Friday, November 10, 2017

Murder On the Orient Express Trailer #2

Details are imperative in this film, and there is a particular detail we must note, because we have to remember, when there is a character looking for clues, that is an invitation for us, the viewers, to also "look for clues" regarding what the film is really saying. Please notice, as you watch the film, the costumes involved: we have all ready analyzed some of the costumes in detail, but one aspect we haven't considered in this image of Hercule Poirot above: his coat. Because his arms are not in the sleeves of the coat, we may suspect that Poirot all ready has a clue about the play on the last name of "Armstrong," and I won't say anything else about that here, however, it also does something else to Poirot's coat: it turns it from a coat into a cape. A cape, like what Thor or Superman wears, is a sign of a burden willingly taken upon one's self, and their capes are red because they are willing to spill their (red) blood for those they love and the just cause. In the image above, I can't tell if Poirot's coat is blue--like his suit--or black, but Poirot has taken upon himself the burden of the case. 
Opening this weekend is a film I have greatly anticipated since the release of the first trailer: Kenneth Branagh's Murder On the Orient Express. The Agatha Christie story has been remade successfully numerous times for cinema so we have to ask, why again? The answer is never, ever, that someone thinks, "I can make a better film," rather, it's because this is such a good story, I want to make sure that cinema audiences today get to enjoy it (because few bother to watch films older than 2000, and certainly not films from the 50s, 60s or 70s). So, Branagh believes that something in this murder mystery is applicable to the world we live in today; how are we going to watch this film to deduce what his thesis is? (Don't worry, I'm not giving away any spoilers in this post, I would let you know if I were; the second trailer is at the end of this post if you need to see it again).
This is actually genius, doing it this way. Please note, that both hero (Poirot on the left) and villain (Ratchett on the right, Depp) have a scar on their left eye (Ratchett's isn't as visible in this shot, but you've noticed it in the trailers); why? To begin with, we know that a character's eye symbolizes their ability to see "beneath the surface," their "spiritual eyesight," because the eyes are the windows of the soul, so their ability for spiritual perceptions reflects how advanced or decimated their soul is. A wound suggests that one isn't able to properly see, but with Branagh having villain and hero share this trait, he's teasing us to "see" something else, specifically, that the wounds which have caused Poirot's eye to look strange have caused him to have deeper spiritual sight--he's the one who notices everything--whereas Ratchett's wound has caused him to ignore everything, giving him, at best, a shallow soul and one filled with crime and sin. In other words, the same (type of) misfortunes happened to both men, but they chose to handle it differently, Poirot growing wise and Ratchett becoming small and selfish (or worse). So, what about their mustaches? The mouth symbolizes our appetites, be they for food, sex, power, etc., and a man's facial hair (usually) accentuates that he has particular appetites (facial hair is associated with not shaving, and not shaving--no offense gentlemen, this is a broad historical portrait we are painting--was a sign to the well-groomed Romans of a barbarian who didn't shave, hence, facial hair has always had a negative connotation to it). So, what appetites can we deduce about Ratchett and Poirot? We actually see Ratchett eating when he joins Poirot at his table, while Poirot, who should be eating, reads instead (an appetite for knowledge). Poirot's mustache is intricately fixed and maintained, meaning he has an appetite for precision, and--because it's so obnoxiously big, like, really obnoxiously big--it means that Hercule (Hercules) Poirot has a "godly" appetite for justice, for avenging the innocent, for truth. Poirot also has some hair on his chin (sorry, don't know the proper grooming term for this, but I'll find out): the chin--being part of our jaws--suggests how we deal with justice towards ourselves: do we "take it on the chin" when someone insults us, or do we develop an appetite for revenge and resentment? Last, but not least, the gentlemen's neckties: Poirot's is a delicate, intricate knot, whereas Ratchett's is just flipped over, as if it's hiding something; what? We know the neck symbolizes or reveals that which leads us in life, so for Poirot, it's order, it's social norms and expectations (his tie is a traditional knot) whereas with Ratchett, it's something he can hide, something shady (and until we know more, we can't be specific, but as you watch the film, be looking for a thesis of "what leads him"). When we see Poirot with his tie slightly askew, that's a brilliant means of communicating to us that Poirot himself is askew in what guides him: either--depending on the place in the narrative--he has difficulties tracing down what clues should be leading him, or he sees exactly where the clues lead and that disturbs him, even to the point that he wants to avoid the proper conclusion to the case.
