Dec 13, 2013

Heartless (2009)

 


Ever since I first saw his debut cult masterpiece The Reflecting Skin (1990) starring a relatively then-unknown Viggo Mortensen, I have been a rather staunch supporter of British auteur/playwright and all-around subversive Renaissance man Philip Ridley, who got his first big break in the film industry by penning the script for The Krays (1990) directed by Peter Medak. After directing two completely captivating cinematic neo-fairytale masterpieces, The Reflecting Skin and The Passion of Darkly Noon (1995), Ridley—for whatever inexplicable reason (apparently, he spent the time writing plays and children’s books)—would not direct another film for another 15 years, so one can say that his most recent film, Heartless (2009), was more than a little bit long awaited, hence why it was such a big disappointment for me and many of his fans. While Ridley opted for setting The Reflecting Skin in iconic rural 1950s Idaho (although the work was actually filmed in Alberta, Canada) and The Passion of Darkly Noon in Appalachian region of North Carolina (although the work was actually filmed in Germany, thus giving it a mystical mountain film feel), Heartless would be the first film the auteur directed that was actually set in his home city of East London, thus the film naturally lacks the sort of idiosyncratic ‘Amero-Heimat horror’ essence of his previous works. Indeed, a curious piece of Chav and wog-infested ‘hoodie-horror’ in the convoluted spirit of Clive Barker’s Hellraiser (1987) and Richard Kelly’s Donnie Darko (2001), Heartless depictions a ‘heartless’ and hellish London in the decidedly decadent post-empire age of multiculturalism, globalization, miscegenation and cultural/racial chaos. A deconstructed and de-Teutonized reworking of Goethe’s Faust set in one of the Occidental cities most heavily hit by the culture-distorting decay of globalization and multiculturalism, Heartless is a far cry from the sort of ‘völkisch Gothic’ metaphysical horror of his previous two features as a work of metropolitan horror, yet it is no less dark and foreboding in character, even if it is easily the artist’s most inferior cinematic work to date. Admittedly, when I first saw Heartless, I was completely and irrevocably disappointed, but the film has slightly grown on me in subsequent viewings. Made in an pre-apocalyptic age where third world savages riot and brutally murder British soldiers in the street in tribute to some meta-megalomaniac towelhead god and where many areas of London, not unlike many modern European cities, have turned into ‘no go zones’ for indigenous Brits, Heartless is culturally pessimistic horror disguised as a supernatural psychological thriller that makes one really realize how the world has culturally and morally degenerated since Johann Wolfgang von Goethe first began writing Faust over two centuries ago.



Jamie Morgan (Jim Sturgess) is a troubled and introverted weirdo with a heart-shaped birthmark on his face who lives in a multicultural hellhole in East London and is thus the object of scorn and ridicule amongst the socially-decaying area’s mostly brown-skinned populous. In terms of employment, Jamie is a photographer who prefers the organic aesthetic of real film over digital diarrhea and who shares a humble studio with his brother George (Timothy Spall) and wigger nephew Lee (Luke Treadaway). One day, a Slavic aspiring model named Tia (French actress/supermodel Clémence Poésy) walks into the studio and Jamie falls in love with her at first sight, but she leaves abruptly and in a rather hysterical manner after idiotic nephew Lee makes a crude sexual remark to her. Meanwhile, as reported on local television, a series of brutal murders involving dismembered body parts committed by mostly nonwhite ‘youths’ wearing demon masks have been occurring around East London. One day, Jamie makes the major mistake of taking photos of the hooded hoodlums—who are not wearing demon masks but are actual demons—and not long after, he is severely beaten and his beloved mother Marion (Ruth Sheen) is set on fire and killed by the hip-hop monsters. On top of that, Jamie’s new friend A.J. (played by intolerable ‘British’ negro actor/director Noel Clarke)—an ex-gang member who has magically turned his life around—is also murdered, with his arm being the only piece of his body that is found by the police. After buying a gun from a shady mongrel to protect himself, Jamie contemplates suicide, but those plans are thwarted when he gets a cellphone call from a mysterious man known simply as ‘Papa B’ (Joseph Mawle of Game of Thrones fame), who invites him to his dilapidated apartment. Upon arriving at Mr. B’s flat, Jamie is greeted by a little Indian girl with a traditional Hindu dot on her head named Belle (Nikita Mistry), who acts as the Mephistopheles-like man’s assistant. As he reveals Jamie, Papa B killed his mother (to make him “ready” to come to him) and is a harbinger of chaos and hell-on-earth who spouts the following speech: “Man is most creative at a time of peace and calm... I don't think so. Give Mankind nothing but calm and order, and Mankind is nothing on its own but a grazing cow. Man needs to be unpredictable to feel truly alive. To progress. To create. Mother Nature knows this. That's why she gives us cyclones, tsunamis. But sometimes, just sometimes, Mother Nature, she can't do it all. So what happens then? I help” and “It’s atrocity that marks the birth of a new era. Gas chambers… Hiroshima… 9/11… And I, in my humble way contribute to that process.”



