The Ants and the Grasshopper

The Ants and the Grasshopper focuses on two women, Anita and Esther. Anita is a Malawian farmer and a community activist. Esther is Anita’s friend, mentor and a nurse. Both are active in Bwabwa. They run a women’s local network, focusing on tackling gender inequality, improving children’s health, and ensuring food stability.

Anita is one of those people who you are in awe of. The strength of her spirit touches everyone she meets. The first act of the film focuses on her and her life in Bwabwa. Her story reminds me of The Color Purple, because it is not only a story about triumph over adversity, but a triumph of her spirit. Anita’s father had two wives and favoured one over the other, so her mother and her often went hungry. Anita wanted to be a nun, was devout and studied the Bible to achieve her goal. But at a friend’s wedding, a man decided her would have her as his wife, so he got a group of 15 of his friends to kidnap, beat and imprison her, until she agreed to the marriage. Since she would have been considered “spoiled”, ie. raped, because she had been gone from home alone with the man over many nights, Anita felt she had no option but to proceed with the marriage than bring shame upon her mother and family. As traumatic as the violence was, what was worse was that it forever derailed her life’s plan of being a nun.

But here’s where you see what kind of spirit Anita has. Because when we meet her, her husband works in the field with her, washes clothes, and cooks. He speaks so highly of her, of how she changed his mind about men and women’s work, and how he has learned so much from her. He says he regrets how he married her, and will not let his sons get married in such a way. He understands now it was wrong.

Her husband’s mate Winston, who participated in her abduction, is now their next-door-neighbour. Every other day, Anita visit’s his wife and gets on at him for not helping her out. She has not been cowed by him, it is him who is cowed by her. He talks boldly to the camera about how ludicrous it is for men to do women’s work, bah! But when Anita is speaking to him, he just lets her talk and looks at the ground.

Anita’s my hero.

Esther – who studied to become a nurse right here in Scotland! – is the community nurse who helped Anita overcome her first child’s malnutrition, opening up her horizons to so much knowledge, and who helped change how she farmed, how she thought about the world, and how she lived. Together they are trying to find new ways to deal with the biggest threat facing their community – climate change. The nearby river has completely dried up, it has become a snake of sand through the landscape. Water must be dug for, and even then is but a puddle. The rains and seasons which had been so predictable, are now giving way to successive droughts and floods. For Esther and Anita, climate change is here.

The filmmakers note what passionate and moving speakers Esther and Anita are, and ask them if they would like to come to America to let people know how climate change is effecting their community. What follows is almost like a missionary, Esther and Anita are both devout, and see this a calling to spread the word to stop the destruction over the earth which it is our responsibility to protect.

Weirdly, the people in America least convinced about climate change are the farmers. I’ve always found stuff like this difficult to wrap my head around, like farmers not believing in evolution, it’s like, mate, you actually practice selective breeding, you are literally doing it! You’d think farmers would be the first to see the evidence of climate change, it should be city-dwellers like me, who think food comes wrapped in plastic and couldn’t tell you which direction the sun rises in, that should be denying climate change.

The first folk they meet are from Iowa. The differences between Anita and them are so slight. They are both devout Christians. They are both farmers. They both struggle with constantly being in debt. They both have families and kids they are trying to give a better life. And yet, when the subject of climate change comes up, the conversation falls to immediate awkward halt. The American farmers, even the organic farmers, don’t concede the existence of climate change, chalking it up to cyclical change or God’s will. You can see the frustration on Anita’s face as she tries to convey that this is happening *right now*, this is the reason children in her community go hungry *right now*, this is a reality.

Privately Esther and Anita console each other that seeds that are planted take time to grow, and you can never know what impact you might be having on another.

Unexpectedly, Anita finds more hope in the cities than the countryside. The inner city projects run by Black communities and people of colour – primarily women of colour – are much more realistic about climate change. As they’re told in Oakland, in urban Black communities, this was where all the polluting industries were based, because white and prosperous neighbourhoods didn’t want them in their backyards. So despite a lack of cultivatable land, these city communities were well aware of how industry was impacting the environment. In fact, the colour line is quite visible among Americans who are and are not in denial about climate change. From community kitchens inspired by the Black Panthers, to neighbourhood cultivation of the Detroit urban prairie, consciousness of climate change was at the forefront where the growers were Black.

