Franklyn (2008, UK)

I am a big fan of dark dystopias, so I was excited to see Franklyn. When it turned out to be partially set in a kind of theocracy I was even happier. It opens with these lines being said by a person getting dressed, including a mask covering his whole head:

“Somebody once said that religion was deemed by the commoners as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful. The only thing I believe is that my name is Jonathan Preest. And tonight, I’m gonna kill a man.”

The part that is set I an undetermined, but really dark future is in an era, where everyone has to believe in something, or at least join registered organized church. It doesn’t matter what they believe in, so people keep switching between ridiculous ones. Ad hoc groups form and disband all the time. This helps keeping compliance with the ministry’s regulations and satisfies everyone’s curiosity. Here is a typical exchange form the movie:

I just need your religion for the record
Why?
For the register, sort of thing.
What’s yours?
At the moment I am with some seventh day manicurist, but I am thinking of changing. The level of discussion isn’t that great.

I found this whole concept as a critique and parody of “spiritual marketplace.” That is an idea that professor Wade Clark Roof (one of my professors at UCSB) identified in his 1999 book, “Spiritual Marketplace: Baby Boomers and the Remaking of American Religion.” It basically suggests that more and more people is no longer constrained by the religion they born into, but have the ability and interest to change, sometimes several times during their lifetime. Thus they shop around and look for one that they think suits them better. This idea was taken to the extreme in this movie, with the one difference that one has to “belong” to a religion. This requirement also exists in our society, although only implicitly. Agnostics and atheist are often looked upon as strange, “what’s wrong with you,” while if you believe I anything, no matter what, there is a better chance of acceptance or at least conversation.

I found the movie engaging, spiced with my favorite kind of imagery, (dark, misty, unrefined) occasional fights also helped to keep my attention. So did the actors. I have been watching out for Eva Green ever since “Kingdom of Heaven“. I didn’t like Antitrust, but its hero (and Franklyn’s) Ryan Phillipe was great in “Igby goes down” and “Stop-Loss“. The third major character was played by Sam Riley, who unfortunately will always remain as Ian Curtis for me because I first saw him in “Control“, which is about the history of lead singer of Joy Division. In short, memorable actors played memorable roles in memorable ways.

Then all of this was ruined by the ending. It was anti-climatic and disappointing. It used an idea that others already played out and negated the whole message. Too bad. Maybe I will attempt to forget the end and watch again the film and stop five minutes before the end. That way the mystery could linger and the ideas can remain more stimulating.

The film ‘s summary IMDB: Preest is a masked vigilante detective, searching for his nemesis on the streets of Meanwhile City, a monolithic fantasy metropolis ruthlessly governed by faith and religious fervor. Esser is a broken man, searching for his wayward son amongst the rough streets of London’s homeless. Milo is a heartbroken thirty-something desperately trying to find a way back to the purity of first love. Emilia is a beautiful art student; her suicidal art projects are becoming increasingly more complex and deadly

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