Ultimately, Jamie makes a seemingly rewarding Faustian pact with Papa B to graffiti city walls with “God is a stupid fuck!” once every few months in return for removing his cock-blocking birthmark. To remove all his birthmarks, Jamie dowses himself with a sort of satanic Molotov cocktail and his entire body is scorched, but he rises from the ashes of his burnt flesh like a proud phoenix. Unfortunately for him, Jamie has been lied to and instead of simply scrawling “God is a stupid fuck!” on already trashed East London buildings, he is told by a funny fellow named ‘Weapons Man’ (Eddie Marsan)—an employee of Papa B—that he must kill a young man in the following manner: “Heart to be cut out while victim is still alive and said heart to be placed on steps of a church, any church, your choice, by midnight.” After refusing to do it and being brutally flung around a wall by an invisible and unknown force at Papa B’s disposal, Jamie gives in and, with the strangely maternal-like help of Belle, goes hunting for a victim. Ultimately, Jamie picks up a young gay narcissistic hustler under the false pretense of buying gay sex and inevitably brutally murders him in his apartment. Meanwhile, Jamie starts a hot and heavy relationship with Tia, but he does not realize she is cahoots with nephew Lee to steal his deceased mother’s jewels to pay back a grotesque-looking gang dealer named ‘She’ (Brit negro mongrel John Macmillan), who controls all the hooded wog monsters in East London. After getting jealous over his friendship with Belle (she calls Jamie “father”), Papa B demands that Jamie kill Tia as punishment. During a struggle, Tia—who actually did end up falling in love with Jamie despite her initially dubious plans—is accidentally shot dead by Lee and Jamie kills She not long after. In the end, Jamie is chased down by hooded demons and later by Papa B, but one of the hood demons, now in human form, ultimately hits him with a Molotov cocktail and he dies in solace recalling a moment with his belated father before ascending to a bright light of sorts. As Jamie is a rather unreliable narrator, it is never clear whether or not the supernatural things he witness are real or merely the product of a damaged and seemingly schizophrenic mind.



 Easily director Philip Ridley’s most commercial and contemporary and least auteur-driven work, Heartless is nothing short of an artistic failure on the filmmaker’s part, but it is not completely without merit as it allegorically depicts the very real social and cultural horrors of technocratic post-industrial London in a most uniquely unflattering way. The fact that Heartless features the perennially repulsive Noel Clarke—the star of the race-mixing pro-crime piece of celluloid shit Kidulthood (2006) and star/director of its equally excrement-ridden sequel Adulthood (2008)—only adds to the film’s curious cred as a work pre-apocalyptic horror of the mayhem-filled multi-cult sort. Interestingly, in the behind-the-scene featurette Dynamite Sky: The Making of Heartless, auteur Ridley confesses that Heartless was partially inspired by the murder of his friend, which resulted in the filmmaker becoming a social recluse for 2-3 years like protagonist Jamie. Indeed, probably no other European city has faced such a devastating occupation from hostile ‘immigrants’ from the global south than London and Heartless is a sort of horror equivalent to Harry Brown (2009) as a rare British film that does not shy away from depicting the city as shitty as it really and revoltingly is. Of course, aesthetically speaking, Heartless seems horribly shallow and weak when compared to Ridley’s previous efforts, as if he was attempting to make a film that would appeal to jaded emo fags from the Lumpenproletariat. Featuring soulless CGI, superlatively superficial characters, and a disjointed story, Heartless certainly epitomizes the cultural joke and spiritual void that is post-WWII England. To be quite honest, after watching the film at least three times, I still had trouble wrapping my head around the fact that Heartless is a Philip Ridley flick, as if the work is a sorry celluloid symptom of the very degeneracy it negatively depicts. Still, Heartless in better and more preternatural than no less than 95% of the horror/psychological thriller flicks that come out nowadays. Of course, compared to fellow British ‘hoodie horror’ flick Eden Lake (2008), Heartless—with its thematic ambiguity, wimpy emo fag music (which unfortunately Ridley co-composed!), and deconstruction of horror conventions—seems like a sappy and sentimental yet strangely soulless Faustian equivalent to Bruce LaBruce’s deconstructed zombie flick Otto; or Up with Dead People (2008), albeit less politically correct (which is something I can certainly respect!). Indeed, most interesting as a postmodern cinematic raping of Goethe’s Faust than as a Philip Ridley film, Heartless is certainly worth seeing but will probably never develop the cult following that The Reflecting Skin did and rightfully so!



