26 May 2020

Why Mute Deserves A Chance

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Mute begins with a young boy involving himself in an accident that leaves his throat ripped open and with his Amish parents refusing his treatment as a result of their religious beliefs. Seems pretty reasonable to me. I don't have children because they make too much noise and so if I could find a way of having one shut the fuck up whilst being able to pin the guilt onto God then I'd probably go for it too. The boy had his throat ripped open by a speedboat which caused many critics to joke about how few times that they've seen an Amish person on a speedboat for this to happen. Now firstly I would point out that it doesn't seem to be Amish people driving the boat.. or piloting it ..or captaining it ...or whatever it is that you do to control one of those things. If anybody knows the verb for being an aquatic-leisure-twat then let me know. But it seems that some randomers have accidentality ran the kid over as he was swimming. I know that these people have pretty strict rules regarding modern technology but unless critics are confusing the Amish with the Wicked Witch of the West then it seems fairly plausible that they might at least occasionally go near fucking water. Secondly, and even if I'm wrong about this and it was Amish people in charge of the boat, then are you seriously telling me that you've never seen this before? You've had the internet all this time and you've still not gotten around to typing in every possible combination of words before the word “porn”. Because I guarantee that always yields results and if you don't think that there is any Amish speedboat porn out there then you are living an embarrassing lie. 

Cut to future Berlin where this film is set and we see that Leo, our little Amish boy, has grown up without his voice and started to work the bar at a local titty club. He's even gotten himself a girlfriend Naadirah, which I think must be the dream combination for any relationship right? She's got a partner that can't answer back or interrupt her and he's got one that can't get too mad that he's spent his day hanging out with other naked women. The story begins when she goes missing though and our silent hero is forced to turn detective to track her down. Many critics complained that the film suffered when her character left because of how charming Syneb Saleh's performance as she had been. I agree that she was brilliant in the film and I felt her loss when she was gone.. but isn't that the fucking point? If you're going to write a movie about a character that goes missing then wouldn't it be beneficial to have the audience actually miss and want them back? Because Mute is over two hours long and I'd rather spend that time watching Leo try to track her down over having him forget and then just start fucking about on tinder for the remainder of the movie. Not that the Amish use Tinder I imagine. How do they meet new people? In real life? Freaks! The film would also be pretty annoying if we had to spend it watching Leo track down a character that we had no desire for him to find too. It's like when I fart in work and everybody starts trying to work out who did it. Stop trying to track me down and just let it go you pedantic fuckers!

On the flip side, it seemed as though the consensus was that Alexander Skarsgård's performance as Leo was thought to be one dimensional, with him playing nothing more interesting than a silent Liam Neeson-Esque revenger. Although ignoring how much more we'd all probably like Liam Neeson if he'd lost his ability to speak over the last few years I can't help but disagree. Leo isn't a brooding thug but rather the beating heart of the movie. He might not say very much but his performance is one of pain and frustration. Just look at his big sad eyes, for fuck's sake. Leo is an Amish mute in a world ruled by technology. With him being lifted out of the water as a child and being forced to live in a world that's unsuitable for him, Leo is quite literally a fish out of water. Yeah... I found a metaphor. What of it? As we see in the movie he can't even order food because he's required to speak into the machine to tell it what he wants. Leo looks at the world with the sadness that I imagine a cow would look at you with after you'd spent a night in a field tipping him and his friends over. Which ironically is probably a great game to play when your Amish and you're religion forbids you from buying a Nintendo Switch. Unflattering comparisons were made between Skarsgård's performance here and Sally Hawkins one in the film The Shape Of Water which had also been released in that same year. Both play mutes and I'll agree that Hawkins' character has a much greater range. But in the defence of this film, its main character is a classic example of the emotionally repressed noir detective whereas Hawkins plays a woman that falls in love with an aquatic humanoid that she finds imprisoned by her evil government. I love both performances but it feels an unfair comparison to hold, “where's my girlfriend” up against, “I'm probably going to fuck the fish monster”. 

