Lily Edwardes-Hill and Luke Brown return to the podcast, this time to discuss Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan (2010). There are three foci of discussion: body horror, the coming-of-age film and mother/daughter relationships. Lily and Luke explore how the film makes us question what truly happens in the narrative. We see the action through the perspective of Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman) but the whole film is about her descent into madness, making the viewer question the reliability of that narration. Black Swan brings up images just at the end of shots and then drops them to convey this idea of things being on the edge of vision or the unconscious. The film is structured as a change from the white swan to the black swan, a mournful and uncomfortable one in which the push and pull between Nina, her mother (Barbara Hershey) and her director (Vincent Cassell) play the central role though her adoration of Beth (Winona Ryder) and her competition with Lily (Mila Kunis) also figure prominently in developing themes of coming of age, independence and the price of artistic integrity and success. Lily and Luke discuss the use of mirrors and the way Aronofsky uses devices familiar to viewers of other films such as Requiem for a Dream (2000). In the end, Lily and Luke deem the film akin to a two-hour panic attack, and a success for conveying it so complexly and powerfully. A podcast that makes one want to see the film again.
Luke Brown and Lily Edwardes-Hill get together for a stimulating exploration of Shin Godzilla (Hideaki Anno & Shinji Higuchi, 2016), the first Japanese Godzilla film since 2004, and a considerable financial and critical success: it was made for 15 million and grossed 78 million whilst also winning the equivalent of Japan’s Academy Awards for Best Picture and Best Director. The podcast discusses how it differs from the American Godzilla films; how it may be seen as a response to the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami and the subsequent Fukushima nuclear disaster. The conversation explores how the film fits into the Godzilla canon and how it departs from it, arguing that narratively it mainly shrugs off the canon but nonetheless cites it with visual references and particularly through its use of music. Luke and Lily discuss the meaning of the film’s title in Japanese and why the English translation was ultimately rejected as a title for international release. Luke argues that it is a film about Tokyo and about Japan and that in this iteration there is a return to Japan as a place and as a people with, ultimately, a belief in the establishment and the ability of the people to deal with disasters; a film that is very aware of Godzilla’s past and present and also that of Japan, one with unique attributes, but also exhibiting a return to themes of climate change and nuclear technologies missing in a lot of recent reiterations of the character. There is, of course, also a discussion of CGI, models, etc. A podcast worth listening to, and you may do so here:
From a terrifying metaphor for unspeakable horrors, to a friendly protector, to an undead embodiment of the souls lost at war, Godzilla has gone through many iterations in its lifespan. Shin Godzilla redefines the character once again, shaping Godzilla into an unstoppable force of nature. Unlike other versions, this Godzilla does not act out of pre-determined thought, but rather animalistic instinct. Shin Godzilla (Hideaki Anno, Japan, 2016) returns to the roots of the characterization of Godzilla, the creature being mutated due to radiation, however, in a modern world this takes the shape of radioactive waste dumped into Tokyo Bay rather than nuclear weapons testing. Not only does this function to update the character to represent more topical, modern-day fears, but also reclaims a back-story seemingly lost amongst the many adaptations. There are scenes throughout the film that directly mirror news footage of the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami, and the subsequent Fukushima nuclear disaster, that took place in 2011. Once again these scenes function to reclaim the identity that Godzilla originally had: a monstrous, physical representation of the horrors that have beset Japan.
While the film functions as a national catharsis, it also functions as a scathing indictment of the countries government. There are numerous scenes throughout the film that display the comical levels of bureaucracy present in Japanese government, meetings adjourning only for all the present parties to move to another room to begin a different meeting, a ludicrous amount of people needing to give permission for action to be taken. It is clear that Hideaki Anno, the films writer and one of its directors, has very little faith in the government’s ability to aid its own citizens, which was one of the greatest critiques of the nation following the previously mentioned disasters in 2011.
Shin Godzilla may, at first, appear to be a dire, mournful film, but it is also quite clearly one full of hope and national pride. When the shackles of bureaucracy are shed, the Japanese people unite in order to find a way to save their country from further destruction, just as was seen in Godzilla (1954). The film has a clear pride in Japan’s ability to rise up after even the most devastating events have occurred, and it’s people’s ability to repair that which has been destroyed.
Shin Godzilla is not only interesting for its narrative, however, but the visual effects that are present in the film warrant note as well. While the American’s had, at the time of release, already released two Godzilla films utilising computer graphics, Shin Godzilla is the first Japanese film in the franchise to create an entirely CGI Godzilla. While miniatures are still used throughout the film, the King of the Monsters himself is created through motion capture and CGI, the tradition of men in rubber suits done away with entirely. Shin Godzilla both updates and reclaims the character in ways that are reminiscent of its past, while being aware of Japan’s present, ushering in a new era of Japanese Godzilla films.