What’s interesting about this film is how many issues it pings off, despite being ostensibly about climate change. This film is as much about gender, about race, about the effects of slavery and colonialism that are still being felt, about health, about exploitation, about capitalism, about food and the food industry.

It touches upon how a lot of different problems with the food industry has led to it being attacked on many different fronts, without it really changing. For example, the organic farmers see the need to remove pesticides from the ecosystem, but are still part of this bulk exploit and export cycle which perpetuates the notion of food as a commodity, a product, as opposed to the thing you need to live. It is still very much about growing for profit within a capitalist system. At one point Anita also points out that the grain that is being grown on these thousand-acre farms are all going to feed livestock, whereas this would be considered food that could be feeding people in Malawi. Despite Anita not being a vegetarian, the global industrial production of meat is obvious in its impact on food availability.

The film finishes with a coda that takes place two years after the rest of the film, revisiting some of the people Anita met. Some have not changed their minds, but some have. They are more conscious of their practices, even if they are struggling with how to put that into practice, they are actively trying to find a way. And back home Winston has begun learning to cook. He even teaches classes alongside Anita.

How do things change? One person at a time.

If you like this…

The Last Forest

The Last Forest is a documentary showing the Yanomami people and their home, the forest of Brazil. It is co-written and stars Davi, a Yanomami leader and activist. It takes place almost entirely in the forest, showing the daily life of the people there. There are some staged scenes, where their origin story is acted out, and where a hunter is carried off by an evil forest spirit. But most documentaries will have staged scenes, they just won’t telegraph them as clearly.

Davi speaks out to his people about the illegal mining encroaching on Yanomami land. He describes living through the 1986 invasion which killed almost 2000 indigenous people. He tells them of the human and environmental calamity that follows mining.

The folk are in agreement but, much like here, there can be difficulty envisioning such vast and permanent change. Especially when life among the Yanomami is so peaceful. People go about their day, making bread, weaving baskets, feeding weans, watching the dug scratch itself. Living in the forest, as far as they are concerned, is living in luxury. Everything you could ever need, stretching for miles in every direction. And the idea that someone would destroy the systems that sustain human life, seems an impossible feat, a ludicrous and mad suicidal endeavour.

When prospectors show up, the Yanomami put on their camoflague paint, take up arms, and chase them from their lands. “You won’t mine here, we won’t let you!” shouts Davi. But the natural curiosity of a world beyond their own, so different, can prove a temptation to some young men. The fear is that it will be too late before they realise how they will be used in that other world, how they will be leveraged against their own people and home.

The Last Forest shows the world of climate crisis activism from the perspective of the Yanomami. Their way of life has lasted 1000 years, and they are entering crucial years where they will have to fight if they want it to continue.

At the end of the film, Davi steps off the mountain and speaks to a lecture hall full of people at Harvard about the book he has written about Yanomami life and how it is being impacted by the corporate violence driving climate change. And it’s like it’s our world that seems weird. After the cool, canopied safety of the singing, living forest, stepping into a bristling concrete city full of screaming sirens feels alien. The ability to carry the reality of one world to the other is a challenge which is enormous but vital.

If you like this…

Living Proof

Living Proof is a documentary comprised of archival footage from the post-war years through to the 1980s, tracing the causes that led to the climate crisis.

The documentary filmmaker never makes an appearance, nor adds any voiceover, the material is allowed to speak for itself. And speak it does. Comment by the filmmaker seems unnecessary when the archival film speaks so directly to the audience.

It is basically composed of 4 promotional films for the up-and-coming industry of the moment. It’s basically Coal! Steel! Oil! Fuck! It ends with organised resistance to the nuclear power industry and the emergent modern green activism movement.

For a documentary which every audience member in 2021 can see is about climate change, the notion of climate or environment is almost totally absent in the majority of the film. Obviously because at the time it was almost entirely absent in the concerns of those pushing for industry. So in a way this film is as much about the negative space of what’s not being talked about, as what is.

Watching only lightly edited industry promotional films from the midpoint of the last century might seem like a bit of a drag, were it not clearly marked into chapters, each moving forward in time. And it’s striking how identical the message is every time. Someone with an authoritative accent comes on and says, “Scotland is underdeveloped! It has so much potential! Have you not noticed that everyone here lives in a state of poverty? This will end with New Industry TM. New Industry TM will make all your lives better. Work for the men. Goods for the women. Children with clean modern living and a future to look forward too. A better world is waiting for you with New Industry TM.”

