Tuesday, October 10, 2006

[DVD] Stay (2005)

Stay With Me

If you've enjoyed movies like The Machinist, then you'll probably enjoy a movie like Stay. It's one of those well-designed mystery suspense thrillers that leave you guessing for the most parts until its revelation, where things begin to fall nicely into place after bewildering your mind as the movie progressed and strange, unexplainable things start to happen.

Ewan McGregor plays psychiatrist Dr. Sam Foster, who takes over a case from fellow psychiatrist friend Beth. He inherited a patient named Henry Letham (Ryan Gosling) who's on the road to self destruction and to end his life by commiting suicide to ape his favourite artist, and telling Sam when he's going to do it. Exactly what his motivation is, becomes Sam's obsession and a race against time to prevent it from happening.

What strikes you in its presentation from the onset is the ultra-slick editing used for transitional scenes. It's extremely fluid and blends together disparate scenes so perfectly. But despite looking good, the film got bogged down by its narrative in wanting to dwell unnecessarily on the romantic aspect between Sam and his girlfriend Lila, played by Naomi Watts, who seemed a bit too pedestrian in her role as a pained-supportive flower vase type character.

Upping the ante on the creepiness, the soundtrack is an eclectic mix of dark sounding tunes, and again I do agree with the use of Massive Attack's Angel to highlight the general mood of strangely calming state of confusion. Director Marc Forster (Monster's Ball, Finding Neverland) and writer David Benioff (who wrote the screenplay for 25th Hour) managed to throw some red herrings and caught me offguard a couple of times as I was made comfortably smug at what I thought were plenty of deja vu moments, but not quite.

I was waiting for the end-all-explain-all finale, but it didn't treat its audience as silly folks and didn't resort to spelling out everything in verbatim. Every strange thing that you spotted had a reason behind it, and they all come together in a satisfying resolution. Even the title has a meaning when you reached this point.

Code 1 DVD contains both the fullscreen and widescreen versions of the movie. The special features however, are split into each side. The fullscreen side consisted of the trailer and The Music of Stay featurette, lasting 8mins 10s recounting how the unique sounds and score for the movie were made.

On the widescreen side, it contains a featurette called "Departing Visions" (7mins), which is a documentary of "experiencers" - people who had gone through near death experiences, sharing what they felt and went through. Pretty creepy stuff, hearing them out.

**Mild Spoilers Ahead**

The bulk of the special features belongs to the scene specific commentary, divided into two sections. The first had a series of 5 clips with commentary provided by the director Marc Forster and actor Ryan Gosling. You gotta crank up the volume and peel your ears though as Gosling almost always mumbles his comments. The clips are

1. Sam and Henry Meet (3mins 50s), touching on the breaking of the 180 degree rule.
2. Strip Club (2mins 15s), touching on style.
3. I Met Your Mother Last Night (5mins), which talked about the special camera which could spin on its axis, used for a shot in this clip.
4. Henry Heals Leon (3mins 36s), talking about Bob Hoskins.
5. The Last Memory Before You Die (8mins 20s), which recounted Ryan Gosling being the cameraman shooting the scene from his character's point of view.

The other section of the commentary was provided by director Marc Forster, editor Matt Chesse, second unit director Kevin Tod Haug and director of cinematography Roberto Schaefer. They provided some in depth discussions on how the look of the film was achieved, and shared quite a bit on the technicalities, in 7 extended clips:

1. The Opening (11mins), talking about the morphings and the transitions
2. Nothing Makes Sense (4mins 7s), touching on mini-morphs and the number of takes stacked on top of one another.
3. The End (11mins, 7s)
4. The Spiral Staircase (12mins), which was shot in the Church of St John the Divine, which dragged on until the Henry Heals Leon scene, and provided an interesting interpretation of the Last Memory scene.
5. Club Meds (5mins 11s)
6. The Noodle Scene (16mins 24s), their intense night of production - 15 hours straight
7. The Columns (9mins 5s), which actually provided an insight as to why Dr Sam Forster's pants are always a cut above the ankle.

I didn't expect the above to last that long, as the filmmakers just ratted on continuously, allowing one scene to run to the next and the next, while eager to share some insights as to how certain shots were created, or what decisions were made to come up with it.

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