House of Sand and Fog…and Boredom.

Well for the first time in about three weeks I actually watched a movie. At the behest of my fellow babbler I watched the House of Sand and Fog, a dark, depressing little film that came out in 2003 and stars Jennifer Connelly and Ben Kingsley. The story is based off an adaptation of the book by Andre Dubus and directed by Vadim Perelman. I like dark movies and I had heard a lot of hype about this movie so I decided I would check it out.

House of Sand and Fog had been nominated for 3 Oscars, a Golden Globe and numerous other awards as well. To be honest, I can’t understand why. I was not impressed with this movie to say the least. To start things off, the pace is ridiculously slow and never really changes the entire movie. I kept asking myself, when is this going to speed up? Only to find out it never really does. I understand that the pace is part of the way that the director tells the story, but there never really an established reason as to why use this slow pace ALL the time. Plenty of dark movies are made at a faster pace and only occasionally slow down.

Secondly, the plot to me was just not that compelling and lacked any real point. At the end of the movie I just asked myself why? Why this movie was even made? What is the theme or point of it? I know dark movies have dark themes and usually don’t have a happy ending and I am fine with that, but there is usually some point to the darkness, something that the audience takes away. (Man’s hubris or greed, or bad humankind treats each other etc.) I just really never got anything out of it.

Lastly, there is the imagery of the sand and the fog. Perelman works the fog in a descent amount, especially using elapsed time to show the fog in a dramatic effect. However, there is no real connection to the characters and the fog. There are plenty of opportunities to tie them together in a creative manner, but Perelman completely fails to do so. As for the sand, there is no attempt whatsoever to tie it to the movie.

 The only real redeeming part of the movie is the cast, namely Jennifer Connelly and Ben Kingsley. Kingsley turns in a fabulous performance with his portrayal of Behrani, a former Colonel in the Iranian military who fled to American when the Ayatollah took over and is now forced to work in demeaning blue collar jobs to get back on his feet. The interaction between him and the other characters is well directed and has many poignant scenes. Of particular note is one scene where he desperately prays to Allah for the life of his son.

The other half is Jennifer Connelly. She is a bit weepy but a solid actress who portrays Kathy, a girl who loses her house to Behrani in a county estate sale to pay her back taxes. The plot involves her fighting against Behrani in an attempt to regain her property. I will be honest here; Connelly’s performance is good but not standout. The main thing she adds to the movie is her total hotness.

 I know critics will disagree with me. For some reason this movie was highly acclaimed but that is Hollywood for you, they also loved The Thin Red Line. The movie did spark a debate about the nature of Indy and small budget films, which House of Sand and Fog supposedly fell into.

 When I criticized the film, fellow babbler Johnny proclaimed, “but it is an Indy film, not a big budget film” which led me to this debate. If Indy films are supposed to be better than “Hollywood” films, then how come we give them an excuse for mediocrity by claiming, “Oh it’s an Indy film?” It is an interesting debate and you babblers can discuss this amongst yourselves.

In the meantime I give this movie 2.5 Babbles.

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3 Comments

Filed under DVD Faves, Reviews

3 responses to “House of Sand and Fog…and Boredom.

  1. Tony

    Actually this is one of my favorite films. It’s a modern day tragedy and allegory of how greed, selfishness, and desperation will lead to destruction. I though Kingsley and Connely were brlliant. I loved it although your right that its dark and depressing.

    Jeff, maybe you would have liked it better if it had Nazis in it?

    • Jeff

      Well, we will have to agree to disagree then. I normally like dark and depressing but this movie just didn’t do it for me. As for the themes of greed and selfishness etc. For whatever reason, I just didn’t think those themes were well represented nor did I think it made a good allegory. I just never really connected to it. I did say Kingsley was really good though.

  2. I think we give them an excuse for mediocrity because they are typically more raw, arty, true grit, so to speak. And the guise of the term ‘indie’ is like a net that they can fall into if the film is just bad. An ‘indie film’ safety net! Is there not a difference though, between a film with a limited budget and a director/cinementographer with no real depth or vision regardless of budget? What low budget film is fantastic? And what low budget film is just a big disconnect? Contrarily, what Hollywood blockbuster belongs in the trash and what Hollywood blockbuster is in your dvd collection because you love it so much? Interesting topic…!

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