And it’s amazing how those people in poverty needing lifted up by work, they’re there decade after decade, industry after industry. And at the end, they’re in an even worse position than they were, because not only are they in poverty, but the planet which sustains their lives is roundly fucked.

Of course it’s horseshit. But, even watching it in 2021 and knowing that, you feel the emotional draw of the message. Coz God, don’t we all wish there was something coming down the line that was gonna solve this shit, make our lives better. A little hope is an addictive thing. Standing in the middle of a pandemic, in a world where wealth inequality has never been so extreme, and a few narcissists at the reins of capitalism are about to ride the earth into an early grave, I actually felt envy at the people who were naive enough to fall for this.

The last film-chapter picks up where the first one began, in the Highlands, describing it as a wasteland, desolate, and empty. It is mind boggling conceit how someone could look at life growing in every direction and be like, “This is empty”. But almost half a century on, the same patter is trotted out, for what is essentially the same project that was supposed to save us last time around. Only now, with allegations floating about that it’s having a devastating impact on the planet, the upbeat optimism is touched with a wistful shrug of “Who knows what the future will bring? Who’s to say what the impact will be?” Although by that time, they knew very well what the impact would be because it was already happening.

The thing this film reminded me of most was the Jeanette Winterson book Stone Gods. It’s a novel comprising multiple smaller stories set on various planets, each focusing on two lovers meeting at the end of the world. Each time the apocalypse is self-inflicted, and each time the scenario restarts with a different incarnation of the More Corporation. Each time More learns and adapts and finds a new way of pushing constant consumption to lead to a different kind of demise. Living Proof’s rolling roster of heavy industries is just like that.

A trip through archival footage might not be for everyone, but I found Living Proof to work really well at telling the story of climate change in a way that brings it close to home, and that reminds us that this environmental problem is really a problem about people.

If you like this…

Here Today

Billy Crystal writes, directs, produces and stars in Here Today. The character seems based on him, an aging comedy writer, who has lived through fame and success, and now is enjoying a more settled and obscure time in his twilight years. Which is not say he’s idle, he’s vital and enthusiastic and still chipping in in the writers’ room of a SNL-style show. In fact, it is his undimming lust for life that is what makes it so hard for him to accept his diagnosis of dementia.

There’s been a lot of dementia films lately, The Father, Supernova and now this. Don’t know why.

Anyway, Crystal’s character, Charlie Burns, has a quirky meet-cute with Tiffany Haddish’s Emma, a manic pixie dream nurse. She is this larger-than-life character, singing in a swing band on the streets of New York, dressing in retro vintage fashion, and wolfing down any food she finds. As a young woman at the beginning of her story, Charlie is enthralled with how alive she is. Emma, on the other hand, is endeared by Charlie’s kindness, and enjoys hearing Charlie’s stories about a New York from another time. As she sits in his livingroom, beautiful violin music drifts through the window, and Charlie explains Itzhak Perlman lives opposite and practices in the evenings. She has no idea who that is, but encourages his to get up and dance. That’s their complementary dynamic.

In the Q&A afterwards, Crystal said he wanted Here Today to refute the proposition put forward in When Harry Met Sally, that men and women cannot be friends, sex will always get in the way. Here Today is about falling in friendship.

Mmmmmmmm.

This is an incredibly sweet and warm movie (straying into saccharine at times, especially towards the end) but it dances over a lot of problematic notions baked into the premise. Ultimately, Emma cancels going on tour with her band to look after Charlie as his live-in caregiver in the prognosed last year of his life. Which is a happy ending for the rich, white man who now employs(?) her. But Emma’s happy ending is to, uh, bask in his company? Like, this black woman’s happy ending is to provide round-the-clock medical and emotional care for this white dude. It kinda papers over a lot of unquestioned notions.

Plus, Emma isn’t shown as having much life beyond Charlie’s time with her. It’s established her family are all in another state, and she has an ex-boyfriend, but you never really see her living her life outwith Charlie, so it kinda lessens any impact of what she’s sacrificing to stay and look after him. Because as far as the film’s concerned, what else is she gonna do? When she can be helping heal this dude’s relationship with his family, and make him feel better?

So yeah, there’s a lot one-sidedness to the story, and it’s not, like, super funny, but it does kinda glow with a good-natured humour and a pleasantness that’s sort of classic to Billy Crystal films that I just miss, and enjoy seeing. A nice movie.

