Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close: directed by Stephen Daldry; written by Eric Roth
I consistently try to avoid any explicit discussion of the role that hype plays in the way films affect us. Andrew Buckle made a post about the role of expectations and whatnot in cinema. And, my strategic decision to avoid movie trailers as much as possible is less about a fear of finding out spoilers, and more about avoiding any judgement of films before they’re delivered. It’s also why I write little about films before they’re released. Anyhow, here we go. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, it’s difficult to mire through the criticism, opinions, emotions and information available on the film – and all of that before it was released. What makes good art? What deserves to be represented artistically? Who should be allowed to render that representation? It becomes difficult to extrapolate the Stephen Daldry film Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close from the worst day (what the child-protagonist refers to it as) which exists as an arc, but not precisely as the crux, in it. I am not American and my relation to the September 11 tragedy is a distant one. I’d like to not think that makes me quasi-expert at adjudging the film, but when I take a quick glance through a slew of reviews covering the film I wonder if the biggest crime of the film is having the temerity to use something so close to much of its audience as a canvas for this wide, bold, and dishevelled movie.
Moving on, though, because I try to avoid making my reviews a talking point in rebuttal…. There is a paucity of scenes in the film which do not unfold from its protagonist’s perspective, and it’s because the film harbours an expressly subjective relationship with its main character. This is a story about a boy’s attempt at finding meaning amidst a mass of confusion – the world. There is an almost existentialist angle to the overreaching quest for meaning that Oskar and those around try to achieve. There was a line floating around twitter saying that our response to any film (and, I’d interject – any artistic work) is essentially personal, and every other explanation is somewhat specious; or something to that effect (I cannot recall the quotation verbatim). And, perhaps, because I can understand that existential turmoil precipitating Oskar’s bizarre quest, it makes sense to me.
Thomas Horn is faced with a gargantuan task in the film. Much of the film’s most significant themes rest on his shoulders. He does a fine job. But, where the film falters most decisively is in its inability to express that with the immediacy it necessitates. Think of the drawings which functioned as a framing device in Rabbit Hole, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close and its own individuality could have done well with such a tactic. The film itself unfolds like an unrestrained outburst of emotion from Oskar, and the framing device of the film representing the book he creates is used a bit too sparingly for a film which rests so much on the personal. It’s why I’m loathe to refer to the film as “September 11” one.