adplus-dvertising
Connect with us

Movie News

The Surprising Inspiration Behind Michael's Name In The Good Place

Published

on

l intro 1648781754

Though it might be tempting to think Michael Schur lent his own name to everyone’s favorite mononymous demon-turned-good, he was actually named after a religious figure that appears in Abrahamic scripture. Considering the show’s subject matter, it’s almost poetic that Schur was inspired to give the character the name “Michael” after a visit to a famous Parisian landmark — the Notre Dame Cathedral. He was on a tour of the church when he noticed a carving of an angel above one of the doors.

“I was like, ‘What’s the name of that archangel?’ And the tour guide said, ‘That’s archangel Michael.’ And I was like, ‘Well, that’s the answer.’ The answer is that he’s named Michael because in the world of the afterlife that makes perfect sense,” Schur explained to Vulture. 

In religious art and iconography, the archangel Michael is frequently depicted as weighing the souls of humans, in keeping with his purported role in helping to decide humanity’s fate at the end of the world (via Learn Religions). That’s very fitting, considering Michael’s through-line on “The Good Place,” where one of his first appearances sees him explaining that humans’ fates in the afterlife are determined by a point count based on the actions they performed while alive. Michael’s character is extremely important in the series, so it’s great that his name originates in a way that mirrors his role.

WATCH NOW

DOWNLOAD NOW

Movie News

How The Northman Drops Us Into the Amorality of History

Published

on

The Northman

It doesn’t take a degree in history to realize that most “historical” films are historically inaccurate. Whether the anachronisms are glaring or subtle, our celluloid visions of the past are filled with the blunders and attitudes of the people making them in the present. There is one filmmaker who is a notable exception: Robert Eggers. Eggers has made three period films, and though all incorporate the supernatural, none have left their settings to the whims of fantasy. The films are carefully researched, written, and designed to immerse the audience in the region and epoch at hand. Beyond the aesthetic pleasures of entering a bygone era and feeling its authenticity, Eggers’ focus on accuracy is directly related to his thematic obsessions.

Though by no means a “message” filmmaker (his films are deliberately amoral and confounding), each of Eggers’ works have used their period and belief systems to explore persistent aspects of the human psyche – the complexes that have dogged us since time out of mind, and will continue to dog us no matter what paths we take. The worlds of his films take the characters’ religions seriously, presenting all their sublimity and flaws without judgement, illustrating the catharsis that can be achieved through mystical experience as a means of transcending the oppressive trappings of the period – even though those trappings tend to originate in the belief system.

With this summer’s historical epic The Northman (2022), Eggers expanded his vision onto a much larger canvas. Though the film was marketed to a wider audience than his prior work and had (sometimes meddling) major studio backing, Eggers stuck to his guns. While the film is a myth, it forgoes much of the idealized mythmaking one associates with macho period pieces like Braveheart (1995) or 300 (2006); nor does it make a point of contradicting the valorous reputation of the Vikings. Instead, Eggers makes us experience the story, characters, and beliefs in The Northman on their own terms, free of modern commentary. Paradoxically, this approach allows the film to hold up a mirror to universal human nature, past and present.

It is made very clear early on in The Northman that we are not dealing with the sanitized images of Vikings and Norse Mythology that show up in Hollywood hits like How to Train Your Dragon (2010) or Thor (2011) – where those films skirt around the atrocities that are intertwined with the romantic and noble elements of Viking tradition, The Northman faces that brutality head on: though Amleth is the son of a king, that king is clearly a vile and violent man with rank that enables his cruelty; our protagonist is on a divinely ordained quest, but in the process he participates in a meaningless and barbaric slaughter of innocents. The cruelty doesn’t stop coming. It would take a heartless viewer to interpret the bloody spectacle as just, even though justice (via revenge) is what the story is ostensibly about.

That being said, there are no overt condemnations or audience-sensitive moral outrage. Eggers never gives us a mouthpiece to condemn war and beg that we give peace a chance; nor does he challenge the necessity of the revenge quest that drives the narrative forward. This, the film tells us, is just how things were. There are many moments that are designed to be upsetting: the villagers burned alive in a boarded house is one of the movie’s most haunting images; but never once does it tell us how to feel. It is truthful, not didactic.

