I went to see the new Twilight movie the other evening, New Moon. I must admit it was more pleasurable than I thought it would be. Not least because all the actors (and especially the male ones) are very beautiful and there is no doubt that made them easy to watch. There is a long section in the middle of the film where the main character and narrator, Bella Swan (played by Kristen Stewart), goes into a sort of melancholic decline after her vampire boyfriend, Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) abandons her. While Stewart is the lynchpin of the whole film (without her affecting performance the film would not be bearable), even she cannot redeem this long, dire part of the movie. No one can enjoy (I don’t suppose) watching someone mope about writing hundreds of emails only to watch that terrible message (unrecognised address) appear as they are immediately returned to the inbox.
Fortunately, she eventually comes out of her malaise (for the rather asinine reason that she is thrill seeking in order to attract Edward – with whom she has a close psychic bond – back to protect her) and teams up with Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner). This was my favourite part of the whole film, and not only because Lautner looks like a god. The fact is that, humanly speaking, the relationship between the Vampire Cullen and the pale Miss. Swan does not move me at all. It is all too serious, too overblown, and too repressed. Not to mention her disturbing desire to get bitten and live the vampiric life with Edward until the End, regardless of her ultimate salvation (for which Edward takes a greater responsibility than she). But the relationship as it is developed between Jacob and Bella is quite a charming and very natural one; in particular Jacob’s innocence is very endearing – and makes his discovery of his inner nature all the more compelling a somewhat distressing. That he, like Edward, abandons Bella to protect her from himself, asks the viewer to question how far it is right to attempt to “protect” our loved ones from harm or hurt because of something in our nature or our past, and whether in attempting to do so it might be possible to cause greater hurt than the risk of the pain we are trying to avoid. The question – in the film – is resolved in favour of not trying to exercise that kind of protection and allowing others to take risks – for love or friendship – which they judge to be morally good or in the interests of love or humanity or whatever.
The film seems then to turn on the two men (Edward and Jacob) both seeking to protect Bella from one another. Arguably, Jacob is the more outstanding in this regard, but both have an ulterior motive: they are in love with her. Bella herself has no interest in Jacob other than as a friend; there is one moment in the course of the film when she appears to apprehend his feelings and to reciprocate, at some level. However, things go badly awry when Jacob lies, ostensibly to protect her, but also in an attempt to ensure she and Edward remain apart. Of course this has the opposite effect, and there follows a very rushed sequence (given the length of the film and particularly the long, drear, middle section) in which Bella rushes to Italy to save Edward from the Volturi, a sort of Vampire royalty (without the panache of Anne Rice’s creations) who live in Italy (where else?). The town used in fact is the beautiful little hill town of Montepulciano in Siena (home of the most famous and wonderful vino nobile). Alas this whole scene is mediocre and the Vampire nobles, who should be terrifying, melancholy, and powerful, are simply rather camp (the talent of Michael Sheen who plays their leader Aro – a vampire of the ancient world who should be roughly equivalent to, say, Marius in Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles – is greatly wasted).
Overall, however, and despite its many flaws (not least of which is an under development of the consistent inner mythology which has the feeling of “realism” so necessary for the suspension of disbelief) I enjoyed the film and there is a lot to keep even critical viewers entertained. Kristen Stewart really is the best thing about it, along with the beautiful shots of the honey coloured Italian scenery. Of the other actors, who are not either under used or, when they are used, wasted, Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner deserve special mention. Pattinson is charismatic and mysterious, while Lautner brings a human slightly knowing innocence to Jacob’s character: both are especially beautiful and Lautner’s physical perfection is considerably exploited (a tactic which has no doubt boosted the film’s box office considerably and won the actor many devoted followers). Just these things (Stewart, Pattinson, Lautner) would make the film worth watching, and if beauty were in itself morally edifying (perhaps it is) mean that two hours spent in their company in the cinema would not be entirely wasted.