Monday, April 24, 2017

Salt and Fire showcases acting as flat as the salt fields in Bolivia

Movie Title:  
Salt and Fire

Grade:  C+

Rating:  It is posted as NR (Not Rated), but I would give it a PG-13 for some violence and people in perilous situations.  98 minutes long.

In a Nutshell: Filmed in Bolivia, this eco-drama was shot in only 16 days and features Michael Shannon.   Salt and Fire is named for the famous and expanding Uyuni salt flats in Bolivia, and the volcano nearby.  The location is stunning, but the acting is as flat as the salt fields.

Uplifting theme: 
  • “Remember now thy creator in the days of thy youth.” – a parrot quoting Ecclesiastes in the Bible
  • “Truth is the only daughter of time.” – Matt Riley (Michael Shannon).  The original quote has been attributed to several people, most commonly linked to Aulus Gellius.
  • “It’s ok to be afraid of the dark, but the real tragedy in life is when men are afraid of the light.” – Matt Riley, quoting his grandmother
  • Personal and social responsibility
  • Nature, saving the environment
  • Perspective

Things I liked:
  • Director and writer Werner Herzog gets a cameo as one of the passengers on the plane near the beginning of the movie.  I always get a kick out of directors who slip into their movies.
  • The cinematography of the Uyuni salt flats in Bolivia was captivating.
  • Gael Garcia Bernal’s character was entertaining.  I would have liked to see more of him in the film.
  • I thought the scene with the contorted, anamorphic artwork was really interesting, requiring the tall, reflective cylinders in order to see the paintings.  I’ve never seen that before!
  • The cloister painting at Santissima Trinita in Rome was fascinating.  From afar, you see one picture, but as you walk closer, the image completely changes. I've been to Rome twice (I LOVE ITALY!!!), but I missed this fascinating mural on both trips.  Next time!  The reference of this art piece illustrates a theme in this movie: perspective.
  • I loved the goofy photographs they took on the salt flats.  The salt flats are the highlight of the movie.
  • Most Americans have never seen the beautiful Veronica Ferres in anything before, although she has been acting in Germany for many years.  Sometimes her acting seemed very stiff, but she was believable at other times.  She has such wonderfully pouty lips.  She was genuinely sweet with the two little blind boys.
  • There was a scene where they went to see an old train stuck in the desert, Herzog's metaphor for mankind and civilization.

Things I didn’t like:
  • Some of the acting was just terrible.  
  • Some of the music choices were quite odd. 
  • The writing is VERY forced.
  • Michael Shannon, who is normally very good, seemed extremely stiff.  Poor writing does that to even good actors.  Too bad.
  • The story is just silly.  Kidnapping was simply not needed and added a false, weak sense of urgency.  It was more annoying than anything else.  
  • Some of the characters are absolutely ridiculous, like Lawrence Krauss, whose acting was dreadful and whose existence in the story was dumbfounding.  The whole wheelchair thing was just bizarre and made Matt Riley seem even more unhinged.  And he has two names.  Just weird.  And those goggles at the end?  I know he was meant to provide some comic relief, but it fell salt flat.
  • The film is listed as a thriller on some web sites, but it is far from that.  Most viewers will be bored.
  • The movie was adapted from video game writer Tom Bissell's short story Aral, which proves, again, that not all video games translate into good movies.
 Funny lines:
  • “This is the mother of all diarrhea.” – Dr. Arnold Meier (Volker Michalowski)
  • “I only use the wheelchair when I’m tired of life.” – Krauss/Aristidis

Interesting lines:
  • There is no reality. There are only views of reality, only perceptions...all collective anxieties condensed into conspiracy theories.” – Matt Riley
  • I think I was meant to live a different life.” – Matt
  • “I’m trying to bring who I really am into focus.” – Matt 

Tips for parents: 
  • No profanity.
  • Most kids will lose interest after only a few minutes.  Skip forward to the scenes that show the amazing salt flats 


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