Sabaya

Sabaya means girl, but under ISIS sabaya refers to the women and girls raped and used as slaves. They are trafficked and sold and brutalised. When ISIS invaded the Yazidi homeland in northern Iraq, in the Sinjar province near the border with Syria, they slaughtered boys and men, abducted and raped girls and women, and did their best to eradicate the Yazidi as a people.

This is the fight back. Sabaya follows the Yazidi Home Centre as they track down and recover trafficked Yazidi girls. It is incredibly dangerous.

5 years on from the ISIS invasion, Kurdish forces have managed to bring them under control. Many are being held in a prison facility, and the rest are in the Al-Hol camp. Like any defeated side, who rush to hide the family silver when the army is at the gates, ISIS started to hide the Yazidi girls they had took, seeing each one as money they could use, something to be sold.

Enter the volunteers at the Yazidi Home Centre, Mahmud, Ziyad, Siham, Zahra, and countless women who go undercover in the Al-Hol camp. These undercover agents must go into ISIS-controlled territory, pretend to be ISIS supporters, and relay back to Mahmud and Ziyad any information they can glean about Yazidi girls stashed around the camp.

The nerve of these folk is unreal. They are not an army. They are not going out there in a tank or with a SWAT team as back-up. Mahmud is a middle-aged man with a handgun. Most of the women working undercover are freed sabaya working to save their sisters. Any of them would be killed without hesitation if caught.

It is a real testament to the bravery of these women, to have endured so much, and be able to face down that fear, and return to one of the most dangerous places in the world. And the dedication of people like Mahmud, who has his wifi router tied up to a car battery to ensure these women can always reach him.

And yet that awe mingles with the mundane. This vital work often just looks like an idle man glued to his phone. As a recently freed girl sobs in the back bedroom, Mahmud’s wee boy skites around the floor on a pillow. Siham feeds the chickens, then takes the girl’s chadors and niqabs out back and burns them in a cleansing bonfire.

The tone of the film can change dramatically from scene to scene, emphasising the precariousness of the relative safety the Yazidi Home Centre. In one scene it can be of Siham and Zahra nurturing liberated women to recovery with gentle familial affection, and in the next a phone call to Mahmud means everyone piling into the van to run a midnight raid in the camp, kicking their way into tents and pressing traffickers into revealing the whereabouts of their victims, and making a dash home with a found survivor under pursuit and gunfire from ISIS.

Each life saved feels like a victory. A woman freed. A loved one returned. And a part of the attempted genocide of the Yazidi thwarted.

Prince of Muck

When I was a little girl, one of my favourite things to do was go for a walk with my grandpa, and listen to all the stuff he told me. That’s what watching Prince of Muck feels like. Like going on a walk with Lawrence McEwan, listening to him tell you about his island, about his farm, about his life, about his family.

Isle of Muck is one of the smallest Scottish islands, and it was purchased by a relative of McEwan’s at the end of the 19th century. In 1922, his father became laird of the island, and decided to live there, start a farm there, and help the community to prosper. Lawrence was born to that life, and loved it, and never wanted to be anywhere else. He grew up running barefoot up the hills, camping out among the windswept rocks, and reading poetry while watching the tide go in and out. Now in his 80s, he has passed the farm on to his son, and hopes his grandchildren will also want to continue on this way of life.

This film is a love letter from a man to his home. He has dedicated 8 decades of hard work to it, and as he takes stock of a life well-lived, hopes only to see its preciousness protected and endure. With striking cinematography, as you see the howling gales whip the heather, and the freezing spray break against the harbour walls, and the sky become a changeable masterpiece of colour and mood, you kinda start to fall in love with it too.

Lawrence lives like a man from a bygone time. He bathes in cold water every morning, drives a tractor from the 60s, milks his cows by hand, and ties up the animals in a barn at the back of the house every night. Each day he still goes out with his cows across the fields, leaning on his stick, the dogs running at his feet. A theme throughout the movie is that Lawrence is having a hard time letting go of a life he loves so dearly, whether that means doing less manual work, or letting his son make more of the decisions about the farm, or simply accepting the limitations of his body in old age.

“A good life and a quick death,” says Lawrence, is what every man desires, and what a farmer should give his animals. He calls all his cows by name, and scratches their backs affectionately, but a farm is not a place where the realities of life and death can hide. Mortality feels like a constant presence in every scene, a keen awareness of times passing, of inevitable change, and the fear of what it might bring, but the need to make peace with it as part of nature, and surrender to it, rather than struggle.

