Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Jason watches THE WICKER MAN (1973)

I don't know why I specified the year up there. I mean, there isn't any other version of THE WICKER MAN, right? Oh sure, there were horrible rumors of a remake, but that was only a cruel hoax perpetrated by people who should be stung repeatedly by killer bees.

Anyway, since this movie is older than I am, I'm gonna go ahead and not avoid spoilers in this review. Consider yourself warned.

I've seen THE WICKER MAN several times, but never before on the glorious Castro screen, and never in this fully restored definitive cut. The thing I find every time I see it, I'm drawn into the mystery again. I know how it will end, but credit Edward Woodward's amazing performance as Sgt. Howie along with the entire cast (especially Christopher Lee) and a brilliantly written slow reveal with keeping the mystery fresh every time. No matter how many times I see it, I never lift myself into the privileged omniscient view, I always see it from Sgt. Howie's point of view, as he's discovering the mystery. No matter how much I know that Britt Ekland dancing naked with just an easily-opened door between them, I always see it as a sinister seduction (like he does) instead of as his opportunity for survival (which of course I know it is, I just never feel it at the time.)

But what I finally picked up on this time was that Lord Summerisle (Lee) doesn't actually believe in the old gods. What I used to see as a bizarre 'fuck you!' to Christianity in favor of paganism, I appreciate more as a cynical ploy to bend religion to serve political power. See, I'm pretty sure Summerisle is an atheist. He so much as admits that his grandfather was--he was a scientist who used the old pagan religion to secure favor with the locals and depose the Christian missionaries so he plant his experimental crops on their island. His father carried on the tradition "out of love" so maybe he was a believer. But the current Lord Summerisle--he's a cynical manipulator. It's not about one religion being right or wrong. It's not about the Christian losing and receiving the gift of a martyr's death. It's about twisting a religion to hold on to political power at all costs--even if it means using that religion to convince your followers to commit murder. That's why I saw something that I hadn't really picked up on before: when Sgt. Howie makes his plea at the end, he asks Lord Summerisle to consider what will happen if their crops fail again next year. They'll need another human sacrifice, and nothing short of Summerisle himself would do at that point. He immediately responds that the crops "WON'T FAIL!" but just before that I detected a strong hint of fear in Lee's face.

It's a brilliant movie that keeps rewarding multiple viewings like that.

Running Time: 102 minutes
My Total Minutes: 338,339
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