Thursday, March 13, 2008

Euro 2008 Film Festival: Group A, Portugal

Film Festival Rules & Guidelines
Film selected (Year, Director): Coisa Ruim (2006, Tiago Guedes/Frederico Serra)
Rating: 8/10
Rules compliance: All rules met
Relevance to Soccer: Physiological horror

The modern game is packed with sinister tackles, challenges which can put the talented players out of the game for extended periods of time. One recent example came on Feb 23, 2008 when Birmingham's Martin Taylor took out one of Europe's best goal-scorers in Arsenal's Eduardo. Taylor had no intent of playing the ball and clearly went out to injure Eduardo. Since the tackle came just a few minutes into the game, it underlined the tactics that Birmingham wanted to adopt against the free flowing football of Arsenal.

It is hard to know when the game turned sinister but one clearly documented incident of violent play took place in the 1962 World Cup in a match between the hosts Chile and Italy. The incident is known as The Battle of Santiago because the game riddled was with kicks. 4 years later in the 1966 World Cup, Portugal and Hungary adopted a policy of kicking Pele at every opportunity in order to stop the talented Brazilian in his tracks. Pele was injured and Brazil, the defending champions, were knocked out early from the World Cup. The incident left a bad taste in Pele's mouth and he almost left the game in disgust but thankfully he returned to lead Brazil to the 1970 World Cup. In those early days, the football authorities had no idea how to respond to this new wave of violent play and players got away with kicks.

After almost a decade of decent football from the mid 1990's to early 2000's, it seems the game has gotten a little bit sinister again in the last few years. And once again, it appears that the footballing authorities are incapable of handling sinister kicks as plenty of talented players have to suffer the opposing players studs on their bodies. Eduardo's injury should have been a wake-up call but the incident has been brushed off in England as part of the game.

The horror tackles not only inflict a physical injury but leave the injured player physiologically affected as well. If an injured player is fortunate to make a full recovery, it will still take some time for him to be able to play freely again. He might change his game to avoid tackles and might even back away from certain physical challenges for fear of the consequences. A player has to rely on their mental strength to overcome their fear of tackles and get back to pre-injury form again.

The horror film genre can be divided into two categories -- physical horror and physiological horror. By physical horror, I mean movies which depict plenty of gore, chopping, hacking and mutilation. Whereas, physiological horror takes place when a film tries to use subtle means to induce fear in the audience by tailoring the background music and the introduction of long shots with plenty of silent moments to soak in the danger. I have elements of the Japanese film Dark Water and The Grudge in mind as two examples. In both movies, shots of an empty apartment hallway become sinister because we know at any moment we might witness a supernatural entity but the waiting only increases the dread. More often, physiological horror films stays longer with a person rather than a mere physical horror film.

Despite what the following poster may seem to indicate,

the Portuguese film Bad Blood falls into the physiological horror category. There are no shots of gore or blood and most of the horror comes from the anticipation of something sinister, which never does arrive.

The story involves a family that inherits an isolated estate home in the countryside. With the aid of some clues we know there are ghosts that linger around the house. The story of ghosts visiting a country estate home is not that original as plenty of past films have shown that the ghosts are present because of unfinished business. However, Bad Blood is still a well made film which attempts to include elements of religion and debates of country life into the mix.


In this scene while the younger son is out of the house playing soccer, he witnesses the ghosts that visit him often.

When I first saw the following picture, I was reminded of the creature from Pan's Labyrinth.

The camera then pulls back to reveal back that the creature is an octopus. Horror depicted as art!

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