy and Angel's relationship, because the two characters have *depth*. Buffy DVDs are in need of re-watching.

1 comment: