Saturday 17 November 2007

Objective or subjective?

The appreciation of any film is always going to be highly subjective, or perhaps it will become so if it's any good. I sometimes think a truly great film should have the kind of emotional impact that leaves you unable to view it objectively, and paradoxically leave you wondering if it's as good as you think. Does that make any sense?

Fearless film
Nevertheless, on browsing the IMDB website I am surprised when I discover that a film such as K-PAX is rated more highly than Fearless. K-PAX is a fair film but on a second viewing it's hardly a classic. Fearless on the other hand is one of the best films I have ever seen. With the exception of Tom Hulce, whose role of a money grabbing lawyer is a gross caricature (who'd have thought that was possible?), it's better by any measure, including narrative. The story of how a survivor of a plane crash comes to terms with, and whose personality is changed by the event is more challenging (and rewarding) than yet another tale whose backdrop is set around the wacky inhabitants of a mental institution.

K-Pax film
So why is K-PAX rated more highly? It's not the Kevin Spacey affect. There's no doubt he's a fine and popular actor but The Shipping News, also featuring Spacey, is a better film that again achieves a lower score. I believe it's the setting that swings the vote. I think audiences are comforted by portrayals of slightly odd or even strange people, who are at the same time often endearing and never threatening. It's not grounded in reality, in some ways it's insulting, but this is a film whose primary purpose is to entertain. Since this isn't in itself a bad thing I'm not going to be too harsh. K-PAX isn't a bad film; in fact it's quite good. It redeems itself with an ambiguity that is preserved right to the very end, which is always a good sign. Fearless on the other hand is much more.


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