Amleth is not the romantic tragic hero we would be presented with in a more straight-forward epic; nor is he an emotionless man, abusing the religion and philosophy of his time to excuse his bloodlust. When Amleth isn’t embracing his inner beast, he is capable of compassion, even a certain tenderness. He is a product of his environment; a man who believes fiercely in the ideology he was taught, who is willing to die for his convictions. His is a brutal, merciless world – and to survive his mission, he will need to be brutal and merciless.

RELATED: Here Are Some of the Best Cinematic Historical Dramas

Amleth is a compelling protagonist – but he isn’t exactly likable. He is brutish and tunnel-visioned, willing to do whatever it takes to avenge his father, save his mother, and kill his uncle, even when revelations (his uncle’s loss of rank, his mother’s background as a slave) emphasize that this quest may be pointless and against the interests of everybody involved. It didn’t matter to Amleth – he was told that it was his destiny to avenge his father, so that was his single purpose.

Most audience members will come to the conclusion that Amleth is not a good dude. So it may be frustrating when the film validates his quest in overt ways: whatever inscrutable gods set the universe in motion want him to follow this path. Does this mean we’re supposed to view his quest as a good thing? No; but we are supposed to accept that the supernatural forces Amleth believes in are real. His quest is divinely ordained, so on some level he is doing “the right thing” – even when he abandons his partner and unborn child and murders his half-brother.

A filmmaker concerned with a black and white message would make efforts to undercut Amleth’s interpretations of the omens, or to suggest that his religious experiences are nothing but a brute’s hallucinations – when the Valkyrie embraces him at the end, he sees it only because it’s what he expects and believes; in actuality; nothing awaits him but the nothingness of death, a fitting epilogue to the brutal nothingness he made of life. This is a valid interpretation of the film’s ending; but it is not one the film explicitly supports. There are developments in the plot that would have been impossible if Amleth didn’t have friends in higher places. If the seer was right about a slave ship that led to his uncle and the path that led to his sword, it stands to reason that his final religious vision was not merely a hallucination – he died a hero’s death.

Where the unsparing violence of the film undercuts Amleth’s heroism in the audience’s eyes, the reality of his religious justification suggests that he is a hero. Together these approaches to the material create an uncomfortable ambiguity. Is Amleth the product of a culture of conquest and meaningless violence, or is he the brave beholder of a noble quest?

RELATED: Best Movies Based on Classic Literature

The screenplay by Eggers and Icelandic poet Sjón utilizes the source material and the production’s small army of historians to create a film that truthfully portrays the world of their characters and time period. As far as the text goes, modern sensibilities are ignored altogether. The message of The Northman is the same as the message of the legend it is based on. The myth of Amleth is a tragedy, and we are not supposed to view revenge as an uncomplicated “good” thing. To assume the original legend accepts Amleth as a flawless hero on a hunky-dory journey is to miss the nuance of the literary tradition on which The Northman is based: the Viking era may have been full of conquest and violence, but it was also full of rich philosophy and literature. Even in the original myth, revenge is not a straight-forwardly righteous affair; but it is necessary, and that’s how the screenplay of The Northman treats the subject.

Where the film becomes more complicated is in the use of visual subtext to create meaning without infiltrating the text. By opening the film on an erupting volcano in the background, a kingdom in the midground, and the king’s ships approaching both in the foreground, Eggers tells us all we need to know about this culture: it is an advanced civilization, full of innovative technology and fully formed sociopolitical structures; but it is built on a foundation of destruction, a foundation it runs toward rather than away from.