To begin, we know the film takes place in the 1930s; why? No, because Agatha Christie set the story in the 1930s is never a legitimate answer because that's a detail which can easily be changed to make something present day; what was happening in the 1930s? The Great Depression and the rise of socialism and fascism across Europe, which is exactly what is happening again today (although, since Trump took office, the economy has finally started booming, but during the Obama "Administration," it looked like the economy was going to completely die). So, we have the same "historical ingredients" in place in America which were historically in place in the 1930s.
What else?
These sweeping landscapes we will see are probably similar to our viewing of the sublime scenes in Dunkirk, in which Branagh also starred.Why? First of all, there is a symbolic significance in the landscape, especially the snow: either people have conquered their sins, so now they can reach up, closer to God (because the "hardness of heart" is symbolized by a mountain) or people have so hardened their hearts by sin that their heart has become a wilderness. Notice the vastness of this mountain range, then the small track of railroad upon which the world-famous luxury Express runs. That is civilization. That is progress. That is capitalism. We have seen a similar shot to this, in fact, in Fast and Furious 7 when the Toretto family drive their amazing cars through a winding road of desert and camel herders; which world would you rather live in, both film makers ask us, the world where nature enslaves us to our surroundings, or the world where we have mastered our surroundings and we can exert our will and do as we please?
This is where it gets a bit tricky, but we all ready have the tricky part figured out. The "snow" and the vapor from the train is really water, and we know that water symbolizes the different stages of reflection (we'll go in-depth in the post for those who don't remember/know). Snow is the third and final stage, meaning the person(s) has accepted what has happened but now they have to heal,... or they refuse to heal, which is why I'm stopping at this point, because when we first see snow appear is going to be critical to understanding the trauma the film explores and how that trauma relates to our own events in today's world. There is an avalanche which stops the train, and that avalanche is a "collision of reality and meditation," in that the train is reality and the snow is the meditation, the spiritual awakening or insight. When the avalanche stops the train, it's going to be a massive symbol of how to "dig out" of the larger trauma being exposed in the film.
The train itself will be a "character" in the film, and we will discuss this further after we have seen it, however, keep in mind, that a "vehicle" is a "vehicle" of the Holy Spirit, and as such, will symbolize the "movement" of the soul(s) of those aboard it. In other words, how do the people aboard the Orient Express change over the course of the film's events? Are those changes for good or bad regarding that character's soul?
The film begins in Jerusalem, the Holy City, the Old City. Why? There is a "religious nature" to Poirot's mission (Kenneth Branagh). Jerusalem is sacred to Muslims, Jews and Christians, so it's a location which binds and unites us--and trust me, "united" is the last thing anyone can say about the United States today.From Jerusalem, Poirot travels to Istanbul,... and now we have an interesting detail: at least three films that I can think of from the past couple of years have featured Istanbul, specifically The Blue Mosque which was featured in Taken 2, Skyfall and Argo. In both Taken 2 and Skyfall, the white heterosexual men are seen pursuing the enemies with courage and determination; in Ben Affleck's Argo, his Canadian hero (socialism) is seen sneaking around, terrified and impotent. We'll see how Poirot makes out when he's in Istanbul (which used to be Constantinople). Lastly, pay attention to class dynamics: which social/economic class is each character from, and how do they interact with other characters from different classes? I plan on seeing Murder On the Orient Express Friday afternoon, and will do my very best to get a post up this weekend,.... really, my very best.
Eat Your Art Out,
The Fine Art Diner