onsdag 25 januari 2012
H.P Lovecraft’s The Color out of space is in my opinion one of his best short stories, detailing the deterioration of a small farm after a meteorite contaminates the land. The alienness of the decay in both humans and everything around them is one of the most memorable events in any Lovecraft novella. There have been a few movie adaptions of it earlier, such as Daniel Hallers Die, monster, Die! from 1965 with Boris Karloff and Nick Adams (not a bad little flick but not very Lovecraftian), David Keiths The Curse from 1987 that starts out as a decent adaption but fails miserably when it goes for the old "We need a biiig climax" shtick. Italian filmmaker Ivan Zuccon had a decent go at it in 2008 with his Colour from the dark, a movie that benefitted from excellent visuals and a strong production design when it came to the decay of the land but changed the concept into something more supernatural and ergo, less fun than it could have been. Now onto Huan Vus adaption Die Farbe (The Colour), a low budget independent movie shot in yummy b&w and is quite faithful to the original story while having the audacity to expand upon it with a new narrative that opens and closes the movie. How does it fare compared to the earlier tries and more importantly, how does it fare as an adaptation of Lovecraft?
What Die Farbe does with the story is to start with an opening set in America where a young man travels to Europe to locate his missing father who left for a small village that he had some sort of connection to. He meets an old man who recognizes the father and starts to tell a story. In flashback we move to just after the end of the Second World War where a German farmer comes home from the front, only to find that his farm has been annexed by American soldiers to house wounded people. They need a guide to go further into the valley but the soldier refuses at first. We then go further back in time as the young man watches as a meteorite strikes the ground near a neighboring farm, melting into the ground and making their crops grow abhorrently large, and as it turns out, totally inedible. The meteorite also seeps into the well, contaminating the water and turning both the land as well as its inhabitants into something else. Something alien.
Is this the Lovecraft adaption we all have been waiting for, the one that finally will give us a glimpse into that strange world that grew inside H.P Lovecraft’s head? The simple answer is no and I doubt we will ever see anything resembling the images we create in our heads when reading the short stories. Die Farbe does give it a good go. The extended narrative is evocative and helps expanding the story into something more interesting for those of us that know the story by heart, though there is a totally unnecessary twist at the end that comes out of the blue and only serves to confuse the viewer. It should have been left out of the movie. The actors are serviceable as long as they speak in the native German but the actor that is supposed to portray an American never comes close to sounding like one. The film also feels a bit toned down, the alien horror excesses never even comes close to the delirium of the original story but I suspect that was for both budgetary and maybe artistic reasons. I can live with it, the overall atmosphere of the decaying German valley might not be straight out of the Lovecraft story but it is still chilling enough for me. Die Farbes greatest strength lies in shooting the whole thing in evocative black and white, with the entity the only thing that has a color, a fun effect although it works more in concept than on film for the reason that it is just an earthly color we are seeing.
So, was Die Farbe a disappointment? At first I thought so, a friend of mine had hyped it and since I am a fan of Lovecraft’s fiction I had high expectations. Maybe I expected something else but when I stepped out of the theatre I felt slightly underwhelmed. The movies focus on ambience over goo was maybe part of the "problem", maybe I wanted more. But after a couple of days I started thinking about it, there were images that would not leave my head. To me that is proof that a movie does what it should, that the creators had something to say. It might fail as a Lovecraft adaption but it does a pretty good job as an art-house excercise in mood and ambience. Other Lovecraft fans will want to see this, it is still a lot better that the cheesy Curse and has more alienness than Colour out of the dark. A nice try, well worth watching.
You can get it here