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The Beach (I) (2000)
Somewhere on this planet it must exist.
Director: Danny Boyle

Twenty-something Richard travels to Thailand and finds himself in possession of a strange map. Rumours state that it leads to a solitary beach paradise, a tropical bliss - excited and intrigued, he sets out to find it.

The Beach (I) (2000)

Exotic Adventures

For me, when a film fails to engage me by itself, I jump up a level, in this case making it a chapter in the movie of the life of Danny Boyle. I like the guy. I like his instincts. He envisions worlds that resemble reality but which can only exist in cinema, and then he allows the world to emerge in cinematic constructions as if it were its own character.

This is an enticing way to invite us into a film, because it comes to us one with the means by which it comes to us. But this film failed, even by his measure. I think one reason is the heavy-handed control the producers asserted. Key elements of the cast, story and art design were beyond his control.

But still, you can see some missteps, and they become more obvious when you see how Boyle handled similar challenges in subsequent movies.

The exotic here simply does not impress as exotic. He fixed that in ‘Slumdog.‘ There is the dramatic device of encounter with merciless nature as purifying. This is a questionable dynamic for a viewer to accept because accommodating it for living is expensive. Nonetheless, Boyle mastered this in ‘Hours.‘ And then there is the more interesting and powerful notion of the ‘inner movie‘ as it folds into the larger events. In this film, we have the idea of computer games. The writer makes an awkward conflation of desktop computers and hand-held gaming, and also email with gaming. But long before that, there are difficulties. The inner game Richard experiences when in his heart of darkness does not comply with what I will call Ted’s law: that the difference between the viewer’s comfortable world and the normal world of the film (here the community on the beach) should be the same as the difference between that world and the hallucinated one.

Boyle solved this amazingly effectively with his ‘Sunshine,‘ which very much impressed me in this regard. But there is an inner hallucination in ‘Hours‘ that works and the more contrived TeeVee show in ‘Slumdog‘ that works as well. Both adjust to this rule, which seems to be a hard limit on our ability to comprehend narrative.

So I see this, not so much as Richard‘s story, but the story of Danny‘s disastrous encounter, and what he learned.

Posted in 2011

Ted’s Evaluation — 2 of 3: Has some interesting elements.


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