DO YOU have less than ten hours left to cram the entire Eastern Civilization textbook? Are you retaking World Philosophy and do not feel emotionally prepared to face Aristotle? Do you find yourself incapable of writing a paper without staring at Facebook? Lo and behold,
The Yonsei Annals is here to give you a list of inspiring movie characters who overcame the most tormenting times of their cinematic lives.
Directed by La La Land director Damien Chazelle, Whiplash traces the relationship between Andrew, an aspiring young drummer, and Fletcher, an instructor whose training method is beating his students emotionally and physically to make them play at the perfect tempo. After being selected as the lead drummer, Andrew starts his career by being smacked by a chair thrown at him by Fletcher. Andrew then begins a lonely battle to gain Fletcher’s approval—practicing the same music until his hands bleed, enduring long sessions in the band room, and even saying goodbye to his girlfriend in order to play at the right tempo. Andrew ultimately wins the battle by giving an impeccable performance of Caravan drum solo that astonishes the entire Carnegie hall and the ruthless Fletcher himself. Although the audience may dislike Fletcher’s merciless methods, the film dramatically portrays a young man’s coming-of-age as a professional drummer from a naïve amateur. A masterpiece that earned three Academy Awards, Whiplash boasts original jazz scores composed by Justin Hurwitz such as Whiplash, Caravan, and When I wake.
Black Swan (2011)
Black Swan is another Oscar-winning film starring Natalie Portman and Vincent Cassel. Natalie Portman breathtakingly portrays the prima ballerina of New York City Ballet Company, Nina Sayers. When Nina gets chosen as the swan queen for the Swan Lake production, she must play a larger-than-life role that is everything against her nature: a dark, animalistic character called the Black Swan. From the day she is chosen, Nina sees the Black Swan everywhere she goes─in the streets, in the mirror, and in her mother and herself. Although she blindly escapes the apparitions at first, Nina learns to confront her jealous colleagues and the intimidating director by slowly transforming into the Black Swan herself. The transformation is complete when she starts her ballet performance after stabbing one of the apparitions with a shard of glass. On the stage, Nina rises above her enemies as the elegant, dangerous Black Swan. She performs as if becoming a real bird, with feathers sprouting newly in her skin, gracefully waving a pair of black wings that appear persuasively real. Unlike the drums in Whiplash, the role of the black swan is not self-praising or indulgent; instead, it enables the artist to undergo a beautiful metamorphosis to a refined state. The viewers may witness the spine-chilling struggle of a young prima ballerina on the way to achieving the artistic impeccability of her dreams.
Birdman stars Michael Keaton, Emma Stone, and Edward Norton in a story about an actor struggling to reclaim the stardom of his past. Riggan Thomson is a washed-up actor who had ruled Hollywood as the heroic “Birdman” 20 years ago, but now struggles to find lead actors for a play that falls vulnerable to critics. Despite Riggan’s efforts to save the play, what actually makes it a success is a stupid happening─when Riggan gets locked out of the theater and trotters in the streets in his underwear. However, the real story of Birdman lies in the relationship between the actor and the invisible “Birdman” voice. Throughout the entire film, Riggan struggles to ignore the invisible voice which orders him to abandon the play and make another birdman film. At the end, Riggan becomes the body of the bodiless voice─in a breathtaking scene where he jumps off of a skyscraper and flies through New York City as the “birdman.” The unification of Riggan with the “Birdman” voice is what brings critical and commercial success to his play. The embodiment of the bodiless voice by the protagonist of the film may be interpreted as the death of his ego, or a final liberation from the past. Birdman is also known for the one-take method which makes the film appear as if it was filmed in one shot without having any cuts. Imagining how the director made a seamless transition at each scene is another crucial key point to viewing the film.
Director Mohamed Diab raises the stakes to the gulf-level in Eshtebak (Clash), which depicts Egypt’s civil conflict between the pro- and anti- Muslim brotherhood after President Morsi’s removal in 2013. If Birdman was shown in a single take, Clash is mostly shown in one location: inside a moving van guarded by the Egyptian police. Those trapped in the moving van are a confusing mélange of demonstrators, Egyptian-American journalists, different factions of the Muslim group, a young girl, and a young boy with his civilian parents. The hostages must find a streak of peace amid the chaos inside the van as well as the war being taken place outside. Unlike the Hollywood films above, Clash has a more raw, documentary-style, often relying on hand-held shots which effectively demonstrates the intensity of the unrest. The realism of the technique enables us to gather a perspective of the Egyptian civil war. In Clash, the victory does not lie in who wins and loses the civil war, but is achieved when an emotional solidarity forms among the trapped population inside the vehicle. Those trapped gradually find a way to respect each other’s ideologies and necessities. Together, they protect a little Muslim girl whose father gets killed in a fleeting moment; the Egyptian men from opposing parties realize that they are brothers in the midst of war. Although the unrest does not cease until the end of the film, the thickening bond of different populations on the moving van reaches out to raise the levels of empathy for viewers.
Pierrot Le Fou (1965)
Presented by Jean Luc-Godard and his muse Anna Karina, the film could be thought of as the original version of Arthur Penn’s Bonnie and Clyde. In the film, a man named Ferdinand and a woman named Marianne become partners-in-crime in an incidental murder that springs them to an escape spree. The main characters are not exactly role-model figures, but the focus should be on the versatility of Ferdinand’s character in relation to his lover, Marianne. In the beginning, Ferdinand dwells in an average middle-aged life while yearning for a life different from his own. When he encounters a woman with the opposite character─sensual, free, and guiltless─he impulsively departs on a journey to Southern France with her as if he had only needed an excuse to run away from his straining life. The couple enjoys the stolen vacation for a brief time before the straight-headed Ferdinand grows tired of his emotional lover, especially the fact that she keeps calling him a clown (“Pierrot”). Eventually, Ferdinand separates entirely from Marianne and his “clown” identity by ending his own life with a dynamite. Despite the film’s comedic style and exaggerated plot, the process by which Ferdinand breaks away from Marianne is one that is achieved entirely by the man’s voluntary will. Pierrot Le Fou is an individual’s liberating journey from the decaying roots of his life towards an unknown life, and is recommended to those dreaming of a free, exotic escapade.
Jane, directed by Cho Hyun-hoon, received three awards from Busan International Film Festival when it premiered in 2016. The movie begins with the main character Sohyun’s confession behind a spinning mirror ball: “The first thing I learned to say is a lie, did you know?” Sohyun grasps for love wherever it may be found, even resorting to low-level prostitution and hallucination, but does not find it. She continuously writes a letter to the only boy who was nice to her for a little while before being gone for good. However, Sohyun’s perspective changes when she encounters a mysterious woman (Jane) in a night club who represents a “savior”
figure. Unlike Sohyun who believes in love, Jane is ironically someone who believes in “unhappy forever together.” Jane’s philosophy of “unhappy” pushes forward Sohyun’s life, which continues serenely without being dramatized in the film. The mis-en-scene, mostly realistic but often dreamlike, repeatedly suggests the idea that Sohyun’s fate is not such a bleak one. The original soundtrack “Moving through life” by Flash Flood Darlings appears during Sohyun’s monologues and at the ending scene to weave together the resonating mood of “unhappy together”. Depicting the natural lives of a transgender woman, a runaway child and a dozen of hooligans, Jane sheds comfort to those who find that “unhappy” may be the answer.