Tracker Pixel for Entry

​Garland’s Beastly ‘Men’

Cinema | May 23rd, 2022

By Greg Carlson

gregcarlson1@gmail.com

Novelist/screenwriter/director Alex Garland has earned a sizable and devoted following over the years. His previous two feature directorial efforts, “Ex Machina” and “Annihilation,” shimmered with retro-futurist cool and pop philosophical preoccupations enhanced by the presence of appealing performers, dazzling production design, and the sharp cinematography of Rob Hardy.

“Men,” Garland’s latest, will draw the filmmaker’s faithful, but the modest environs, esoteric posture, and open text most likely won’t translate to massive financial success.

“Men” alludes to several hallmarks of folk horror, including themes of ominous spirituality and religion, an isolated protagonist, a rural/pastoral setting, and the creeping sense of bleak and unrelenting nihilism pervading the film’s tone. The plight of Jessie Buckley’s Harper Marlowe, the widow whose desire to heal from the apparent suicide of her husband leads her to book an old house in a small village, becomes an exercise in potentially unreliable narration. So bizarre and eldritch are the increasingly impossible aggressions that one begins to wonder how much could be taking place in the fog of our heroine’s post-trauma imagination.

Garland’s central gimmick is the casting of Rory Kinnear as all of the villagers with whom Harper interacts upon arrival in Coston. Caretaker Geoffrey, whose oversized teeth and bad haircut imply a kind of clownish and narrow country mouse, leads the pack of masculine menace. Kinnear will also inhabit a vicar, a boy, a police officer, a pub proprietor, and a nude stalker, among others. Garland certainly isn’t shy about leaving room for a reading in which the omnipresence of Kinnear fires a warning shot that indeed all men are of no use, no help, no support, and certainly no comfort to Harper.

Kinnear’s multiplicity also shatters any hope of solace or solitude for Harper. Garland’s awareness that women simply can’t enjoy the same privileges as men – namely, the general lack of fear when alone in public and even private spaces that men nearly always take for granted – fuels one of the movie’s central themes. As Taylor Antrim succinctly puts it, Garland embeds provocative ideas in “thoughts about the ubiquity of masculine power, about how male violence and thuggery are everywhere — and how ancient they are.” Anthony Lane pushes just as hard, claiming that in the film’s world, “men are defined, and propelled, by the ill will that they bear to the opposite sex …”

All these strange reverberations and reflections among the characters portrayed by Kinnear are mirrored by a fantastic sequence in which Harper explores the woods near the rental property. At the mouth of a long tunnel, she composes a haunting, wordless song built out of the ripples of her own sustained vocal echo. For one fleeting moment, the character’s reason for leaving the city seems to take tentative shape and maybe even flight. It’s my favorite scene in the film.

The idyll is over almost as quickly as it begins, pointing toward increasingly nightmarish events that climax with wild, gender-inverting blasphemies of birth and rebirth as mysterious and incongruous as the frequent presence of the pagan Green Man in Christian chapels, churches and cathedrals. 

Recently in:

By Laura Simmonssabrina@hpr1.com The recent overturn of Roe v. Wade allowed North Dakota Attorney General Drew Wrigley to sign North Dakota’s trigger law, making abortion illegal starting July 28, 2022. Organizations providing…

By Melissa Van Der Stad  m.forfargo@gmail.comphoto credit: Keith Hapip, Jr.One North Dakota family is in the midst of an ongoing dispute with the…

July 29-30Newman Outdoor FieldSummer doesn’t get much better than when you’re Blues Festin’ out on the ballfield where the RedHawks play. Thirteen bands over two days. Lotsa food and awesome people. Friday’s lineup,…

By Sabrina Hornungsabrina@hpr1.comOur Opinion: Dissolve partisan lines and elevate the voice of the people.As cliche as it sounds, who would have thought that when we ”sprang ahead” into daylight savings time in March, we’d…

By Ed Raymondfargogadfly@gmail.com Remembering Two Men Whimpering in the Broken Jaw of Our Lost KingdomIn 1284, Hamelin, Germany hired a rat killer to rid the residents of the flea carrier bringing them the Black Plague. For some…

Well shiver me timbers. After weeks of sampling some of the finest drinks in F-M from more bars than we could shake a belaying pin at, the results of High Plains Reader’s 6th Annual Cocktail Showdown are in! For nine weeks,…

By Rick Gionrickgion@gmail.comWhile the Fargo-Moorhead area offers many great things to dine on these days, there are some hopeful establishments that would make for big improvements to the local food scene here.The first…

By Michael Strikemichaelstrike.solo@gmail.comBindle Fest is coming back to Fargo, and the third time's the charm for this sprawling DIY fest hosted across the Fargo/Moorhead area. Since its first inception in 2016, it's been an…

By Greg Carlsongregcarlson1@gmail.comFilmmaker and educator Raymond Rea, who recently retired from Minnesota State University Moorhead, made an indelible impact on the Fargo-Moorhead film community. In 2008, Rea arrived in…

By Sabrina Hornungsabrina@hpr1.comArtwork: Woodcut by Danielle Gravon titled "Allegory of Fargo Winter I"On June 18, the Rourke will be holding their 62nd annual Midwestern Preview, the date celebrating the opening anniversary of…

By Jessica M. Hawkesjmhawkes84@gmail.comIt wasn’t long after the founding of the railroad and river town of New Rockford that entertainment venues started to put down their own roots. Its population bolstered by booms of nearby…

By Sabrina Hornungsabrina@hpr1.comCharlie Berens is a man of many hats. The creator of the “Manitowoc Minute” is a newsman, comedian, writer and musician. We had the opportunity to speak with the Wisconsin native about his new…

By Kris Gruberperriex1@gmail.comSpring is here (mostly), and our area is buzzing with people eager to get back out and about -- many newly vaccinated and feeling a bit safer. Partnering with Jade Events, Fargo Brewing is just…

by Laurie J Bakeremsdatter@gmail.com Part of modern yoga is participating in the world around us. We live in a time of upheaval in society and nature, and of great suffering in humans of all ages. Most of us perceive this suffering…

By Sabrina Hornungsabrina@hpr1.comLehr Mayor and Council Members Donate City Salaries To Save Legion HallEvery rural community has at least one social space that holds multiple generations of memories and has remained a social…

By Madeline Lukemadelineluke@ymail.comSonja Kaye, of CLEAN in Fargo gave the third of four talks on climate change issues specific to North Dakota for the “What in the World Series,” in Valley City on April 5. While the topic…