steepholm (steepholm) wrote,

The Feminine Monarchie

I've just watched the 2006 Nicholas Cage remake of The Wicker Man, having had it on my tbw pile for some time.

It wasn't as bad as I'd thought it would be - this is no The Seeker - but it did strike me as a strangely pointless piece, in the sense that it added nothing of substance to the original, while inevitably taking much away. The only reason I can see for remaking it - and it's a pretty patronizing one - is to increase the story's appeal by giving it an American protagonist and an American setting. It was also trimmed and padded to make it better fit the standard silhouette of a Hollywood horror film. It did this in a fairly half-hearted way, mind - some "horror" moments were introduced, but they mostly turned out to be hallucinations brought on by Cage's overwrought state of mind, and thus didn't need to be actually integrated into the plot. Oh, and the musical numbers were omitted - which I consider a stroke of genius in the original film, but would obviously be high on the hit list of anyone wanting to turn it into a more conventional, mono-generic picture.

The biggest addition was to make Summerisle - sorry, here it's Summersisle for some reason - a matriarchy, and change its produce specialism from fruit to honey. The men of the island are silent and acquiescent labourers, and Christopher Lee's replacement, Sister Summersisle, is clearly queen bee. I'm not sure why the director went down this route: using "women in charge" as a shorthand way of indicating something nightmarishly disordered about society is just a wee bit misogynist, don't you think? But in any case, it's a superfluous addition to the film Robin Hardy directed in 1973, which had plenty of plot without it. The only attempt to bring the two together was right at the end. Where Hardy burned his policeman to a rousing chorus of "Sumer is Icumen In", Neil LaBute went with chants of "The drone must die!" Mary Renault, eat your heart out.

Oh, and this policeman is not even religious, which makes the final quip about dying a martyr's death (which is retained) kind of meaningless. The whole discourse of the original film about paganism and Christianity as comparative religions was omitted, in fact. Was this so as not to offend American Christian sensibilities? Or just more "horror film" cookie cutting? Both, perhaps.

One last thing - a very big plot hole, to my mind. In the original film, Summerisle had been converted to paganism by Lord Summerisle's grandfather, a Victorian rationalist who thought that his agricultural workers might be more productive if they followed a nature religion. Hence, there was an abandoned church on the island, left over from the time before that. In the 2006 version, the islanders' "Celtic ancestors" - location wisely omitted - have always followed their matriarchal pagan ways, coming to America in the seventeenth century to escape persecution and in due course arriving at Summersisle (off the Pacific coast) in 1850 and making it their own. Yet this island too has an abandoned church, with old gravestones! Despite the fact that there's never been a Christian settlement there! Is that not strange? Needless to say, there's no indication that there were ever any Native Americans living there either.
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