I wonder if it happened under the Nut? Yes, that Nut. Stanley’s Nut. Was its genesis overseen by that striking North West Tasmanian landmark? It would be lovely to think they fell in love on the rich soils of that corner of our island. Perhaps, somewhat naively, the Scandi-actress is trying to keep her private life well and truly separate from her public, according to reports. It would be a fair bet that it occurred here though – that she and her co-star commenced their relationship in Tassie. Some filming had already been completed over in West Australia for ‘The Light Between Oceans’, the film adaptation of ML Stedman’s best selling book. Ergo, she would have had plenty of time to get to know Michael Fassbender beforehand, presumably having already dumped previous squeeze Alexander Skarsgard. The actress has been hailed as the new Cate Blanchett, such has been her impact, even this early in her time in the spotlight of international film-making. She’s only been in the game since she gave up her dance career, due to injury, soon before making her first movie in 2010. Already she has taken on an eclectic choice of roles across several continents, requiring many variations of accent for the native Swede.’TLBO’ is her second outing to our shores after the brave attempt, but fast disappearing, ‘Son of a Gun’ with Ewan McGregor.
Alicia Vikander first entered my radar, I have since realised, with a turn in the Danish costume drama ‘The Royal Affair’ – a nomination for the best foreign product at the Oscars. She followed that up with ‘Anna Karenina ‘ alongside Keira Knightley, a film not liked in some circles because of its staginess, but one that this scribe really took to. It was through this production she first encountered Irish actor Domhnall Gleeson.
I suspect, though, it will be via her performance in ‘Testament of Youth’ that, sometime in the future, it will be agreed that Ms Vikander really hit the big time. Of course, this is a film version of the memoir by Vera Brittain that came to represent the experience of a generation. It reminded a nation of the appalling effects war has by outlining what happens when utter folly sends young men to charnel houses such as Flanders. Here the author lost her fiancé, brother and several of her friends. Then she, as we discern in the movie, left academia to nurse their wounded and dying colleagues at the front.
Presumably the question needs to be asked. Why not choose a British thesp to play such an important figure in their literary landscape, a quintessentially English character? It’s not as though there aren’t enough commendable natives to take on the task, particularly as in the movie’s two hour running time there is barely a moment when the lead is not required to be the focus of attention. That question outstanding, the Scandinavian gives a flawless turn as the wordsmith who later became a leading pacifist. In her outing we see the new woman of her times, breaking away from the subservience required by the social system of Edwardian days – one dominated by the male gender. It was a transformation for many that followed on from the groundwork completed pre-war by the suffragette movement. Girls like Vera certainly did not know their place. Although there were set backs to the cause, as the current television series of ‘Mr Selfridge’ is demonstrating, the tide was starting to turn.
It is worth noting that, in preparing for her role, Alicia was bought into the orbit of Shirley Williams, a doyen of British Labour – who also happens to be the daughter of Vera Brittain. She was therefore well primed for the film. Although one could point out that, although it was certainly demanding, playing the gritty, determined lead was well within the range of this new, luminous screen presence. The film itself truly brings home the senselessness of that conflict, of all conflicts. It is superb. It is very moving.
It’s probably too late to give such advice in a year already awash with commemorative film and television paeans to the Great War, but if there is one worth your viewing time, it is this production. Told completely from our heroine’s perspective, it doesn’t focus on battles or gallantry in the face of impossible odds, as so many do, but the aftermath – the human toll on mind and body of the killing fields. It’s films like these that should be watched by the pollies before they decide, yet again, to put our young men and women in danger’s way.
And now for something completely different featuring Alicia V. In ‘Ex-Machina’ this beautiful actress becomes an android. It’s a clinically cool imagining from first time writer/director Scott Garland. The only aspect of the film that may have been a stretch for gifted Vikander could have been the costume and make-up she was expected to don – and maybe the nudity towards the end. Think a mix of ‘Metropolis’, ‘Her’, ‘Eyes Wide Shut’ and even ‘2001 A Space Odyssey’ and you have a taste of the flavour of this offering. Initially the movie is an epistle to man’s desired control over women, even if (spoiler) they all turn out to be mechanical ones. Wide-eyed Caleb (here Ms V is reunited with her ‘Anna K’ buddy Gleeson) is bought to an isolated laboratory, set deep in the forests of some undisclosed country, to run artificial intelligence tests on the human-like outcomes of semi-alcoholic digital genius Nathan’s vision of the future. This character is played, with relish, by Oscar Isaac. This creator of gorgeous women may be possessed of a great mind, but he is one total sleazeball and not to be trusted. Nathan has Caleb wrong – he’s not a totally mindless nerd in thrall of his misogynist boss. Caleb is sensitive enough to discover he has feelings of sort for Ava (Vikander) and starts plotting her escape from Nathan’s devious clutches.
I must say for the first half this movie is a bit of a plod and alone, in an icy cinema room at the State, I was struggling to hold interest in it. But as the conditions slowly thawed and Caleb starts his machinations for freeing Ava, events on screen hot up, It becomes quite watchable for all sorts of reasons, none the least being the antics of Nathan’s sexy, mute offsider Kyoto (Sonoya Mizuno). It all climaxes in fascinating, pot-boilerish ways. Just who will win out?
And now take a gander what we have to look forward from this exquisite actress from films already in the can or listed for production. She’s in Guy Ritchie’s new take on ‘The Man From UNCLE’, is with Eddie Redmayne in ‘The Danish Girl’, Christoph Waltz in ‘Tulip Fever’ and, of course, beau Fassbender in ‘The Light Between Oceans’. Can’t wait to see the Nut up there on the big screen with fascinating cinematic happenings occurring under its ramparts, placing Alicia V front and centre.
Alicia and Fassbender at Bondi
Trailer – ‘Testament of Youth’ = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0tP7k4wqVJo
Trailer – ‘Ex-Machina’ = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XYGzRB4Pnq8