Saturday, March 01, 2008

FILM: In Bruges

I generally can't take violent and bloody films, but I have to say I really did enjoy Martin McDonagh's film In Bruges. The film is such an intriguing and at times laugh-out-loud funny juxtaposition of improbable elements: two hit men with honor and consciences laying low in Bruges, pondering a recent killing gone wrong while taking in the charms of one of Europe's most well-preserved medieval towns. Actually, one of them, Ken (Brendan Gleeson) is taking in the charms, while Ray (Colin Farrell) is the worst tourist in the world. Therein is the source for much of the humor, as the film manages to be a visual valentine to Bruges, at the same time making fun of Belgium (or at least poking fun at people who make fun of Belgium), and poking fun at tourists. Colin Farrell is a delight just to watch his brilliantly funny body language, he made me laugh just the way he sat as the two took a canal tour, with his shoulders shrugged up in his coat looking glum and staring at walls, while Brendan Gleeson takes in all the history and culture around them. And Brendan Gleeson is wonderfully expressive as the good-hearted elder hitman (if you can imagine such a thing, which McDonagh makes us do). And fortunately, these two great actors are not only funny, but excel in other poignant moments. For the irony runs profound in McDonagh's script, as the two men ponder their deeds while viewing medieval churches and Hieronymus Bosch paintings. In fact, a Bosch sensibility runs through the whole film, as McDonagh skillfully weaves his existential tapestry of transgression, guilt, and fate, in images both beautiful and grotesque. It is no accident that the final scene is a tableaux filled with costumed figures right out of The Last Judgment. Just as with Bosch's triptych, the end of this film is violent and bloody (and inevitable), but the masterfully executed dark humor and deeper reflection make it worthwhile to see.

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