September 2nd, 2006

Brad @ Burning Man

Why a Wicker Man?

What the producers of the original The Wicker Man started out with was just a simple idea: let's make a horror film that is beautiful enough, and most of all intelligent enough, that there's no reason to be ashamed of it, something that could stand up to the closest scrutiny of art-film buffs, even outside the horror movie ghetto. That, and a thumbnail premise: we'll make it about a cult that still practices human sacrifice in the 20th century. So they went out to the bookstores, found a book with that premise that they were told was selling reasonably well called The Sacrifice, and optioned the movie rights to it. But when they sat down to study it, and figure out how they wanted to film it, they concluded the same thing about The Sacrifice that can reasonably be concluded about almost all horror fiction in the entire history of the genre: it made no sense. People just don't act like that; nothing like that would ever happen. And they decided, "We can do better than this." And at the absolute top of the reasons why I love the original movie The Wicker Man, the reason that not even the two edited-down versions of it, let alone the recent homage/remake can bear comparison to it, is that they succeeded. The more you think about the original director's cut of The Wicker Man, the more sense it makes. Let me show you what I mean with a totally spoiler-ific outline of the events in the film, not in the order they're told, but in the order they must have occurred. In so doing, I'm going to refer to two long scenes that hardly anybody has ever seen. They were in the film as originally shown, but no print of that original film survived; all we have to go on are some photographs that were taken during shooting and the memories of the actors who were interviewed about the missing scenes later. Collapse )

Oh, I like some of the music. And I loved seeing the premise, acted out on screen, that a modern town could be just as happy and productive as Pagans as they would be as Christians, and also seeing Diderot's semi-sarcastic addendum that "as pagans, we might be merrier" enacted. Like virtually every Pagan who's seen the film, part of me wishes I could live in Summerisle -- a hope that the film encourages with a hoax in the opening credits, which thanks the gracious hospitality of the people of Summerisle "without whose help this film could not have been made." But what makes it stay with me, after multiple viewings and multiple years, is that it's an honest tragedy. People in it act as people really act, trying to do the best they can in whatever situation they're in as the people they couldn't help growing up to have become. But, as in all great tragedy, the best they were capable of just wasn't enough to prevent a man's death. And I'll take that kind of emotionally honest tragedy over a million cheesy horror movies any day.