2011 has been a weird year for cinema. Lars Von Trier admitted to being a Nazi, A werewolf fell in love with a baby in a 12A and one of the best films of the year was a documentary (Senna), WTF right? All this has meant that choosing one film to crown as my annual favourite has been even harder than usual. Then there’s the films I haven’t even seen yet; Take Shelter, Money ball and The Artist could all as yet take the crown but for now they’ll have to wait.
To make the task arbitrarily easier I have also discounted those movies decorated by the Academy earlier on in the year. Using my dog eared collection of ticket stubs I whittled the list down to fifteen movies then to ten, then to three, then finally to one. The ticket that remained read simply ‘Submarine’.
Released way back in March, Richard Ayoade’s directorial debut seamlessly transported La Nouvelle Vague to Swansea via Wes Anderson’s middle America. A refreshing ‘Indie’ jaunt in a Brit-flick market saturated by shanks, shivs and all round rich person porn, Ayoade’s picture is hipster almost to a fault. Making extensive use of colour filters and lengthy ‘Super 8’ instrumental inserts Submarine is the light to the shade of the equally impressive Tyrannosaur.
Whilst Ayoade deservedly reaped plaudits for his impressive transition behind the camera, the real value here comes from the characterisation. The wonderfully realised characters crafted in Joe Dunthorne’s original novel thankfully survive the transition to 1986, a land of top loaders and Polaroid cameras. In Oliver Tate (Craig Roberts) Submarine has a precocious leading man to rival anything Hollywood has spewed out in recent years. Tate is a pubescent philosopher, shackled to the Earth by the mundanity of teenage life. The flames of his self indulgent ponderings are fuelled by a burgeoning romance with bullying enthusiast Jordana (The excellent Yasmin Paige) and the arrival of new age, ninja guru Graham (Paddy Considine). More often than not, a ‘flagitious’ character who plots the assassination of his girlfriends dog my not translate well from page to screen however, Tate’s inter-textual narration harbours a redemptive quality which might otherwise have been lacking. The resultant product is a narrator of wit and whimsy, his internal struggle played out through external action.
N.B. It’s at this point that I’ve reminded myself just how much I love this film and have had to get up and put on the special edition Blu-Ray (complete with art cards).
Ayoades decision to transport the narrative back to the eighties pays off with the national nostalgia for the time period held up by the personal nostalgia we all harbor, for those long forgotten first loves. The romance between Oliver and Jordana might be fleeting but in Oliver’s mind it’s as epic as any cinematic romance of old. For that reason alone Ayoade’s visual stylings are just as aplicable at a Swansea bus stop as they might be at the top of the Empire State Building.
If I’m honest, there wasn’t a lot to choose between this film and a couple of others, however, I wanted to write about Submarine for four reasons.
1) It contains the line of the year; “Thanks for living up a fuckin’ hill”.
2) Paddy Considine sports a mullet like you’ve never seen.
3) Alex Turner’s soundtrack is both hip and heartfelt in equal measure.
4) More people need to watch this film.