Today I watched Alex Proyas’ The Crow (1994)
Set in a fantastical and gothic rendition of Detroit, The Crow begins with the brutal murder of Eric Draven and his fiancee at the hands of four brutal thugs on the night before Halloween. But one year later Draven returns, clawing his way out of the grave and back to the world of the living, accompanied by a crow, his spiritual guide in death. Draven can now heal all wounds and is driven to vengeance, a restless soul’s quest for peace. Of course nothing is that easy and his four targets have greater associations in the criminal underworld who will, at the very least, avenge their henchmen. Meanwhile a cop played by Ernie Hudson has continued to follow up on the case of Draven’s death, eventually being pulled into his quest for vengeance as well.
Context is often important when viewing art, but I can think of few movies where the tragic situations of it’s creation, notably the death of the film’s star Brandon Lee, effect the final product so much. This is a movie about death and while filming, Brandon Lee was killed by a defective blank only eight days away from wrap. So now the film plays like a eulogy and it transcends the morbid angstiness of the source material. The feelings brought on by this tragedy are so entwined with the film that it is pretty much impossible to imagine it without them, what may have just been a particularly stylish and grim action flick is now a deeply mature, heartfelt, and sad meditation on death.
Of course all that style is still here, and still great. This movie has an incredibly engaging look, one that defined a lot of late 90’s goth aesthetic. It serves to amplify those aforementioned emotions, searing anger and soulful sorrow all a part of one magnificent tapestry of death. Brandon Lee would have been a star today and the tragedy that took him raises many complex emotions like that, hatred and frustration, grim acceptance, maybe a desire to live our own lives to the fullest in some strange gesture of compensation, all of which is present on screen with this film. It is a rather grim thing to say that this film is helped along so strongly by a real human death, yet it seems very true, this is art imitating life, or more specifically death, and the reality of it amplifies the fantasy and clarifies the emotions, it really is a work to behold. 5/5