When Amleth kills his uncle (a fight that returns us to the destruction of lava), the fatal blow to his enemy coincides with a fatal blow to himself. Textually, this matches the usual tenets of revenge: a hero seeking vengeance remits their humanity to achieve justice at any cost, and once their mission is accomplished, they embrace the restfulness of death. Subtextually, this image taps into the futility of the overriding ethos guiding the characters: matching violence with violence leads us down a path of destruction, undermining any efforts we make to build something. In other words, destruction as a means of instigating and protecting creation is self-defeating. When Amleth leaves Olga and goes back on his decision to live a peaceful life, he (and the text) justify it as a necessity: so long as his bloodline continues, his uncle will dog them – he has to kill him to ensure the safety of his family. Yet, subtextually, one cannot help but see Amleth as an ancient variation on the “father goes out for milk” theme. He returns to defeat his uncle because he is a warrior, and a life of creation will never satisfy his conditioning.

There are also subtextual ideas relating to the modern day. Amleth’s obsessions with blood and conquest ring familiar in an era of resurgent white nationalism and hate crimes either covertly condoned or ignored by political powers. In an interview with Marc Maron on the WTF podcast, Eggers spoke about growing up as a sensitive boy and being the target of toxic masculinity, a theme he connects to The Lighthouse and The Northman – but again, he attempts to allow those ideas to be implicit and to depict the period as nonjudgmentally as possible (though he cannot always disconnect his own values – despite the looming specter of sexual violence, there is no sexual assault depicted on screen).

He noted that there is an unintentional connection between the film and current events: the early scene of meaningless organized violence against civilians takes place in ancient Ukraine. The film was in production before Putin began his war of conquest, and the scene was not an attempt to be topical (Eggers and Skarsgard wanted to avoid settings that were familiar in Viking flicks, and Eggers had a passion for Ukrainian history). Yet the coincidence merely illustrates the power of Eggers’ approach: we are exactly the same creatures that assaulted and pillaged hundreds of years ago. If we think technological advancement has meant moral advancement, we are (mostly) wrong.

If he wanted to, Eggers could have made this subtext overt while retaining the shape of the story. Instead, he trusts his audience to engage meaningfully with the film and draw their own parallels between what is onscreen and the world that they know. If he had approached the film from a modern perspective, he could have done one of two things: made an overt condemnation of the past and its relics in the present, or made a romanticized vision of the past that updates its ethos for modern sensibilities. By refusing both, Eggers revels in moral ambiguity, and reveals elements of human nature that are eternal, that cannot be dismissed as outdated products of a bygone age. This is the power of portraying the past truthfully, as though it were the present rather than from the perspective of the present. When asked why he sets all his films in the past, Eggers cites 17th-centurry poet John Dryden: “For mankind is ever the same and nothing is lost out of nature, though everything is altered.”

WATCH NOW

DOWNLOAD NOW

Continue Reading

Movie News

The Untold Truth Of Evil Dead II

Published

on

l intro 1653006227

For a low-budget film set, the cabin in “Evil Dead II” is remarkably packed with lived-in detail. There’s even enough clutter around to hide some clever Easter eggs, like the blade-fingered Freddy Krueger glove hanging in the work shed.

No, Raimi wasn’t teasing a crossover. That glove is part of a good-natured feud with Wes Craven that goes all the way back to the beginning of Raimi’s career, and almost to the beginning of Craven’s.

In Craven’s third movie, “The Hills Have Eyes,” the hillbilly cannibals tear through a “Jaws” poster. Raimi says on the commentary that he interpreted that scene as Craven saying these were real monsters, not Hollywood phonies. So he returned the favor with a torn-up “Hills Have Eyes” poster in the first “Evil Dead,” as he told Esquire, “to tell Wes, ‘No, this is the real horror, pal.'” But Craven could dish it out as well as he could take it, and in “A Nightmare on Elm Street,” he showed one of Freddy’s victims falling asleep to “Evil Dead” on TV.

Raimi says that for all the sniping, the two hit it off well when they finally met at Cannes, where naturally Raimi pranked Craven: “I hid and leaped out with a terrific shout, and he just jumped out of his skin. Then I introduced myself. He gave me a look like, are you out of your mind? He’s been very kind to me ever since.”

WATCH NOW

DOWNLOAD NOW

Continue Reading