Thursday, January 1, 2015

The Wicker Man

The Wicker Man; crime/ mystery/ horror, UK, 1973; D: Robin Hardy, S: Edward Woodward, Christopher Lee, Britt Ekland, Diane Cilento, Ingrid Pitt

Police officer Howie - a very religious Christian who is still a virgin because he wants to save it for the marriage - arrives to a desolate Scottish island to investigate claims of an antonymous letters that speaks of an alleged disappearance of a girl, Rowan. The only thing he has is the girl's photo, but none of the locals claims to know her. He stays at a pub and is surprised by the pagan rituals of the locals. The island chief, Lord Summerisle, explains him that the locals believe their crops are assured when someone is sacrificed on 1 May. Howie suspects they want to kill Rowan that day, but in reality, the locals capture him at the coast instead, lock him inside a giant wicker man statue and burn him for the sacrifice of a virgin.

"The Wicker Man" is considered one of the cult classics of British mystery-horror films, and despite flaws offers a rather well conceived structure that speaks about a culture clash between two forms of religious fanaticism - the Christian one, embodied in police officer Howie, and the pagan one, embodied in the locals, since the film poses the question as to what is the fundamental difference between the belief that a sacrifice will assure a harvest reward from the divine and the belief that virginity before marriage will assure a reward from the divine. The way the mystery slowly unravels is the highlight of the film, since the locals on the desolate island truly seem as people who have been isolated from the rest of the world and the viewers root and identify with the conservative Howie (for instance, in one scene, a woman "cures" a sick girl by having her put a living frog in her mouth and then let it out so that her soar throat can be "transferred" to the frog. When the woman asks the bewildered Howie if he needs any help as well, he just responds: "Certainly not from you!"), but director Robin Hardy disrupts the subtle touch on several occasions with the lack of balance, which makes the film very 'rough', sloppy and uneven at times (for instance, the scene where Britt Ekland's character is dancing and singing naked in her bedroom and tapping the walls to tease Howie in the next room, is almost unintentionally comical). The "plot twist" is probably the most disputed: on one hand, it fits perfectly in the already set up crime storyline, but on the other, is leads to the infamous, mean-spirited ending which is not for everyone's taste.


No comments: