By Elkay Takhel
“We” consider ourselves to be the most superior of beings, the smartest of all the “beasts.” But we often forget that on a larger, universal scheme of things, our existence holds, maybe, not even an iota of importance nor consequence. Nature, at one small wave of her well-manicured hands, can wipe every proof of our being “here” forever. Well, such existential thoughts that sometimes manage to creep into my jumbled traffic of thoughts, quite easily give me the shivers and leave me wondering and questioning a lot of things; like many of us, I’m sure, or is it just me?
Off I go again on one of my many, many derailed train of thoughts. But that’s not what I’ve been asked to talk about. I’ve been asked to write about what little “cenema” I’ve watched and liked and hopefully guide you- our esteemed readers- in the direction of a movie that you just might find interesting. And since we are talking on the lines of “The End of the World” and such bright topics, the movie this week is also one of such.
“Take Shelter” is a frightening thriller that starts from a point where the lead character – Michael Shannon as Curtis, a construction worker, has dreams where he is constantly haunted by apocalyptic visions of different consequences but always associated with the coming of a Storm. The problem starts when he starts believing that his visions/dreams are real. Well, this doesn’t bother his wife- Jessica Chastain much; at least initially when his dreams were just troubling nightmares. But then, he starts acting upon it. He starts making plans and starts building an elaborate storm-survival shelter of sorts, much to the concern of his wife and their meager finances.
Curtis, though, is a thinking, intelligent man and he knows that Schizophrenia runs in his family, the latest victim being his mother. He reads up books on his could-be condition and tries to get help from his local counselor He is concerned that he might be afflicted with the mental ailment, yet overcome by the intense need to protect his family from the oncoming apocalypse. He is also concerned that the only protection that his family needs might be from him. In this pursuit, Curtis runs into all sorts of troubles- gets fired from his job, loses his best friend and his mental status is questioned by his wife and himself; but he remains steadfast on doing what he feels needs to be done.
If we get to thinking, we might realize that “reality” and the perception of the world around us is just what our grey-matter tells us. Many times we have fallen victim to the Grey wizard upstairs and his wily ways. The film plays on that same chilling thought and uses it masterfully to create a tale of a man caught between “reality” and what he believes to be a “real” of the things to come.
Michael Shannon in the lead role as Curtis is very effective in portraying the role of the everyday family-guy who needs to provide and protect his family ‘come-what-may.’ Shannon is the likeable hardworking person one minute and in the next becomes the could-be-psychopath. His eyes evoke a certain sense of unease and dread in us and he does that with ease.
Jessica Chastain, as his wife Samantha has done a brilliant job yet again. She has starred in numerous well-acclaimed roles including the ones in ‘The Help’ and ‘The Tree Of Life.’ She portrays a person who, between taking care of the family and helping in the finances, is also the good wife who is always supportive of her husband, yet is concerned with his ever-increasing strange ways.
The film has scene where after building the shelter and the apocalypse still being an absentee, Curtis reluctantly starts convincing himself that he could have gone cuckoo and that his dreams were well, just that- dreams. But one night a storm does come and his shelter comes into use, finally. And his convictions that his visions were indeed real return all over again. The one I’m talking about is where his wife tries to convince him that the storm has passed and that it is safe to go into civilization once again. This is a very powerful scene where I am sure every viewer will be moved.
The film is a masterful thriller. With superb direction by Jeff Nichols and an even better, heart-touching performance by the lead actors, this is a movie that should be a must on every movie-buff’s lists. The film holds you in its grips from the word “go,” never letting go till the very “end” and manages to keep you thinking even after the credits. Even though the genre is one of Sci-Fi drama, the film has minimal special effects and CGI. It relies strongly and solely on the strong script, superb direction and some exemplary acting. If only directors like Michael Bay and his ilk would learn from such films.
“To be sure, the ancient belief that the dream reveals the future is not entirely devoid of truth. By representing to us a wish as fulfilled the dream certainly leads us into the future; but this future, taken by the dreamer as present, has been formed into the likeness of that past by the indestructible wish.”
-SIGMUND FREUD, The Interpretation of Dreams
With this, I’m signing off, for now. Till next time, “Take Shelter.”