I saw the new British film ‘The Falling’ the other night, which was by and large a worthwhile endeavour. In very general terms the film is about a mass fainting outbreak at an all girls school in the late 60s. Whether or not this outbreak is genuine illness or a self conscious act of rebellion is one thrust of the film, but there’s more going on too.
You see, the main character and possible ringleader of this outbreak (played by Maisie Williams of Game of Thrones fame) has a brother. He wears a pentagram ring, suggests they do some ‘magick, with a ‘k” and talks about ley lines running under the school. Add to that a kind of mystical sensitivity about the filmaking, from the drowsy music to lingering shots of the verdant parkland around the school and ritual-looking acts performed by some of the girls. Almost subliminally flashed images hark back to other depictions of magic like Kenneth Anger or more recently A Field In England and even Interstellar (which I mentioned here)
Is this all psychological, is it illness or is it magick? The film juggles this ambiguity very well, although for me it drifts away towards the end.
Rather strangely, it put me in kind of a very different film which would have been improved a great deal by some ambiguity: Season of the Witch starring Nicolas Cage.
Yeah, it’s not quite the same kind of thing, but bear with me! Nic Cage and Ron Perlman are former Templars tasked with transporting a supposed witch across medieval Europe to stand trial. Don’t ask, it makes perfect sense. Anyway, en route Nic starts to wonder whether this waif really is a witch at all or whether she’s simply being persecuted. Over the next few scenes our travelling band are variously set upon or near thwarted by the elements, only to somehow triumph each time with the help of the witch’s magical powers. Oh and she also warps one of the party’s mind and makes him kill a chum. So yeah, witch not waif.
Each time, our Nic is otherwise engaged and doesn’t see what happened. I can’t help but wonder if there is an earlier draft of the screenplay where we as the audience are kept guessing too. I think it would have made for a much more interesting film. Still would have been rubbish, but more interesting rubbish perhaps.
I love fantastical stuff in pretty much any medium, and am more than happy when weirdness is confronted head-on. That said, there’s a special power that can come from ambiguity when it’s handled well. The Falling did just that for the most part and could be worth a watch for that reason alone. The Craft it ain’t! Do you have any favourites that leave us in the dark as to what’s really going on?