Martin Teller's Movie Reviews

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The Wicker Man (rewatch)

Posted by martinteller on October 28, 2012

My movie-watching plans went awry today.  I was going to watch A Simple Life only to discover that I’d forgotten to burn it to a disc.  Then I thought I’d knock out another “dusting off DVD’s” title and revisit Drifting Clouds… and learned that my old copy didn’t work in my player.  So I started looking at other movies I hadn’t watched in a while and narrowed it down to Eraserhead and this one.  I went with this one because I’m holding out hope that Lynch’s film will be announced on Blu-Ray soon.  Then it was a choice between the theatrical version or the extended.  I started with the original, but after a few minutes I started over with the longer edition, since the theatrical was the one I’d seen most recently.  This choice was a mistake.  Not a disastrous one, but most of the added scenes spell out too much and take away from the film’s oddness.  The only desirable addition is the “Gently Johnny” number.

At any rate, always a pleasure to watch this gloriously strange movie.  I love the idea of an entire village being in on an elaborate conspiracy, and doing it so gleefully.  The script does a nice job of justifying the reasoning behind the deception, and the lengths people go to in upholding it.  It’s a little hard to swallow if you hold it up to close scrutiny, but that’s not the point… all that matters is that the citizens of Summerisle believe in what they’re doing.

It’s hard to call it a “horror” movie — only the last few minutes are truly horrifying — but the film is peppered with weird imagery and unsettling moments.  It’s also one of those delightfully unclassifiable pictures, a unique blend of horror, mystery and musical (I love all the songs, too, except “Corn Rigs” kinda bugs me).  It doesn’t strictly adhere to any genre categorization, it occupies a space all its own.

Without really trying to be, it’s a rather complex examination of religion.  One of the interesting things about Wicker Man is that you can read it as pro-pagan, pro-Christian or anti-religion entirely.  The denizens of Summerisle have a religion that satisfies them (and is a whole lot sexier than most) and who is this self-righteous Sgt. Howie to judge and interfere?  But it also has a barbaric ritual, and Christianity — despite its more annoying, ardent followers — at least doesn’t have any human sacrifice… not written into the scripture, at any rate.  Or both come off looking pretty silly and pointless, a means of manipulating people with appeasement.  Some of these arguments hold more water than others, but I imagine a lot of what you get out of it is what you bring into it.

Regardless of what message you take away, if any, it’s such an original work that it sticks with you for ages.  I placed it rather high up on my top 100 (#45) and if I were to redo the list it might slip down a bit, but I think it’ll always have a spot.  Rating: Masterpiece (96)


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