Saturday, November 22, 2014

True Detective, the Silence of the lambs and over-kill

Caution 1: Spoilers Alert! You shouldn’t read this if you haven’t watched True Detective (sitcom), Prisoners (movie), The Silence of the lambs (movie) yet.

Caution 2: Long Post!

A gruesome crime premised upon the collective gist of inter-connected sub-plots, oozing with a tremendous amount of shock-value, captivating and sometimes equally excruciating progression of the story during tense moments, and then the haphazardly conjured up climax scene. All adjectives in the opening line are elegantly interlocked except haphazard – because any crime-thriller sitcom has to maintain a self-imposed pace to build the tension, fan it with surprise or revelations and in the end at the climax all hell has to break lose to make it a worthwhile watch for audiences. No matter how good the main plot or sub-plots are – ultimately it’s the climax that gets etched in the memory of the spectators forever. A minor let-up here and there in the plot, some loose ends in the story are happily ignored or condoned by the audiences, only if the climax scene lives up to the expectations.

I am starting the second paragraph by writing something obvious - a television crime drama TV series can afford to be lot more complex and extravagant than a crime-thriller movie because in a TV series, you have enough time and space to stretch the story in sub-plots. Yes, same can be done with movies, but here the director has to keep the running time in mind and sub-plots can’t be stretched beyond a point.

Recently I finished watching all the eight episodes of “True Detective Season 1.” The story starts with former Louisiana State Police detectives Rust Cohle (Matthew McConaughey )and Martin Hart (Woody Harrelson) being questioned by two currently deployed detectives separately, regarding a few murders – happened way back in 1995. The major events in the story are shown in the flashback versions of the former detectives. All the episodes were so engaging that I finished watching them all in two days, but the climax left me in the lurch.

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As a big fan of suspense-thriller sitcoms, I want convincing and moving plots complemented with a mind-boggling climax. In the first episode, when the first murder happened, there were apparent hints or signs that the crime was related to religious passion or motivated by some satanic customs or nefarious voodoo practices. And, as Cohle and Hart further unearthed some interesting details, audiences got conclusive proof that the gruesome crimes were committed by some people indulging in some necromancy or voodoo practicing. As the plot thickened, I thought there could be another angle than just voodoo and black-magic shit, but that was not the case.

A writer or director gets too many options to show crimes happening in different stages and committed in the most grotesque manner or there could be many ramifications – if the plot is based upon some magic shit or superstitious beliefs. Any sort of absurd, hilarious or exaggerated imagination does not need any justification and things could be exaggerated to a great extent and fittingly termed as flimsy and bizarre – if they are based upon superstition. As a writer or director of such sitcoms, you can be as creative as you can in depicting the modus-operandi of the criminals and the motives of the perpetrators of the crimes – because their (perpetrators’) actions could be based on something – we can’t comprehend because that something is based upon a belief or superstition. And we as audience would never know that because all would be based upon superstition! Give me a break!   And, same happened with True Detective and in the end whole idea looked flawed. Why did they do that? Yes, they (perpetrators of crimes) did horrible things to those people before killing them but why? No need to go after the answer, because their actions were motivated by some shitty rituals. There goes my imagination for a toss!

Let’s talk about characters now. Throughout the story, as it flows, Cohle (Matthew McConaughey), the main protagonist looks eccentric and indomitable - a man who is too much attached to his job that he just does not give a damn about other things in the world. At times during his interaction with other guys, Cohle preaches his self-styled philosophy like a stubborn bloke who is just too good for this world. No doubt, he appears rationalist and different from others. In a way we all want to be like him. Such characters instantly find appeal among audiences because they look rational and larger than life. You can’t help liking these characters because they don’t crave for that sense of belongingness to the worldly things and usually appears detached from this mortal and ever-changing world and yes we also crave for that feeling and at times also behave like that – at least to look different or to get that vicarious pleasure that we don’t give a damn about the problems afflicting us and those who belong to us. Well, McConaughey’s character is simply portrayed in that manner. He is not normal – suffers from insomnia and behaves as if he is just at the breaking-point. He doesn’t snap!

As expected, Cohle’s partner Martin Hart (Woodly Harleson) is reduced into a sidekick who appears like a lot more believable character. He is your everyday guy with typical family issues and desires. Till the very end, McConaughey’s character shines in his hubris of being different and when he looks vulnerable or behaves like a common man, he talks – but, whatever he talks does not make much sense. Exaggerated sense of eccentricity made McConaughey look like Nana Patekar of 90’s, when the Maharashtrian actor featured in Partho Ghosh’s films, where roles were written specifically for Nana. What Nana did in “Krantiveer” earned him many admirers, but then he overdid it by replaying the role of a disgruntled self-styled preacher, on burning issues, plaguing the society, again and again until his whole act or acting-effort was labeled as stereotype. The preaching is fine if the end could have been better, but that did not happen in True Detective.

The clever dialogues are written really well and McConaughey delivers them with his usual panache. The only thing that makes me feel sick is that why these guys come to the religion or voodoo magic or other old customs to create chaos. Every day we read in newspapers about so many incredible crimes of passion. Come on, the world is full of crazy people, who raise hell every day and commit horrible and incredible crimes – yes they appear surreal at times. So, there is enough fodder out there to churn out stories devoid of any religion-based or superstition-based angle. Yes, writers or directors don’t need to connect them with religion.

McConaughey’s character portrayal couldn’t have bothered me much only if the ending would have been better. You got to justify the motive behind crime. How can a specific group of people go on a killing spree – without getting noticed by others? Here I would like to give a perfect example of motive of a killer in “Silence of the lambs.” The killer Jame “Buffalo Bill” Gumb had a traumatic childhood. Bill is described as not really transgender, but he merely believes himself as being one, because he "hates his own identity".

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The entire plot of the “Silence of the lambs” movie was ripped off by Tanuja Chandra to make a Bollywood film Sangharsh in 1999 – starring Akshay Kumar and Preity Zinta. The plot was almost same except the motive of the killer. Tanuja Indianised (altered) the motive of the killer Lajja Shankar (Ashutosh Rana) by bringing in superstitions on the fore – this guy believes that he can achieve immortality by sacrificing (killing) the children. Not same but once again religion based shit was shown in Prisoner movie (starring Hugh Jackman). In Prisoners, the killers, which are an old couple, wage a war against God by killing children – because they lost their only child to illness and they blame God for that.  The dialogues, conflicts between main characters and other factors were too good in the movie – except the motive of the killers – because once again it was based on religion or some crappy belief. Every moment haunts you and keeps you on the edge of your seat in such stories, but as you begin connecting the dots towards the end – things fall apart because everything looks so absurd because a superstitious belief of the perpetrator is forced upon the spectators – they have to believe in that. Now, I must tell the writers of such stories - guys it’s overdone or you just over-killed it – time to come up with something different. Enough!

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