In Memoriam 1942 – 2013 “Roger Ebert loved movies.”

RogerEbert.com

Thumb darkest hour ver3

Darkest Hour

Darkest Hour stands apart from more routine historical dramas.

Thumb man who invented christmas

The Man Who Invented Christmas

Not particularly keen on nuance or subtlety, this is a film in which everything, especially Stevens’ decidedly manic take on Dickens, is pitched as broadly…

Other Reviews
Review Archives
Thumb xbepftvyieurxopaxyzgtgtkwgw

Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

Other Reviews
Great Movie Archives
Other Articles
Blog Archives
Primary fthorse thumb 510x382 31092

The otherworldly terrain of Fish Tank

Andrea Arnold's "Fish Tank" was shot in Essex and several boroughs outside of London (IMDb lists Barking, Havering and Tower Hamlets among them) and these landscapes -- variously industrial, suburban, undeveloped -- look as chilly and otherworldly as anything in Antonioni. Only shabbier. It took me all year to get around to seeing "Fish Tank," but as an admirer of Arnold's nightmarish 2006 "Red Road," I'm not terribly surprised to discover that it's one of the most vividly directed US releases of the year. And I say that even though it consists almost entirely of hand-held camerawork (which is not a style I generally appreciate). Through Arnold's lens, this slice of soggy Britain takes on the surreal look of a dream, or science fiction.

Advertisement

ftcranes.jpg

ftwindmill.jpg

The film follows (literally, much of the time) 15-year-old Mia (Katie Jarvis), who lives in a run-down apartment complex with her thirtysomething party-girl mum and bratty younger sister. Mia is headstrong, abrasive, foul-mouthed (did I mention she's 15?) and always seems to be storming off, exiting one situation and headed somewhere with a purpose in mind -- though we rarely know what it is until she gets there. Sometimes she's not so sure herself, even after she appears to get where she's going. Her refuge is an empty flat in one of the apartment towers where she surreptitiously practices hip-hop dance routines.

ftshore.jpg

I'm not going to say much more about the story, except that I think "Fish Tank" would make a fine double-bill with "Winter's Bone," as they're both movies about teenage girls looking for their daddies, as it were. In Mia's case, though, it's not her father -- it's her mum's new Irish boyfriend (Michael "Hunger" Fassbender), and her desires are no more familial than his are parental.

fttrees.jpg

ftfishing.jpg

The northern sunlight is devoid of warmth, and Arnold shoots with a shallow depth of field, giving the impression that, even in exteriors filmed in mid-afternoon, there isn't enough light to allow the foreground and the background to remain in focus at the same time. (Which is an appropriate technique for a movie that inhabits the myopic consciousness of a teenager.) "Fish Tank" joins the ranks of the most richly textured weather pictures of 2010 (including "Sweetgrass," "The Ghost Writer," "Winter's Bone," "True Grit," "Vincere," "Let Me In"...), an exceptionally wintery year at the movies.

ftride.jpg

Please look at these frame grabs, which aren't arranged in chronological order, as a kind of mini-photo essay on motifs from "Fish Tank." Once I got started I kept thinking of more striking, atmospheric images I wanted to capture, so there are quite a few. NOTE: If you haven't seen the movie, you might not want to scroll all the way down (stop at the fish) to avoid seeing some images of a dramatic development that won't mean anything to you until you do see it....

The Criterion Collection will be releasing "Fish Tank" on DVD and Blu-ray later in the month (February 22, 2011).

miadance.jpg

ftwalkway.jpg

ftgirls.jpg

ftgirldance.jpg

ftwindow3.jpg

ftwalk.jpg

ftapts.jpg

fttowers.jpg

ftnails.jpg

ftmiaface.jpg

ftbridge.jpg

ftstreet.jpg

ftwoods.jpg

fishtprincess.jpg

ftrun.jpg

ftmia.jpg

ftrainsky.jpg

ftbirds.jpg

ftfish.jpg

ftthrow.jpg

ftsplash.jpg

Advertisement

Popular Blog Posts

Why I Stopped Watching Woody Allen Movies

Stop watching movies made by assholes. It'll be OK.

Netflix's Marvel Spin-off "The Punisher" is a Lightweight

A review of Netflix's new Marvel series, "The Punisher."

60 Minutes on: "Wonder Woman"

One of the best superhero films, in large part because the title character sincerely believes in values larger than a...

William Peter Blatty: 1928-2017

The work of the late author, writer and director William Peter Blatty will continue to haunt the dreams of readers an...

Reveal Comments
comments powered by Disqus