By Aranyak Goswami
Spotlight –The movie to be remembered
In terms of film making the last part of the year has been really special. A lot of wonderful movies have released in last two months of 2015.These movies have been special in their own ways in terms of acting, music, screenplay, cinematography, production-design and editing. However if we hit the internet it appeared that in movie polls by leading magazines like Variety, Guardian and Indi wire Spotlight is the only sure thing to all major award functions both big and small. After watching this bias over cyber space along with major contenders like Steve Jobs, The Revenant, The Big Shor” I completed watching the movie quite meticulously.
In spite of being cynical and critical about it I agreed with all the major movie critics when a deviation from the esteemed opinions would have generated a creative novelty.
The question remains that from the cinematic and narrative perspectives what is so unique about this movie that it has stood apart from all the other films that are all maintain high standards from every perspective of movie making. Here are my top reasons.
Subtle handling of a very sensitive subject:
Higher members of the Catholic Christian church are sexually abusing children for an extended period of time. The tendency have developed and spread like a disease pervading national boundaries turning the lives of several individuals assaulted, upside down. The issue -a very grave and mundane one has not only been dealt with mature subtlety remaining thoroughly accurate in coherence to the real incidents happening but also without a judgmental stand point questioning the authority of the Christian Catholic church.
The strength of the film is the riveting dilemma among the protagonist characters who are mainly Catholics between their faith in the religion and the need to find out a true calling of justice from within. As the story unfurled the battle between faith and integrity became intensified and it became even more difficult to take sides.
For any kind of movie to be successful critically and commercially the true hero has to be the script as it is the crux on which the entire weight of the film rests. Good scripts also have their own inherent nature. Sometimes an outstanding script becomes so omnipotent that it flies high above the performances of the lead actors and finesse of the director. Hence it is extremely important that the balance between the strength of the script and the eloquence in flowing of the film is retained so that instead of outshining they complement each other.
The script in the movie is not only engrossing but is unison with the film augmenting the sincerity of the protagonists. The script never tries to be the hero but manages to become colossally integral with the events occurring in the film. Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer have been able to strike this intricate balance brilliantly.
Acting is an art in its own right. Although good acting is primarily an individual effort yet at the same time it is a cooperative and collaborative process. An actor can perform only when his performance gets reciprocated from another actor. At the same time acting at times is a selfish process where often an individual actor tries to outshine others with the mastery of his own craft. The performances by the ensemble cast of this movie are truly cooperative as from an individual space as well as from a collective angle. Not only they have been able to remain thoroughly honest and earnest in the depiction of their characters or in a different manner has become characters themselves but they have never shadowed each other. A certain degree of honesty and the responsibility to be a part of a very important story that needs to be told on the celluloid was apparent from their individual efforts. The pivot of the movie is on a great team and the actors have truly emerged as a group.
Editing and music:
Whenever we read a mystery story it enlivens us when the story slowly unfolds and by the time we reach the end it attains a crescendo of drama. Spotlight begins in a sort of leisurely pace to the point of being lazy. Initially the characters seem rather partly committed to the subject as they had to work on some other stories. However like the octopus spreading its tentacles the subject grips them becomes an inseparable portion of their life transforming ultimately into a crusade against the church. The strongest point of the film is the utter sincerity of the protagonists and compassion for the people who were affected and finally becoming the foot soldiers of this mammoth war against the most powerful institution of the western world- The Christian church.
The editing by Tom McArdle is so excruciatingly artistic that one scene dissolves into the other without ever impeding the flow or unnecessarily hurrying it. The movie doesn’t try to be humorous or satirical at any point but rather remains beautifully direct and extremely compassionate never diluting the subject or making it gravely complex. The background score by Howard Shore creates magic complementing the film frame by frame without trying to become an overpowering force cannibalizing the film.
Research and authenticity:
This film was an extremely ambitious project. The topic being extremely sensitive has to be dealt with caution without patronizing its heroes. As it was already a Pulitzer Prize winning investigation authenticity was a big issue. Any deviation or distortion of the key facts would have jeopardized the entire effort.
The crew did such an amazing intricate research giving attention to the minute details that the original investigators of the report told that details gathered by the crew was often more diligently covered than their actual recollections. The director and the principal actors spent time often in groups and isolation with the original Spotlight team so that the actors could shadow minor mannerisms of the actual characters. For instance Mark Ruffalo who was playing the character of the head strong journalist Michael Rezendes not only imitated his slightest mannerisms but to their utter surprise even mocked Michael’s smile to perfection.
Each of the actors involved- great performers in their own rights showed utter commitment in expressing explicit sincerity about the parts they played bringing not only the wide angles but also the slight nuances to fruition.
The final question:
After a general discussion on different aspects of film making the pertinent question that arises is what is so special in the film that has helped it to obtain a separate creative niche among a series of very well made crafty films in line for all major award functions this year? If we provide a closer look great performances, great direction, riveting screenplays, crisp editing, good background score are pivotal for the success of any great film. At least half a dozen films released this year lining for major international recognition like Academy awards or BAFTA satisfy these parameters.
The answer that I obtain upon judicious contemplation and insightful analysis is that this film becomes important by its almost paranoid need to tell a story that has great context in our present times .As we see almost at the end of the film that how systemic the problem has become and has plagued not only some isolated cities or archdiocese in Europe or America but across the whole world affecting almost every country where Christianity is followed.
The film never super-humanizes its protagonists although the job they conduct is of great service to humanity. It expresses genuine concern and compassion for the victims without ever compromising their dignity and restrained agony that have scarred them forever and which they considered as a self-proclaimed guilt to divulge to anyone.
The fine illustration of the duality between belief and going against it along with sincere concern for countless lives that have changed and many more that were saved from this abomination have made this movie a standalone among other luminaries in the movie sky seeking a position for posterity and greatness in future.
Mike Rezendes: I know there’s things you cannot tell people. But I also know there’s a story here, and I think everybody will hear about it.
Mitchell Garabedian: Do you think your paper has the resources to take that on?
Mike Rezendes: I do. Do you?