Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Triangle (5 Stars)

Beware! This review contains spoilers!

The last time I watched this film I said that I intended to listen to the director's commentary. It took me two months, but I've finally got around to it.

When I bought my first few DVD's I always listened to the commentary track, usually immediately after watching the film. That's because commentary tracks were so new and exciting. I'd never had them on video tapes. After a while I became more selective. Some commentaries just aren't interesting. It's obvious that they were recorded as a chore, because the film studio expected it. It's the commentary track that encourages fans to buy a film on disc rather than watch it on Netflix.

When I think about it, the most entertaining commentary tracks I've heard aren't the ones made by the directors. The best commentary track I've ever heard is the one by Adam West and Burt Ward on the "Batman" DVD/Blu-ray disc. I'd also buy any disc with a commentary by the film critic Joe Bob Briggs, however bad the film is. Next time I watch one of the films I'll make a full list. It's on my to do list.

Russ Meyer's film commentaries are entertaining, but not very informative. He tends to talk about everything except for the film itself.

One of the best film commentaries I've heard is the commentary by Professor Camille Paglia for "Basic Instinct". She's an intellectual and a fan. In the commentary she claims it's her favourite movie, and then she analyses each scene from a feminist perspective. Immediately after listening to her commentary I restarted the film to listen to the commentary by Paul Verhoeven, the director, but I turned it off after 10 minutes. It was much too boring.

Now let's get to "Triangle". I've watched it a few times over the years, but there are a few things I don't understand about it. In my last review I mentioned the seagulls as something that seemed to be significant in the film.

After spending 90 minutes listening to the director Christopher Smith talking about the film I understand no more than I did before, but it doesn't matter. He talked in detail about his intentions in making the film and the steps he took towards the final project. I don't want to repeat everything he said -- buy the film for yourself if you want to hear his commentary -- but I'll tell you what were the most significant things for me.

His first intention was to make a horror film in which the same person was the killer and the victim. From this he had the idea of a woman coming back from the future to kill herself and her friends. At first he wanted her to come back from the distant future, 20 or 30 years in the future, but then he decided to put everything into a single day. An early plan was to set the film in the Bermuda Triangle, but he soon abandoned this idea as too hackneyed, and all that remained of the idea was the film title. He fleshed out the story with allusions to Greek mythology, in particular the story of Aeolus and Sisyphus.

The biggest influence for "Triangle" was "The Shining" (the film, not the book). Christopher Smith wanted to make a film that would have a similar effect on the viewer. He wanted to make a film that would be unnerving, though not directly a horror film. He wanted to make a film that would be a riddle, logically structured but leaving open questions. In preparation for filming "Triangle" he read as much about "The Shining" as possible, reviews by critics and interviews with Stanley Kubrick himself.

Christopher says that there are three possible interpretations for the film. Each person must choose the one he thinks most feasible.

1. The whole film is a dream that Jess has, which begins after the car crash that kills her son.

2. The film shows Jess's mental breakdown. She suffers from schizophrenia and creates a new persona that she can blame for the evil she does.

3. Jess is caught in a mystical time loop as a punishment from the Gods.

Until now I had never considered the first two possibilities. The time loop solution is so logical to me as a science fiction fan that I never thought it could be anything else. As soon as I heard these three interpretations I thought about my favourite film, "Lost Highway". The three interpretations can also be applied to "Lost Highway". Most people interpret the film as showing Fred Madison's schizophrenia, inventing a new persona to escape the guilt of killing his wife. I've always rejected this interpretation, because a time loop is more obvious, but maybe I should accept it as an equally valid explanation of the film. In the same way the story in "Lost Highway" can be explained as a dream that Fred has at the moment of his execution in the electric chair.

I'm an intellectual. I'm not saying that to compliment myself, it's just the way I am. I have a tendency to over-interpret things, especially the films I love the most. It's not necessary. "Triangle" is a fantastic film, and it can be enjoyed by anyone, whether he understands it or not.

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