If you like this…

Pig

Pig, or Taken for bacon, is about the theft of truffle pig, and its reclusive owner’s journey to save it.

Nicolas Cage is such a liability for a movie. I watched the trailer, and was like, is this for real? Like, is this meant to be funny? Cage growls about wanting his pig back in a manner reminiscent of “Put the bunny back”. At one point in the cinema, this trailer played and folk were openly laughing. Trouble is when you’ve played a parody of yourself for 15 years, it’s hard to pivot back when you wanna be taken seriously. I remember him having to explicitly state he wasn’t just pulling another manic caricature when Mandy came out, and similarly with Color Out of Space. Attaching a former, or arguably still, A-list name to your film is a good way to get financing and attention, but Cage is really a double-edged sword.

All of which is to say, Pig is not a comedy. There are a few moments of congenial levity, but no. It is instead a mournful journey back into the world of the main character’s old life, and in many ways confirming why he left. It has a melancholy tone, and despite one or two scenes of rough-and-tumble, largely is compromised of going places and sitting down at a table and having a conversation with someone. The main character is taciturn, so these scenes aren’t even necessarily that heavy on dialogue. In tone, it’s closer to something like Blue Ruin.

The annoying thing about Nicolas Cage is, he can actually act. He’s actually great in this. He conveys a sense of loss and self-sufficiency throughout his performance, but can bring a wealth of emotion out from behind his barricades, turning this closed-off character inside out and open, in a way that rings with real vulnerability. It’s understated and it’s nuanced.

Which makes you wonder, so you can do this, you just choose not to? Whatever.

Also coming in hot with a strong performance is Alex Wolff, of Hereditary fame. He contrasts Cage’s silence and internal conflict with a chatty and flashy over-compensation. Yet, he equally manages to convey the fundamental human longing for fulfilment.

Together, their road trip takes them through questions of what we are looking for, and how we try to find it, successfully or unsuccessfully, in a variety of places. The main character is a man whose life burnt down, and who, in the ashes, took real stock of what he needed and what he didn’t need, what he wanted and what he didn’t want, and what mattered and what didn’t matter. His clarity contrasts with the markers of wealth, fame, and fashion of the Portland restaurant scene. The constant to-and-fro of seeking validation and a reflection of a satisfying self-image in the eyes of others.

But even in a life so pared down, loss is loss and grief is grief. And what we do in times of such challenges, is still a journey of discovery.

Censor

In Thatcher’s Britain, at the height of video nasty fever, Enid, a buttoned-down film censor who sincerely believes that her work protects society, comes across a film which challenges her sense of reality. Having lost her sister many years before, the lack of resolution to her disappearance causes Enid to believe one of the actresses in a low-budget horror is her sister, now grown into adulthood. As she plunges into the murky world of the very thing she despises, she begins to lose herself in her quest to regain her sister.

Loved Censor. Within the frame of the tv screen, all the horror is bright red, shrieking with screams, and sumptuous in its gore . In the real world of Enid’s life, everything is grey, with muted, humming lights, and terse and impersonal dialogue. This contrast seems to bleed together, as Enid’s dreams take on this Argento-esque soporific quality.

Enid’s character, in both her personal and professional life, is about self-control, about the repression of extremes of emotion, and keeping a firm grasp on her trauma and grief. By contrast the violence in the videos seems ecstatic, glorying in its own gratuity, a joyful release of the darkest kind.

In some ways it’s a strange choice to use the world of the most explicitly violent horror movies, to show a slow-burning, largely unarticulated, psychological horror. On the tv screen you have all this gore, but the film’s story is of slow internal descent, of all the screws coming loose on a personal’s character, of a break-down of what has pinned them together up until this point.

And the trauma that Enid is grappling with is so massively the opposite of all that tv violence. Her sister went out to play in the forest with Enid, and Enid returned alone. Those are the only facts we have. There seems to be no tangible evidence of what happened to her sister, not by accident or foul play or anything else. Far from bombastic gore, this huge and life-changing thing seemed to happen without leaving a mark.

But a child herself at the time, Enid cannot remember what happened. And it is this hole that frustrates her the most. Because how can she not remember something that important? The greatest frustration is that the answer she seeks most in the world, might somehow be buried inside her, and she can’t see it.

