I was recently looking through some old notebooks from Fall 2000 and came across this note that I had printed out and pasted in one of the books. I am not sure where I had copied it from but I think it’s great.
INSTRUCTIONS FOR LIFE
1. Take into account that great love and great achievements involve great risk
2. When you lose, don’t lose the lesson
3. Follow the three Rs:
Respect for self
Respect for others
Responsibility for your actions
4. Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck
5. Learn the rules so you know how to break them properly
6. Don’t let a little dispute injure a great friendship
7. When you realize you have made a mistake, take immediate steps to correct it.
8. Spend some time alone every day
9. Open your arms to change, but don’t let go of your values
10. Remember that silence is sometimes the best answer
11. Live a good, honourable life. Then when you get older and think back, you’ll be able to enjoy it a second time
12. A loving atmosphere in your home is the foundation for your life
13. In disagreements with loved ones, deal only with the current situation. Don’t bring up the past
14. Share your knowledge. It’s a way to achieve immortality
15. Be gentle with the earth
16. Once a year, go someplace you’ve never been before
17. Remember that the best relationship is one in which your love for each other exceeds your need for each other
18. Judge your success by what you had to give up in order to get it
19. Approach love and cooking with reckless abandon
I finally got around to checking out this movie that ended up on a lot of film critics best of lists for 2011. I had intended to see it back in the Fall but had gotten caught up in other things. I kept thinking about it and even avoided listening to some podcasts and reviews so that it wasn’t spoiled for me.
So this past weekend I managed to check it out on dvd and what an incredible film. It’s Jeff Nichols second feature after Shotgun Stories (which I will now have to track down). The film is an incredible vehicle for two acting greats that I have admired but never really considered as the young masters they are at their craft, Michael Shannon and Jessica Chastain.
The film centres around Curtis LaForche’s psychological unraveling when he begins to fear a storm that’s coming of apocalyptic proportions. But the film is also, to me, a reflection of the psyche of an American blue-collar worker dealing with the realities of present day life in the mid-west during hard times. I find the story an incredible comment on the recessionary times we live in and how life is so fragile, emotionally.
Michael Shannon has never been better (and he was pretty good up to this point including his incredible work in Boardwalk Empire). His facial expressions speak volumes and his range goes from mumbling and restrained to full on frightening as his tension and dread builds. He begins to not be able to differentiate reality from his nightmarish visions of a coming disaster.
I have to say that in a second viewing I noticed a lot more subtleties that Michael Shannon and Jessica Chastain had in their performances which make this an amazing triumph of a film. Jeff Nichols really let them explore their craft and I often considered how in more Hollywood-oriented hands this would have been a much less successful film. The desolate small town Ohio setting and their simple lives ripped apart by Curtis’ unraveling added so much to the character and uneasiness of the film.
Again I think that Take Shelter is not so much about whether the storm coming is real or not, its how Curtis reacts to his circumstances under immense pressure: he loves his family, he has a fragile upbringing, he’s limited in the possibilities he has in a small town for getting ahead, these all factor in. I also think the comment about healthcare benefits in the US that seems to be an undercurrent in this film is another element that makes me glad to be a Canadian.
Two things also struck me about this film. David Wingo’s score was incredible (if at times reminiscent in melody of Tangerine Dream’s Risky Business theme, does anyone else hear that? That three bass tone dark rise?). Wingo’s soundtrack is undeniably the 4th actor in this family drama. While being very understated and simple it conveys a huge amount of dread but also at times a light counterpoint to the dark emotions that are roiling in Curtis. I will definitely be seeking out this soundtrack now. It’s no surprise when listening to the commentary that I found out that Wingo did music for David Gordon Green’s early films which I am very fond of (a director who I think has now passed his indie-cred crown to Nichols. At least someone is still making great films).
The other thing that I considered was the duality between Curtis and Richard Dreyfuss’ character in Close Encounters (and the latter’s obsession with sculpting Devil’s Tower at the beginning of the film). They both seem to have this need to have their visions realized to prove that they weren’t crazy all along and that longing puts all their other life concerns on hold. I am sure I am not the first to notice this.
All in all a very affecting film that I think deserves all the praise it has been given by the critics. Chastain has also proved in one year that she’s a force to be reckoned with and has a huge career ahead of her. It will be interesting to see where she goes.