I was trying to coax my fiancée into a cozy weekend at home watching horror movies when a bunch of my coworkers skated over. Since it would look very unprofessional to put on a slasher film, but I still wanted something dark and haunting that would go with the weather outside, I decided to order some Atom Egoyan movies, since not only are they generally very good and distinctly Canadian in their atmosphere, but they signal extreme sophistication.
I asked one of my coworkers to skate to the store to buy chocolate bars so I could make my signature hot chocolate for the group.
We watched three Atom Egoyan movies (commenter Rockall suggested I rate the movies I write about, so I will do so):
Chloe (2009) 7/10: In this movie, a gynecologist played by Julianne Moore hires a beautiful and classy hooker played by Amanda Seyfried to seduce her professor husband played by Liam Neeson, as a test to see if he’ll remain faithful.
One thing I enjoyed about this movie was just the house where the gynecologist and the professor lived. The walls of the upstairs level were all made of glass. I see this a lot when I visit clients who live deep in the woods. They are too secluded to worry about strangers peaking into their window, but they want to peak out from every angle to enjoy the beauty of the surrounding wilderness.
Calendar (1993) 8/10: The movie is about a Canadian photographer of Armenian ancestry (played by Atom Egoyan himself) filming and photographing churches in Armenia to make a calendar, as a local driver tells him about the history, and the photographer’s wife (played by Egoyan’s real wife) translates what he’s saying into English so that the photographer can understand.
I think you generally need an IQ of at least 115 to enjoy this movie, otherwise you’ll be bored out of your mind and the whole thing will seem tedious and pointless. First you need to be smart enough to understand the nonlinear narrative structure, because the movie keeps flashing from the present to the past.
You also need to understand the tension slowly building between the photographer and his wife, who in very subtle ways, makes him feel like he’s not Armenian enough since he doesn’t know the language and doesn’t even seem to care about the history, but is only there to create a calendar he’s been hired to make.
The film is ultimately about being disconnected from your past and that sense of not belonging anywhere, that so many children of immigrants feel.
The Sweet Hereafter (1997) 10/10: This one of the best movies I have ever seen in my entire life. It’s about a lawyer who comes to a small snowy town to get the parents of children who were killed or paralyzed by a school bus accident to join a class action law suit. Meanwhile his drug addict daughter is constantly phoning him asking for money.
Like Calander, the film is hauntingly beautiful and constantly flashing between past and present. The film is about how part of being a parent is accepting the death of your kids. As the lawyer explains, “all our kids are dead to us”. For his drug addict daughter is dead metaphorically, his client’s kids are dead literally from the accident, and a surviving child is dead in ways we don’t fully understand until late in the film. Meanwhile the nation’s teenagers wander through shopping malls like zombies. The entire film is set against the backdrop of the winter landscape; the season where we’re surrounded by the death of nature.