Added: Arien Pepper - Date: 16.01.2022 23:06 - Views: 14384 - Clicks: 2885
Mad Max: Fury Road is an anxiety attack of a film. I do not mean that Fury Road is anxiety-inducing—although this statement is also true. To watch Fury Road is to feel a panoply of emotions alongside its characters. Fear when the cars chasing them float above the heat waves on the horizon.
Amazement and anger when the Five Wives are revealed, clipping chastity belts off each other, rinsing the dust off themselves and covering their unprotected skin from the heat of the baking sun. Curiosity about the new rules the wasteland-dwellers have written for themselves, now that the world has gone half-dead and feral. Excitement and incredulousness throughout the chase, beat by beat, as War Boys hurl themselves from one hunk of speeding metal into another and fire blossoms around their cars and their bodies. Anxiety rides hand-in-hand with all of these emotions.
To watch Fury Road without feeling anxious would mean that the watcher is unmoved, out of sync with a film always in motion. I do not wish to talk about how Fury Road makes me, the watcher, feel anxious. Instead, I wish to talk about how Fury Road goes about its business conveying, on a technical level, the anxiety that haunts its characters and permeates its world.
But the skeleton of the film is made not of action. Civilization collapsed under the weight of wars over oil, then water, then gas; the wars metastasized, nuclear fallout hastening climate change until the seas dried up, leaving only sand and salt and heat. After the end, the only things thriving are the things that brought about that very apocalypse: violence, anger, power, exploitation.
The remnants of human life cling to the surface, scratching out an existence with the same currency that killed their world, and that will eventually kill them, too. The world that died by violence continues on in a violent half-life, its citizens crushed under the rule of warlords who personify the vices that hastened the end of civilization.
The wasteland holds only empty, sandy space, a vast expanse that can spare no room for living things. Plants will not grow—the earth, like the water, has gone sour—and any human who stops for too long is rendered vulnerable. People are uprooted from space and time, left with all of the convenience of modern technology but none of its comforts. To live in one place, alone and peaceful and tied to the land, would be to invite trouble. Many exist as small bands of scavengers, small, mobile, and suspicious: buzzards in rusty, spiked cars; cliff-dwellers armed with bombs and rocks; old women astride motorbikes, defending their sand dunes with guns and their wits and a strong suspicion of men.
Such an existence is fraught with uncertainty that can only be met with action. Run or be run over; kill or be killed. They take everything they can, pumping water and gas from the ground and milk from human women, farming bullets, cultivating people as fodder for their petty wars. Personhood is traded for commodity and independence for enslavement. All are painted white, the pits of their eyes stained dark: Mad max chastity belt skeletons who not only expect to die for the Immortan but who welcome the opportunity.
As lookalike interchangeable parts of a war machine, they jockey for position, fighting to drive the fastest cars straight into oblivion, terrified of being lost in mediocrity and failure. The War Boys embrace the same lives of perpetual motion as the people they prey on, sowing seeds of anxiety and fear into the hearts of the other wasteland Mad max chastity belt.
Gasoline is their lifeblood; they must keep moving in their cobbled-together war machines. They are always chasing something—another victim, a runaway, another war party—with those chases punctuated by vicious fights. And even in the fighting, the chase cannot stop. It simply shifts from two dimensions into three, small cars weaving in and out of the larger machines as war parties attempt to dismantle each other on the run.
Vehicles fall apart in the action, flip over, crash; the road warriors crawl across the outsides of their machines like flies on some great beast, swaying on poles above the action, shooting flamethrowers and Gatling guns, their movements lithe as they leap from car to car, spears in hand, or else jerky as they scramble across burning metal with superhuman speed. Their actions come with the stomach-drop of anxiety: the metal of the cars and the desert ground are both blazing hot and unforgiving; one wrong move would spell death for the War Boys, for the passengers, for Furiosa or Max.
The fear comes from all sides, and it never stops coming. Fury Road is one long car chase running from anxiety towards shelter, oscillating between the two in one long continuous feedback loop. The structure is present in the bare bones of the plot—escape, relief, escape again—but it is also ingrained in the very frames of the film. No film can show action in real time. Fury Road gets around this limitation by abandoning all pretense of true time, exaggerating its breakneck action beyond believable human motion. War Pups shuffle their feet stiffly as they line up in rows with uncanny quickness; War Boys flip over cars and slalom off each other, their movements impossibly fast.
The effect is an adrenaline rush, and not one of excitement. For Max, it is a rush of fear, the jerk of limbs not quite under his control, the wild-animal need to escape. Max climbs out of his wrecked Interceptor, double exposure working double time to demonstrate his disorientation.
The War Boys stretch Max prone, subjecting him to the sharp snip of shears cutting his hair and the droning buzz of the tattoo machine, marking him for what he is: high-octane crazy blood, about to attempt a high-octane crazy escape in unfamiliar territory.
Max kicks himself free, dashing through sparks and the screaming saws cutting up his own car, running from danger to danger until he finds his way to an opening in the cavern and is stopped short by the open air of the cliff in front of him, and by sudden normal motion. The camera overcranks again as he dashes toward the opening, then slows down to capture his whole body stretched out by a desperate leap toward safety.
Smash to black. In the Citadel, nowhere is safe: escape from danger will only result in a headlong chase, peril close behind. Overcranking provides Fury Road with the speed it needs to get going; framing gives it the momentum it needs to keep from toppling over. Action scenes are filmed with direct, square framing, the crosshairs of the camera trained always on a single point : the nose of an actor, the yawn of a skull, the end of a gun.
