Irish Film Institute -Fun


Director: Rafal Zielinski

The crime movie genre continues to thrive and is perhaps best exploited by American independent filmmakers who have used it as a relatively cheap form of entry into the cinemas marketplace. Quentin Tarantino provided the most spectacular recent proof of what can be achieved when a tyro with talen tocmbines such stock-in-trade elements as a bunch of criminals, lost of guns, and a camera. But the genre is malleable enough to accommodate a very diverse range of voices, and guys with guns represent only one point of departure. The controversial Fun has been acclaimed for breaking new ground in this area, but it can also be seen as an intriguing variation on a familiar species of crime movie which deals with oddball couples whose bonding can have deadly consequences. Rafal Zielinski’s impressive low-budget feature has already been acclaimed as a berserk, feminine in Cold Blood for the ’90s, and one has no problem citing even closer cousins such as Thelma and Louise and Heavenly Creatures. Fun was developed from a stage play which documented a real murder case involving two teenage girls who got so high on each other’s company that they went on a rampage in suburban America and wound up killing and old woman ‘for fun’. In the movie, fourteen-year-old Bonnie (Alicia Witt) and fifteen-year-old Hillary (Rene Humphrey) accidentally meet one morning by the side of a road and start up a conversation. They quickly become close friends, sharing confidences about their problems with parents – hyperactive Bonie was neglected by her family, while hyper-intelligent Hillary was raped by her father – and each comes to identify the other as a soul mate. There are hints of a sexual attraction between the pair.
The film sets out not only to portray the lifestyles and relationships of the two teenagers but also to explore the motivations behind the seemingly senseless killing. This two-pronged approach finds vivid expression in the film’s visual style, which combines and intercuts a black and white verite drama about the girls in prison with a carefully composed colour sequences portraying their life together before the crime. Characterisation is also employed to serve the film’s central concern with notions of duality and difference. In prison, Bonnie and Hillary are confronted by a female counsellor and a male journalist, each of whom employs a very different approach to get at the truth. The psychiatric counsellor seeks to convince the girls that the killing was not ‘fun’, and that the couple’s sense of attachment to each other is rooted in fantasy and misconception. The journalist has a different agenda, which he pursues in a more roundabout way by attempting to befriend the less aggressive of the girls.
One of the film’s strengths is its honesty in attempting to exhaustively explore a variety of points of view in dramatic terms rather than rely too heavily on social and psychological explanations. The girls are given a voice to express their frustrations about a society that has failed to provide them with any understanding, let alone love.
Fun doesn’t manage to avoid all the cliches of the ‘realist’ crime movie, but overall it’s a successful and challenging effort. The location shooting in a stark prison environment and on city streets has the chill of authenticity that would be difficult to capture in a big budget feature, where every location tends to be turned into just another movie set. Similarly, one guesses that the remarkably effective performances by the yound leads might have something to do with the freedom they were allowed in terms of language and movement during filming. The results may shock some people, and intending viewers should be warned that the murder scene is, necessarily and wholly justifiably, very disturbing.

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