Blog Directory CineVerse: Born again into a world without fear and hate...or love

Born again into a world without fear and hate...or love

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Philip Kaufman's 1978 reboot of "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" acquits itself nicely as one of the finest film remakes ever, as evidenced by the positive reception given the movie by CineVerse attendees last evening. Here's what we concluded about this notable sci-fi/horror hybrid:

HOW IS THIS REMAKE DIFFERENT FROM THE ORIGINAL RELEASED IN 1956?
·       The original examined “society’s fear of the things that lie outside its rigid conservative confines,” according to reviewer Richard Scheib. That was a film whose subtext explored Americans’ paranoia about communist infiltration into our society (with the pod people being conformist, non-emotional, unthinking communist clones). 1950s America was also fretful about the bomb.
·       This movie, by contrast, reflected a vastly different society that was distrustful of the government and political institutions following Watergate and Vietnam; the 1970s society depicted in the remake is more concerned about conspiracies and nihilism.
·       The remake is set in a bustling metropolis (San Francisco), whereas the original is set in small-town suburban America, and the protagonists try to make it to the safety of the city; in this 1978 version, the hero tries to get as far away from the city as he can. The remake suggests that “urban isolation leaves us abandoned in times of need,” wrote blogger Timothy Brayton.  Also, “urban alienation has become such that the actual meeting and contact of people is seen as something unsettling, which is surely a complete reversal of the message of the 1950s,” Brayton posited.
·       The remake is also different from the original and other remakes, for that matter, in that it assumes our audience intelligence: it doesn’t have to explain that it’s aliens at work here, or try to give us that same backstory; we see right from the opening credits that it is extraterrestrials at work.
·       The original moves along at a faster clip, building tension with a quickening pace and unrelenting directorial style; in the remake, the filmmakers opt for more of a meditative, lingering approach that gives scenes room to breathe and for us to ponder the brooding atmosphere created by lingering on characters and maintaining longer shots. That being said, the film does feature a lot of moving camera and indirect details that you need to pay attention to in every frame.
·       The 1956 version is concerned about threats to the survival of the nuclear family, while the remake seems focused on threats to the survival of heterosexual coupling, sexual love, and traditional reproduction between a man and a woman. Consider all the male/female symbolism (in the house, the d├ęcor includes busts, dolls, and paintings pairing males and females. Consider, too, how the pod transformations replace any need for heterosexual reproduction to perpetuate its species.
·       There seems to be more hope at the conclusion of the 1956 original, as if suggesting that we need to wake up and begin to fight back; the last words are “it’s an emergency!” But in the remake, the ending is much more pessimistic and nihilistic; it ends in a terrifying shriek and the bleak knowledge that the hero we’ve been trusting is now a pod person, too.
·       The remake also boasts an outstanding score and sound design, including harsh industrial sounds and bleats; additionally, the movie’s score was mixed using the four-channel Dolby Stereo process, which was new and innovative for its time.

HOW IS THE 1978 REMAKE A TIME CAPSULE PRODUCT OF ITS TIMES, YET ALSO A TIMELES TALE?
·       There are a lot of 1970s trappings and tropes built into the story, including pop psychology and the self-help movement, music for plants, mud baths, era-specific authors like Immanuel Vellikovsky, and self-absorbed intellectualism (on display in many a late 1970s Woody Allen movie).
·       The subtext seems to criticize the “me” generation and the post-hippie/post-Vietnam acquiescence to conformity and compromise that had occurred. Director Philip Kaufman was quoted as saying: “We were all asleep in a lot of ways in the fifties, living, conforming other-directed types of lives. Maybe we woke up a little in the sixties, but now we’ve gone back to sleep again.”
·       It’s fitting that the setting is late 1970s San Francisco, which had been the host of many a flower power child and counterculture figure; by the late seventies, however, any power that Frisco had as a countercultural home base had dissipated after the death of the 1960s ideals.

SYMBOLS AND MOTIFS FEATURED IN THIS FILM:
·       Spiderwebs (e.g., broken windshield, spores spreading out over the leaves, alien tendrils, etc.)
·       Clocks and pendulum movements
·       Garbage trucks
·       The pyramid building (standing almost like a phallic symbol)

WHAT OTHER FILMS COME TO MIND AFTER VIEWING THIS REMAKE?
·       They Live
·       Seconds
·       Conspiracy/political thrillers from the 1970s (e.g., Parallax View, All the President’s Men, Three Days of the Condor, etc.)
·       A Nightmare on Elm Street (terror of falling asleep)
·       Alien and The Thing (remake): two other films featuring gross-out effects depicting aliens infiltrating the human body

OTHER FILMS BY DIRECTOR PHILIP KAUFMAN
·       The Right Stuff (1983)
·       The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1987)
·       Henry and June (1990)
·       Quills (2000)

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