The result is a feeling of inevitable conflict with no certainty regarding Mad max chastity belt outcome. When Max surprises Furiosa and the Five Wives in the desert, the first thing he sees is a war rig that can carry him far away from the Citadel. The next thing he sees is the women who also put their trust in the machine to take them away from their own captivity. His focus flickers between the water they waste to wash the dust off themselves—they luxuriate, obviously unused to desert thrift—and the bolt cutters they use to cut off their bonds.
To Max, the women are an obstacle, fuzzy and unfocused. In his mind, they are secondary. The war rig offers him freedom and the open road, if he can manage to drive it away. The water and the bolt cutters offer relief from thirst and from the chain he still wears. Max has learned to distrust people, relying on his wits and the physical objects he can get his hands on. The camera focuses on the water nozzle and the drops that run freely from it, the bolt cutters and the chain binding Max, with the black hulk of the war rig looming over them all.
When Max tangles with Furiosa and Nux over the war rig, the single-minded focus Mad max chastity belt. The only thing that exists in the world right now is the task at hand, the wrench Furiosa swings at his head, the gun clip that might help him gain the upper hand.
Each shot is quick, hard, and cruel: no soft focus, no pulled punches. Each shot has a point, an intent, a consequence. Furiosa swings a wrench, so Max uses a car door as a shield, which brings his chain within reach of the Five Wives, who pull the chain to knock Max off his feet: dominoes tumbling out of control. The entire film follows this pattern of crisp, clear chaos: equilibrium, anxiety, action, then escape, over and over again.
Max and Furiosa and the Five Wives escape from the Citadel, then their pursuers, then scavengers, then a massive sandstorm—on and on and on, always evading the jaws of danger by diving once more into an unknown and hostile environment. When the camera zooms in on a focal point, Sixel holds the shot for a beat, giving the viewer somewhere to rest their gaze, prolonging the suspense of what other action could be happening elsewhere. In one of many such shots, the war rig drives through a cloud of dust that threatens to block the engine intake.
The shot holds as the valve flips open again Mad max chastity belt clear the intake: a gasp of air, the machine breathing deep, action and wordless exposition all in one stroke. Every action made by a human being is shown in single shots, from beginning to middle to end.
The motion must be carried through, or else be stopped by some immovable object—another car, or else the crush of gravity. The sniper focus of the camera creates a tunnel-vision clarity. As with the framing and editing, the sound work is exemplary, underscoring every anxious flight of its characters.
The War Boys are urged on to make war by a guitarist and a cohort of drummers—encouragement for them, a dire warning to the people they pursue. The non-diegetic score thrums in time with the action as well, a double chord that evokes an engine starting. Thrum, thrum: the Immortan is angry. Their cries are a repeated litany: exhortations for the others to see their deeds and so give them the glorious deaths they crave, and praise for the Immortan.
They are united in likeness and in purpose, and their cries reflect their motivations: simple words and commands to witness them. The War Boys run towards danger and a historic death, unlike Max and Furiosa and the Five Wives, who flee slavery and death towards more danger and an uncertain life.
The Five Wives hope to find the Green Place; Furiosa is looking for redemption from the things she had to do to survive. Their dialogue—especially the dialogue of the Wives—is complicated, interweaving and overlapping with the voices of the others, their voices as mixed as their individual dreams and motivations. They all desire escape, but they each feel different anxieties about it, each one whispered, said, screamed, or wailed, laying their fears bare in the open.
Max prefers to speak as little as possible. Unlike the War Boys, who shout their ambitions at every opportunity, or the Five Wives, whose voices continually raise their fear of their pursuers and affirm a hope for a better life, Max presents a silent shell to the outside world.
He retreats within himself, wasting few words and no breath. But his own brain is still no shelter. Whenever he closes his eyes, he sees his past failures: people he used to know, all dead and all gone, all reminders of past failures, and of the stakes of the actions he takes now.
They stride out of his past, directly toward him, pace measured even when all other action around them is overcranked. They are timeless; they alone look down the barrel of the camera as they approach. You let us die! Each one still has distinct facial features Mad max chastity belt the skull overlay. They have not been robbed of their individuality by flat white war paint.
Their loss broke Max, until he is left with his one remaining instinct: to survive. He can only pick up the supplies he can carry and run with anyone else who can keep up with him. And so, Max and Furiosa and the Five Wives sprint through the cycle of anxiety and shelter as they race across the desert away from the Citadel, skipping from danger to danger. The further they get from their pursuers, the longer the time between dangers.
The overcranked action dissipates as longer and quieter stretches of normal time encroach. The frames of the film flicker at near normal speed as they begin to settle in, their desperate sprint turning into a long-distance haul. Until they meet with the Vuvalini, the old women of the desert, and Furiosa learns that her Green Place has been lost forever.
Adrenaline is traded for despair. The anxiety Furiosa never voiced, never even considered, has come true: there are no safe places out in the unknown stretches of the desert. Time slows once more when she falls to her knees and screams her rage and sorrow into the dry air. Grief never only happens in real time.
It expands and it protracts. She and the others have been running fueled on anxiety—who else could they meet in the wasteland, what dangers could they pose, what obstacles lie in their way. So they abandon their run into the empty desert. Instead of a desperate rush away from danger and into a nebulous unknown, they finally have a plan: take the Citadel. No more aimless wandering, no more desperate sprints to get away from their pursuers. And the only way out is through—a final dash back into the arms of the known, and the chance to redeem it, and to create safety in the process.
The fugitives finally have a goal.
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40 Brutal GIFs from the Mad Max: Fury Road Trailer