by Lynne Ramsey starts out as an unusual holiday film, the boyfriend of a 21 year old Scottish store clerk has just committed suicide, his half naked body lying on the cold hardwood floor as Xmas lights blink on and off.
I want to preface my reaction to Morvern Callar
by explaining that incessant dialogue is not always necessary for a film to be effective. Don't pay attention to the complaints that nothing happens in this film and therefore itís boring. The stunning cinematography and imagery create genuine opportunities for reflection. It is clearly one of the must extraordinary films to be released in a long time, and the fact that itís made by a woman requires special mention.
The film was introduced at Director's fortnight at Cannes last year and won the Youth award going on to open the Edinburgh Film Festival and winning an award for cinematography at the Stockholm International Film Festival. It opened at the San Francisco Lumiere last year in January and is now out on video.
Samantha Morton plays Morvern Callar
, the pre-cog wonder from Minority Report
, and its fair to say everything she does in movies is exceptional. After opening her Xmas presents from her boyfriend - a brown leather bomber jacket, walkman, and a tape of hand selected music that makes for an excellent soundtrack, including selections from the "Velvet Underground", Morvern cuts him into pieces, signs her name to the novel he was writing and sends it off to publishers. She also removes a few bills from his pocket - she doesn't want to leave him broke. The guy who has died writes one of the most narcissistic sign off letters imaginable - so trite it makes you wonder how great his novel could have been. "Don't try to understand, its best this way, be brave," ad nauseum. After disposing of the body she goes to a lot of nightclubs and dances paring up with her friend Lanna played by Katherine McDermott and they meet young men and have sex. The relationship between Lanna and Morvern is balanced and believable. With an advance from a publisher Morvern goes off to Spain with Lanna at a time they are ready for the traditional unleashing of a bull through the tiny streets of a village.
Morvern has sex with a young man in the hotel whose mother has died. Later she leads the publishers who fly to sign her for her book to a cemetery, placing a flower in a crypt laden with a small doll and a wig that doesn't stay put. The cold way in which her boyfriend deserts her on Christmas is brought to symbolic closure and her previous frantic ways of coping through clubbing dancing and sex , release her repressed energy just as the confined bull is set free to roam the streets of Spain.
This is the story line, but the moments in between allow the spectator to plunge into the imagery and experience how a senseless tragedy is interpreted and experienced by a young woman. It reminds us of the fact that holidays are also filled with tragic moments, and this is surely one cold Xmas that reveals to us how empty this time of year can be.
For Movie Magazine this is Moira Sullivan, Stockholm Sweden
© 2004 - Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 12/03
UK - 2002