Tuesday, November 22, 2011

THE TWILIGHT SAGA: BREAKING DAWN - PART 1 - Cronenberg meets Christian fundamentalists

THE TWILIGHT SAGA, based on Stephenie Meyer's turgid novels, and starring the pretty R-Patz, gay icon Taylor Lautner, and professionally bored Kristen Stewart, is critic proof. It will rake in millions upon millions at the box office from hysterical hordes of narcissistic and insecure teenage girls, who dream of being fought over by not one, but two dishy boys - but all, let us not forget, in the safest possible manner.  Because these are films and novels about the wisdom of abstinence until there's a ring on your finger. The result in a saga that have been, up until this instalment, utterly anaemic - foregoing a potent gothic mix of subversive sex and death for the bland trite stylings of Sweet Valley High.  

It comes, then, as something of a relief, to find mopy Bella (Stewart) finally tying the knot with rich cool vampire Edward (Pattinson).  To be sure, in order for her to cope with his powerful vampiric sex drive he's going to have to turn her into a vampire too, and this clearly pisses off Edward's hot-blooded werewolf rival Jacob (Lautner) although apparently not Bella's mum and dad.  For reasons I never really understand, though, Bella decides not to be turned before her honeymoon, and so go at it with gay abandon, but after her honeymoon. The implications of this are that she - beaten and bruised by her vampiric husband - still begs him for sex (sex, that we never see mind you, despite waiting for eons of boring abstemious cinema time) - and then falls pregnant with a half-breed child that kills her as he grows inside of her.  Of course, she won't consider an abortion, this being a book penned by a writer with a specific moral agenda, and the denouement of the film is a kind of explicit body horror that comes straight from the cinema of Cronenberg.

The resulting film is both severely tedious, embarrassingly low-rent, but also provocative. The first hour is a drippy super-romantic marriage sequence that feels like an endless montage and advert for interior decorating.  The honeymoon is similarly out of Conde Nast traveller, and annoyingly coy.  The acting is sub-par. The dialogue stilted.  The second hour of the film then trips into all out body horror that was satisfyingly gory - brilliant FX turning Stewart into an emaciated victim of internal vampiricism - followed by a birthing scene that will turn anyone celibate.  How to reconcile the two?  How to sit still through the boring first hour and twenty minutes before you get to the gore?  By pondering the provocative messages we are sending our teenage girls by giving them a popular culture that combines the famous-for-being-slutty Paris Hilton and Snooky and the equally extreme abstemiousness of the Twilight Saga.  How on earth are they meant to have a healthy attitude toward sex and toward their own physical health? What messages are they getting from seeing a battered Bella beg for sex? I mean, for fuck's sake, shouldn't we be telling them that when a guy leaves you battered, you leave? 

The whole thing is frankly at once highly silly and camp, and yet at the same time, deeply deeply disturbing.  Let's just get Part 2 over with.

BREAKING DAWN PART 1 is on global release.

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