Monday, March 27, 2023

Recasting 2014 (supporting): "Snowpiercer"

Keeping with my little streak in this project of directors being a big draw, I've chosen Bong Joon-ho's 2013 (bumped to 2014 for my purposes) post-apocalyptic climate film, Snowpiercer. Bong is perhaps better known for his 2019 film, Parasite, which won him the Academy Award for Best Director and Best Picture. Snowpiercer follows the last survivors on Earth after an attempt to halt the effects of global warming with the use of stratospheric aerosols goes disastrously wrong. The survivors are segregated aboard a self-sustaining train called the Snowpiercer, as it traverses the planet that is now basically all covered in ice. 

The character for which I've chosen to recast Meryl is Minister Mason, portrayed by Tilda Swinton. She is sort of the right-hand man of the designer of the train (played by Ed Harris). Mason works to maintain the oppressed "tail end" of the train, keeping them living and working in relative squalor, while folks near the inaccessible "front end" live in the lap of luxury. Chris Evans is the main character Curtis, who leads a revolt against Mason and her guards, when he's advised by a wise elder, Gilliam (John Hurt), that the guards' guns no longer carry ammunition. Putting up such a fight comes at great risk, as anyone who ever dares to step out of line is swiftly and severely punished. 

Swinton has been quoted with some very specific and interesting thoughts on her approach to the look and characterization of Minister Mason:

Mason is a pretty monstrous construct so we felt we were dealing with extremes, but the truth was that we didn't have to go that far. Look at Hitler with his dyed black hair and Gaddafi with handmade medals stuck on his jacket.
And according to an article originally from Hitfix, "Swinton prepared for the role by studying clowning politicians throughout history, and Mason is, in Swinton's words, 'a complete smash cut of all the monstrous, maniacal, political clowns.' Swinton added that the character is a mix of Margaret Thatcher, Colonel Gaddafi, Adolf Hitler, and Silvio Berlusconi."

This thinking reminds me so much of how we've heard Meryl talk about how the look of a person or character tells us so much about them, and very quickly. Of course the acting needs to follow, but I think she gets a bit of a bad rap for the "external" aspects of characterization, as if that's the only or largest aspect of her characters. It's not. But it's important, and Meryl recognizes that probably as well as--if not better--than anyone. I'm not sure we would've seen her do the Yorkshire accent like Swinton did, but perhaps her own iteration of what she felt was posh or authoritarian. And I think it's a different enough character than her take on President Orlean in Adam McKay's recent allegorical climate change film, Don't Look Up, to warrant this choice. 

In the above scene, we get a great understanding of what I think is the crux of the struggle in the movie. The oppression of many by the rich and powerful few. That's certainly not a new concept, nor is one of climate change. But putting the two together in a stylized and futuristic setting makes for a very interesting premise for storytelling. I could totally see Meryl being interested in something like this. 

Snowpiercer was a box-office hit and was widely praised by critics, citing its fresh take on a human (near) extinction story and/or action thriller. While it wasn't nominated in any of the major televised award shows, many critics circles singled out the film and its screenplay and directing. Swinton was also often recognized, earning nominations for Supporting Actress from over a dozen of these organizations. 

1 comment:

  1. I'm going to watch this again tonight, it's been a few years since I saw it but I remember having a good impression of it. I would love to see Meryl work with Ed Harris again, they were great together in "The Hours". I also really like your selection based on talented creative teams, not just the role or overall movie.

    Following your lead I choose Wes Anderson's "The Grand Budapest Hotel". Not only an interesting Director and well-received movie but a great cast as well. I'm afraid I'm also purloining a Tilda Swinton role - the enigmatic "Madame D". Not a huge part really but still enough material to make a memorable impression. I believe this is the role Same Angela Lansbury had to pull out from due to conflicts with a play, which I was disappointed about at the time.

    I would also have loved to see her on-screen with Meryl in any project, my two favourite actresses.