Director Darren Aronofsky is not known for subtlety or crowd-pleasing. Afterall, his indie debut featured a mathematician obsessed with pi and orthodox Jews who thought his work was discovering the true name of God. He delved deep into every facet of drug abuse, focused a character study around a wrestler, used high-end ballet as a backdrop for a psychological thriller, and put Rock Giants in the story of Noah’s Ark. “Iconoclast” probably doesn’t do him justice.
And the jinn we created before from scorching fire.
– Quran 15:27 “The Rocky Tract”
Symbolism and metaphor are powerful weapons against oppression, and can also illuminate complex and unbearable situations like war and the subjugation of women. Writer-director Babak Anvari’s debut feature Under the Shadow is a intelligent film that takes full advantage of the setting, situation, and culture of Iran in the 1980’s to spin a terrifying supernatural horror film. Among the background of the Iran-Iraq war, the film depicts a woman and her young daughter as Tehran is bombed and a nefarious Jinn takes residence in their apartment building. Though a supernatural horror film on the surface, Under the Shadow also boasts a rich subtext that explores ideas of misogyny, family struggles, and the gloom of wartime.
Ex Machina, the directorial debut of Alex Garland (screenwriter of 28 Days Later, Sunshine, and Dredd), is a fascinating exploration of the essence of humanity which challenges an audience to wonder at the nature of not only consciousness, but independence and justice. The movie opens with a plain title screen and we are introduced to Caleb, working at his desk. He learns that he has won the grand prize of a contest. He rides in a helicopter to an isolated location, navigates through a jungle to a strange futuristic mansion, and meets his benefactor: the hipster-bro head honcho of a giant software company named Nathan (Oscar Issac) who has recruited him for a secret mission: to proctor a Turing test for the newly-developed female artificial intelligence named Ava, portrayed by Swedish actress Alicia Vikander.