Obviously for anyone who’s ever seen a horror movie before, you go straight to the trope of ‘maybe she did it and doesn’t remember’. But that’s explicitly put on the docket by Enid herself, she’s aware of that as one of her deepest fears. In reality it wouldn’t actually change a whole lot, because whatever happened, Enid blames herself. She was the older sister, it was her suggestion to go play in the woods, whether by her own hand or another’s, it’s her fault her sister is gone. And that sense of responsibility for protection, and fear of a duty failed, drives her character.

Both the character of Enid and the video nasty moral panic feel the need to externalise the terrors concealed in mundane life, in the fragility of mortality, of sanity, and security, so that they might be vanquished. However in crusading against them, it only denies looking deeper into their causes, and that which in ourselves and our lives is unknown and unknowable.

If you like this…

Zola

Oh my god, I loved Zola!

Taylour Paige stars as Zola, a dancer at the club who meets and falls in friendship with Stefani, a new dancer who seems totally sound when she first meets her. Stefani invites her on a road trip to Florida the next day, along with her boyfriend and her roommate. And pretty early on all the alarm bells start ringing.

It’s basically like a road trip movie set over a weekend, high in comedy and crime capers, with Zola just trying to survive her first 72 hours of friendship with Stefani.

I cannot state more highly how great Taylour Paige and Riley Keough are in this. They make the characters real people, and not just cartoons in this over-the-top story. They play the darks and danger as well as the highs and laughter. And they have this real, believable chemistry, where you can see why you get into a deep pile of shit because you were bowled over by a connection.

I loved Zola’s voice, her storytelling is as much what makes the film enjoyable as anything going on in the screen. She has such a strong sense of herself, she never doubts or gets lost in amongst all the craziness, and her voice reflects that strength and purpose.

The moral of the story is never go to Florida.

The Nest

Within the first 5 minutes of the Nest, I clocked Jude Law’ character as being a lying, manipulative, gaslighting, narcissistic cunt. And the rest of the film is just waiting for that ticking timebomb to explode.

Carrie Coon plays his wife, who knows something is badly wrong but has no words to describe it. He’s clearly smooth-talked his way through so much shit by this point, and bought himself out of trouble with gifts like bribes, and turned on her for being “crazy” whenever she raised a legitimate concern, she really struggles to discern what is in fact being hidden from her, and what direction her impending sense of doom is coming from. She seems like one of those women who don’t even realise they’re in an abusive marriage until he cleans out her bank account, sells her mother’s house, and leaves her with thousands of pounds in debt after faking an illness to extort money from their friends. As the movie begins, she is just cresting the wave of her realisation her confidence in him is misplaced, and their financial situation is likely not all he makes it out to be. As he suggests yet another move, this time to a fancy manor house in England, you sense she has now been through this cycle enough times to see through it, and the tactics he’s been using to keep her compliant or complacent are no longer working.

In fact this whole film is shot more like a horror film. The score is ominous from the outset. The plot is reminiscent of so many horror tropes – happy family moves to gothic mansion and begins to unravel – except there is not supernatural force. It kinda reminds me a little of The Witch, how the family falls apart under misfortune, only in The Nest, there is no external agent causing it, it is self-created in the character of the father.

I can see how someone would not be interested in seeing this movie. After all, incredibly privileged cunts find no happiness in their extravagant lifestyle seems like the least compelling plot ever. Which is why I didn’t enjoy Anna Karenina. And if it weren’t for the fact it is directed by Sean Durkin who did Martha Marcy May Marlene – which was awesome by the way – I wouldn’t have bothered with it. But I dunno, I found it did hold my attention. It managed to have a central villain whose motivation and character made sense and were identifiable without asking you to sympathise with him.

It has this tortured wife character who is much more fleshed out and three-dimensional than the usual stereotypical role, she has agency, the film is all about her growing in confidence and choosing to face what she fears is true, even as she is half losing her mind over it. She is not a passive victim, and she clearly has been invested in the materialistic life that has been provided so far, seeing it as a mark of stability and security, and he has clearly bought her off with gifts in the past because that has been what’s worked. It is only as the avarice has grown to self-destructive proportions that it has come to signify the opposite of that, a lack of safety.

In some ways this is a movie about a haunted house, but the house is haunted by a woman’s unintelligible fears, and the malevolent force is in the secrets her husband is keeping.