Perhaps what got people's backs up though were the characters of Cactus and Duck played by Paul Rudd and Justin Theroux. They were inspired by two characters from Robert Altman's M*A*S*H although, for a Bond obsessive like myself, it was Diamonds Are Forever's Mr Wint and Mr Kidd that I was reminded of. Rudd and Theroux's characters are surgeons for the mob with them both giving very charismatic and watchable performances. Also one of them is a paedophile. What?! Many people questioned why we had to spend the movie watching their characters in what is a sub-plot when you don't find out their real relevance until the very end of the film. Did I just say one of them was a paedophile? Although as story conventions go I'd argue that it's quite traditional to reveal the truth of a mystery at the end of the fucking story. Otherwise, it's not really a mystery is it? It's just a fact. It's why in pub quizzes they tend to give you the question first instead of simply reading a list of random words that we're meant to give a shit about. Hearing the word “Ant” out loud in a pub is a lot more fun when you've spent the last twenty minutes trying to remember which of them got pissed up and smashed the fuck out of a car before writing down “Dec”. Anyway one of them is a paedophile and people weren't happy. Of Rudd and Theroux's characters I mean - not Ant and Dec. Although, I don't know? Maybe?!

In honesty, I'm a little unsure of why it was a problem that Mute had a paedophile character in it but it pissed some people off. Is it that the character was depicted as being more than just a monster? Because I'd argue that's a good thing isn't it? To show that paedophiles aren't always so easy to spot seems like a pretty important concept that we need to understand. If that wasn't true of real-life there'd be a law allowing us to just sucker-punch any old man that we spot with his pants too high and his hands in his pockets as he walks slowly around a playground all day. Although in that situation I might err on the side of caution and just do it anyway. Perhaps it was the fact that a film that wasn't an intense drama that was exclusively about child-abuse had dared to go near the subject that annoyed people then? But this is a noir. It's about bad people. Why shouldn't paedophiles be a part of that? In the new Netflix film Extraction, a character is seen throwing children off a building to their deaths, with some critics concluding that overall it was “a thrill ride of an action movie”. So it's okay to murder children but it's not okay to abuse them? I'm not trying to justify abusing children. Obviously. I'm trying to understand why fictionally murdering a fictional child is seen as less of a taboo than fictionally diddling some fictional children. It still sounds like I'm trying to justify nonce-ing doesn't it? Look, if anything I'd be more likely to justify throwing children off a roof than I would justify having sex with them. I don't like noisy children, remember. So I'd want them to justify the crime that results in them making less noise and not more. Oh, this has all gone horribly. Ignore everything I've just said. 

I think that what I love about Mute is in the way that it constantly seems to deviate from what you might expect it to do. I admit that the paedo stuff is uncomfortable to watch but that's intentional. People just assumed you were meant to like these two characters because we've been conditioned by more conventional buddy-movies to like our cinematic anti-heroes. But nobody has expected you to like a nonce and a psychopath since the BBC got into trouble for its choice of children's television hosts in the mid-70s. I love the world of Mute too, which feels so fully realised that you forget how much of a leap it is from our current existence. People said that its design was a little too Blade Runner but beyond the neon lighting that's just not true. Blade Runner feels like a world that's on its last legs whereas Mute's Berlin seems like it's doing okay for itself overall. And even if they were near on identical, we see that Mute's world has sex robots in it which is kind of a deal-breaker for me in terms of future dystopian societies. When Deckard goes off with Rachael at the end of Blade Runner you're left with the feeling that they aren't going to get very far. But with Mute it feels as if Leo and Naadirah might have a chance so long as he can just find her before it's too late. I ignored messages from my Tinder profile whilst watching this film because I was more concerned about their romantic life than my own. Also, I was still thinking about the sex robots. If comparisons do have to be drawn between this and Blade Runner then I hope it's because it too ends up becoming the cult classic that it deserves to be in years to come. If you've already seen it then I hope I've convinced you to see it again, and if you'd never heard of it before then I hope you now decide to give it a chance. But ignoring all of that I hope that at the very least I've introduced you to the concept of online Amish speedboat porn. Thanks for reading, motherfuckers, and see you next time. 

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