5 February 2004 | ThurstonHunger
I purveyed the comments on IMDB before deciding *first* to read the book and then watch the movie. I think this was the right move, and would strongly advise those so inclined to do the same.
So, Samantha Morton may be the greatest silent film actress of the 21st century. Her muteness in "Sweet and Lowdown" and "Minority Report" and now here speaks volumes. Seriously though she took on an extremely difficult character to portray, one whose impenetrability is at her very essence, Ms. Morton made this character seem real.
Real, albeit alien. But then a degree of alienation I think comes with what I perceive as an existential novel and film. Initially in the book, I felt that Alan Warner, the author, was too removed from his main character...across chasms of gender and age.
But as I read the book, and now watch the film...it seems to me that Morvern is a person removed from herself. Many of us fill up our days, our thoughts and such online sites as this with words.
Morvern is almost sub-literate, her interaction with publishers in both book and film is thus comical, in a sort of Chauncey Garner mode of just being there. Morvern's character always lived through her senses more than her mind. As did her best "friend" who ultimately remains the happy hedonist.
But Morvern...like the many insects shown onscreen...moves on, not with any necessary destination...she just moves for the sake of moving. I think that this ultimately is the light this film brings. I can see how others cite grief as the focus; both the suicide that impels our story, and the hotel interlude near its crossing raise the spectre of death around Morvern.
However, I see her as more absent than abjectly anguished in both of those pivotal scenes... This is the conundrum of Morvern Callar for me, while I'm attracted to such an existence, the fact that I consider it...means I'm already living more through mind than senses. If she's remote to herself, than that puts me at an even greater distance. I think this was underscored by the soundtrack switching from sound to softened sound to silence throughout.
One word about the soundtrack, where's the Peter Brotzmann? Now that's a sensory overload that shuts off my mind in favor of the senses. I was hoping more of the bands featured in the book would have made it to the film. I thought that the artists listed in the book, typically the heroes of college DJ's and other overthinkers made a remarkable contrast with Morvern's seeming simplicity.
But there's more to her than meets the eye...and...the ear, the tongue, the nose, the skin...just as there's more to this film than others' comments would indicate.
* Again I encourage folks read the book and then enjoy the film as a chaser of sorts to flesh it out.