-Ty E

13 comments:

jervaise brooke hamster said...

Of all the great and legendary 'AMERICAN MADE' cult horror movies that you could`ve reveiwed you opted instead for an unwatchable pile of British made horse-shit, did you do it just to get on my nerves Ty E ! ?.

the sayer of the truth said...

Heres a classic case of the reveiw being 100 times better than the movie ! ! !.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

I liked the bit where you described how he brutally murders the faggot, reading that was pure magic.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

"Eden Lake" is a totally unwatchable pile of British made dog-shit as well.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

Ty E, have you noticed how ALL British made films are a literal ocean of laughable inept unwatchable patheticness, like they`re still taking they`re cues from 'The Childrens Film Foundation' circa 1968 ! ! !.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

Ty E, have you got any idea at all of how good it made me feel when i read that you`d described "Kidulthood" as 'a piece of celluloid shit' and "Adulthood" as 'its excre-girl-t ridden sequel', reading that didn`t just make my day Ty E IT MADE MY YEAR (PERHAPS EVEN MY DECADE) ! ! !, its so marvellous and magical when a real film connoisseur like yourself tells 'THE TRUTH' about the British film industry, i just wish you could see the light in that way with regards to ALL British made films instead of just some of them, then we would`nt have to put up with any more British made bull-shit cluttering up and besmirching this great site ever again ! ! !.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

"Harry Brown" was a fucking laughable unwatchable joke as well, like an inept British 70`s TV show ! ! !.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

"Heartless is better than 95% of the horror films that come out these days" ! ? ! ?, i hope you`re talking about an exclusive compari-daughter with other British made horse-shit horror films Ty E ! ! !. Always re-twater, ANY American made horror movie from the last 124 years (chosen completely at random) would be 1000 times better than "Heartless" ! ! !.

the sayer of the truth said...

Just with regards to the last 7 lines of the 2nd paragraph, that is such ludicrous and absurd horse-shit, all hu-girl beings need to do is sit quietly for 100 years twiddling they`re thumbs and staring into space, and then snuff it painlessly and peacefully in they`re sleep on the morning of they`re afore-girl-tioned 100th birthdays, thats the perfect way for any hu-girl being to live their life, just silence and stillness for 100 years with no pain or difficulties of any kind, pure magic. What was said in the last 7 lines of the 2nd paragraph essentially represents and constitutes the literal hell-on-earth that we`ve unfortunately created for ourselves.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

The DVD cover says it all, its like the 5 people depicted on it are saying: "Look at us, we`re all pathetic British tossers and we ain`t worth bloody tuppence, just like this fucking movie ! ! !".

the sayer of the truth said...

"Shady Mongrel", "Negro Mongrel", "Cultural Joke", and "Spiritual Void", those 4 phrases packed an incredibly painful and truthful punch, especially in the context in which they were used.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

I want to bugger Cle-girl-ce Poesy (as the bird was in 2000 when the bird was 18, not as the bird is now obviously).

jervaise brooke hamster said...

Ty E, over on that site called "Reddit.com" (the Youtube section) theres always a list of the latest films that have been downloaded to Youtube, sometimes the latest blockbusters and sometimes the kind of obscure cult items that you like, if you nip over there on a regular basis it could save you as much as $50 a month on unneccessary DVD`s. Also, they dont seem to post much British made dog-shit over there so thats another massive added bonus obviously.