Monkey Reviews

Through the Eyes of A Chimp

Monkey Reviews
August 22, 2008Cassandra
CASSANDRA’S DREAM – Monkey goes Mad

When you think of Woody Allen movies, the image that usually comes to mind is self-deprecating comedy or romance that inevitably involves fusion and neurosis; this is what he is most known for. But woven throughout his prolific film career are the few movies that dive a little deeper. One of those movies I remember is “Crimes and Misdemeanors”, and another is Cassandra’s Dream, starring Ewan McGregor and Colin Ferrell. Both are similar in that they explore the moral dilemma of what it means to “get away” with something criminal.

The first clue to this being more than just a Crime Drama is the title of the movie. Cassandra’s Dream is what the two brothers name the boat they have just bought with all the money they have. It is a boat that promises to take them back to the innocence of their childhood, a promise to restore a sense of happiness and an escape from the doldrums of their working class life. It is a dream come true. But, as the saying goes, be careful what you dream/wish for. What appears like sunny blue skies can quickly turn to storm clouds. It just so happens that in Greek Mythology, Cassandra is a prophetess, a foreteller of doom, a dreamer who dreams tragedy and this movie is filled to the brim with dreams, both waking and sleeping. When you see this movie through this symbolic lens you realize that Woody Allen is giving us a modern retelling of a Greek Tragedy with nuances that capture the essence of the ancient tale of Cassandra. To flesh it out a bit I found this quote from Wikipedia:

“While Cassandra foresaw the destruction of Troy (she warned the Trojans about the Trojan Horse, the death of Agamemnon, and her own demise), she was unable to do anything to forestall these tragedies. Her family believed she was mad, and according to some versions, kept her locked up. In versions where she was incarcerated, this was typically portrayed as driving her truly insane, although in versions where she was not, she is usually viewed as remaining simply misunderstood.”

The movie follows a simple story line in which the plot can be summed up by the question “What lengths would you go to satisfy your desires?” But, really, sometimes simplicity is the quickest path to depth as there is nothing that gets in the way of letting age-old archetypal truths emerge. The quest for moral meaning doesn’t get lost in convolution or complicated storytelling. How the movie does this is through honest true-to-life characters – they are both archetypal in that they portray two very different classic responses to tragedy but they are also just two ordinary English blokes you might meet in a small seaside village trying to eek out a living. Kind of like you and me.

Another thing I noticed was the way the movie was filmed. At first it seemed dated, almost like one of those old 60’s English movies you might have watched on a Saturday afternoon as a kid. But it doesn’t take long to realize that this too is intentional. An atmosphere of banality and everyday life is created with Technicolor and a music score that seems from a different era in order to bring home the idea that this “everyday reality” is the very place where the bigger stories and the morality plays are staged and where our characters are put to the test. I was most impressed with Colin Ferrell’s performance. He managed to break the leading man stereotype I usually associate with him and as a result, his character deepened the story and evoked sympathy.

The movie feels satisfying primarily because Woody Allen doesn’t let us off easy. He assumes that our actions and choices incur an exacting price and that morality will rear it’s head at every turn. The viewer is left with the question “Can I live with the consequences of pursuing my desires at all costs?”; the answer all depends on the make-up of our characters.

It’s interesting to note that in psychology they use the name Cassandra to label the following syndrome:
The Cassandra metaphor (variously labelled the Cassandra 'syndrome', 'complex', 'phenomenon', 'predicament', 'dilemma', or 'curse'), is a term applied in situations in which valid warnings or concerns are dismissed or disbelieved.