Sunday, June 7, 2009

UNDER THE VOLCANO (John Huston, 1984, USA) Geoffrey Firmin haunts his last day with the spirits of the dead, his tempestuous life boiling like the fires of Popocatépetl: a man who foresees the Nazi conflagration ready to engulf the world. Set in 1938, Firmin is an ex-British Counsel, a man whose life has descended into the liquid inferno of alcoholism, a man who has become an iconoclast seething of self-hatred and sarcasm. Geoffrey is not an immoral man but he has pushed those closest to him towards the abyssal boundaries of his life: his wife Yvonne and his half-brother Hugh, his caretaker. Director John Huston foregoes any traditional narrative and utilizes a cinéma-vérité style as we flounder alongside Geoffrey in a nihilistic stupor. Huston’s location filming and the use of non-actors and crowds add to this documentary style insight, which allows the audience direct contact with Firmin’s inner demons. Huston pay homage to THE HANDS OF ORLAC (aka MAD LOVE) another film about a man who loses his actress wife Yvonne but in Geoffrey’s world there is no happy ending. Albert Finney deftly captures the decaying decent into the thickening gloom of desperation, even his dark sunglasses give the impression of a living skull, but there is a subtext to the narrative that transcends his addiction. Firmin has abandoned his post as British Counsel in this small Mexican village, which has been infiltrated by Nazi sympathizers: his physical impotence reflects that of his patriotism, Britain’s signing of the Munich Pact with a country of murderers. The story flows from this weakness, as he understands that no miracle will save him or humanity, and it is better to live a few hours on your own terms than in a world of madness. He stumbles through a rainy night and arrives at a seedy bar where he finally achieves his last orgasm, before being executed by local bandits. Yvonne’s bold love is trampled under a white horse: her knight in shinning armor has returned home. (B+)

No comments: