Film, OldVenue

Substance Over Style

Submarine made quite a splash in 2010 with its darkly funny portrayal of socially dysfunctional, middle-aged teenager Oliver Tate who philosophises about everything from burning leg hair to dead dogs. Whilst we could bang on about Alex Turner’s beautifully melancholic score and Richard Ayoade’s experimental camerawork, the fact remains that the dialogue in Submarine not only stands alone from the other elements of film, but flippantly blows cigarette smoke in their faces, gives them the finger and strolls off to do its own thing. Oliver Tate’s startling honesty and bizarre, deadpan declarations of “My mum gave a handjob to a mystic.” and “[Jordana’s] boyfriend has an incredibly long neck. Just thinking about giraffes makes me angry.” are brilliantly funny and infinitely quotable. What works best about Ayoade’s script, adapted from Joe Dunthorne’s novel of the same name, is that the side-splittingly hysterical moments are perfectly balanced with passages of tender, albeit weird and awkward, poetic wisdom, such as Oliver’s declaration of love for Jordana: ‘I could drink your blood, you are the only person that I would allow to be shrunken down to a microscopic size and swim inside me in a tiny submersible machine. We have lost our virginity but it wasn’t like losing anything.’

Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Birdman is another memorable stand-alone script. As well as being a good story, it can be read as a mind-bending, brain-numbing piece of postmodern literature which both defies genre labelling and mocks the very nature of what it means to write a script. Most of all, Iñárritu should be applauded for passing a film script that mocks the corporate greed of the American film industry under Hollywood’s very nose, and, adding salt, sand and bleach to the wound for good measure, somehow also persuading Hollywood to promote the very film which so magnificently dismantles its own superficiality. The sardonic, self-deprecating voice of the Birdman in Riggan’s head offers some of the best quotes in the film, such as “People, they love blood. They love action. Not this talky, depressing, philosophical bullshit”, along with likening his play to “a major deformed version of myself that just keeps following me around, hitting me in the balls with a tiny little hammer.” For all its satire and irony, Birdman nevertheless seems to be saying something very profound about the fraudulent nature of acting, through Mike Shiner’s hilarious truisms of ‘The only thing that is real on this stage is this chicken. So, I’m gonna work with the chicken.’ And ‘popularity is the slutty little cousin of prestige’.

Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel is equally enthralling as a surreal, multi-layered comedy which plays at Russian dolls with storytelling until the audience has been dragged through the depths of five levels of narratives and left gasping for air. The best writing here is undoubtedly channelled through the character of concierge Gustav H. who serves the double function of exuberant fool and nostalgic wiseman, and whom Anderson blesses with a multitude of nonsensical witticisms such as “The beginning of the end of the end of the beginning has begun.” The film is also a comment on the human constitution, with Gustav later explaining that “Rudeness is merely an expression of fear. People fear they won’t get what they want. The most dreadful and unattractive person only needs to be loved, and they will open up like a flower.” The story itself, strikes a wonderful balance between modern fairy tale, satire of World War Two European politics and elaborate character study, capturing the imagination of any audience, even those who might have lost their sight and were unable to admire the geometrical shots, vivid colours and crazy costumes.

Ayoade, Iñárritu and Anderson have created the perfect brew of brain, banter, brilliance and bonkers with their writing, leading to three scripts which are utterly unforgettable.


About Author