Blesok no. 31, March-April, 2003
Gallery Reviews

Sometimes Below, sometimes in One hour
– on the films BELOW and ONE-HOUR PHOTO

Jane Altiparmakov

The film selection for this film review-diptych from the recent film production of the New York film school, for a really long time proved as almost unique and with no rival film-school in USA, with its own specific film poetics, poetics that significantly diverges from the Hollywood’s entertainment-business-soap-propaganda poetics, so much closer to the European film art-poetics, was made, above all, by the quality of the newer film titles from that film production that can be found in our country… To be exact, these two films can be found in the most of the Macedonian video rentals as DVD editions.


Directed by: David N. Twohy;
Written by:
David N. Twohy and Darren Aronofski;
Bruce Greenwood, Olivia Williams, Mathew Davis…

The film BELOW, directed by David N. Twohy, known by the low-budget SF-film Pitch Black with Win Diesel, and written by Darren Aronofski (the American dark film-prince), the film author who, with his films Pi () and Requiem For A Dream, simply took the breath away of the film audiences through US and the rest of the world opened to such kind of a film experience. At the beginning, BELOW was named as Proteus, and Aronofski planned this project to be the successor of Pi, but later, he decides to adapt the Hubert Selby Junior novel, from which the famous Requiem For A Dream did come out. The story of BELOW is placed, in whole, in the deep ocean waters and on the US Navy submarine

Darren Aronofski

“Mantra”. The crew of “Mantra” rescues three survivors of the British ambulance boat sunk by the Nazi’s, and among them, the nurse Claire Page (Olivia Williams). With the coming of the survivors, in the submarine start to happen various mysterious events and the crew starts to get suspicious that “Mantra” is being possessed by some supernatural forces. The submarine captain Douglas O’Dell (Mathew Davis) dies under mysterious circumstances; the colonel Brice (Bruce Greenwood) takes the command of the submarine, and he must face even more and more stranger events that take place within “Mantra”, as the mysterious of his crew, but also his own disturbance considering his common sense and rational judgement. Is “Mantra” really possessed by the supernatural forces, hidden in the unexplored ocean depths, and is the death of the captain Douglas really an accident, or it is a result of some previously thought conspiracy…?

In theory, BELOW seems as almost perfect hybrid, a true recipe for an exciting psycho-horror: the unexplored ocean depths so offering for creating a mystery, the submarine and its claustrophobic environment, the time-location within the frames of the Second World War… And above all, the great film crew in this film: Darren Aronofski and David Twohy as a screen-writers, and with the second one as the film-director, and finally – Miramax as a producing company… Really, looks like all cards are at the right place. But anyway, the final conclusion that remains after watching the film, is that it doesn’t completely fulfills the expectations. Simply, the true chemistry needed for a quality and significant film seems little under the real potential of the story and the film crew. For instance, we must note that BELOW doesn’t achieve the effect of the previous Aronofski’s achievements. The required atmosphere isn’t achieved in whole, as well as the film suspense tension needed for a film of this kind. Too much opened and unanswered questions, clichés, too much déjà vu moments, etc. Seems that BELOW is lost within the recent (over)production of independent projects. But anyhow, it doesn’t mean at all, that Aronofski should be cast away as a great cinematographic hope of the American cinema. His newest authorial project The Fountain should appear somewhere at the middle or the end of 2003. For us, it remains to wait and see…


Directed and written by: Mark Romanek;
Robin Williams, Connie Nielsen, Michael Vartan, Dylan Smith…

In ONE HOUR PHOTO, Robin Williams, again in this season, after his great role in Christopher Nolan’s Insomnia, steps out of his favorite comic roles, and shows his extraordinary capacities of his great acting talent. Williams has the role of Seemore Sy Parish, completely lonely and alienated elder man working at the repressive, monotonous work at the photo-laboratory placed in a typical trade center of a typical American suburbia. Living completely alone, spending the evenings bluntly watching TV, Sy idealizes the young and at the surface – completely perfect married couple, Nina and Will, together with their nine-year-old son Jake. His obsession with this family develops at that level that Sy regularly develops copies of their photos for himself, making a photo-wall in his home, at the same time imagining himself as a family friend/relative “uncle Sy”. But his idea of an ideal family breaks completely breaks apart in the moment when through the various photos that he develops at the shop, discovers that Will cheated on his wife with a younger girl. Sy experiences a complete breakdown, and his “breaking point” is when he looses his job. Then, the flow of the circumstances leads him toward the (un)expected solution of the whole film plot…

ONE HOUR PHOTO, screened in the official competition of the Sundance Film Festival 2002, is an authorial achievement of Mark Romanek, a director known by his great visual creations for the band Nine Inch Nails (the video-clip for the hymn “Closer”), Madonna (the video-clip for her song “Bedtime Stories”), Lenny Kravitz and many others, creations that definitively placed the way of producing, perception, and in general, of the modules of the modern video spots as a serious visual, even cinematographic field. His refined and exceptional visual sense comes to a full expression in this film. With the help of his associates Jeff Cronenweth, the director of the photography in the cult David Fincher’s film Fight Club, and the production designer Tom Foden, known by his work at the extraordinary thriller The Cell by Tarsem Singh, who also emerged from the video production field,

Romanek presents to us, by the every – even the smallest – detail, the odd personal life of Sy, creating the required atmosphere of alienation and emptiness, constructing almost every film frame up to the level of perfection. The Robin Williams’ performance is excellent, showing us in the very detail and in the very whole, both – his acting potential and great talent. Williams plays the Sy’s character completely living it within/with him, making this character in this film so convincible, that it is a creation for pure admiration.
On the specific dimension of the ONE HOUR PHOTO also contributes the interesting music solution, where, besides the original music score, in the emotionally fulfilled scenes, the most recognizable music moments of the American Beauty (the beautiful lyrical theme from this film) and of the Requiem For a Dream (the incredibly tensed and the painfully intensive theme from the – maybe the best – soundtrack in the last few years) are being used (or more correct – implanted).
All this components make ONE HOUR PHOTO an interesting representative of the thriller genre that carry the psychological pre-sign, definitely deserving the attention of the film fans.

Translated by: Petar Volnarovski

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