Saturday, 19 March 2011

There Can Be Only One – Highlander an Appreciation

From the Dawn of Time we came, moving silently down through the centuries, living many secret lives, struggling to reach the Time of the Gathering, when the few who remain will battle to the last. No one has ever known we were among you, until now.

So there those big moments in life that define pretty much who you are and to a lesser extent there are those geek moments in life that define your geek life. For me one such moment was when I first watched Highlander, I can still clearly remember it.  The video man round our way ran his shop from his car, one Friday night he turned up with a new rental called Highlander. This would have been around about 1987 I was gearing up to leave school and so was still a tear away ahem, an impressionable teenager. Highlander quite literally blew my mind and as I creep ever more slowly to my 40th year it still continues to blow my mind. I have owned this film on nearly every format that’s been available through the years an ex rental video tape, video tape, DVD, DVD Special Edition and finally Blu-Ray and watching the Blu-Ray has in some one inspired me to commit to blog my appreciation for this film.

I’m not really sure if I can put my finger on why I love this film, for me the sum of its parts is greater than it whole. The central idea of Highlander is that immortals live among us battling one another through history till the time of the Gathering when the last remaining few will battle for the Prize, as an idea it kick’s ass. Being immortal and living for ever is such a staple of fantasy but who hasn’t day dreamed of being immortal? But what this film does really well is also show the realities of living forever, for me there are three key scenes in the film demonstrate this brilliantly :-

First off there is the films emotionally packed middle, accompanied by Queen’s haunting Who Wants to Live for Ever, Connor MacLeod watches helplessly as his beloved wife Heather ages before his very eyes. One moment they are a young couple full of life with years ahead of them but then time cruelly catches up with them and Heathers inevitable death comes to pass but not before she makes Connor promise to light a candle every year on her birthday and remember her. After her death Connor buries her in the mountains leaving his clan broad sword as a grave marker and then burns their cottage symbolising he is leaving that part of this life behind him.

The next scene is between Connor or Russell Nash as he is now living by and his (good as) adopted daughter Rachel. It’s a very simple scene (if I remember rightly she is doing up his tie for him) but with some amazing dialogue which perfectly shows how Heathers death affected and continues to effect Connor

Rachel - Will you listen to me for one moment? You can't hide your feelings from me! I've known you too long.
Connor - What feelings?
Rachel - How about loneliness?
Connor - I'm not lonely. I've got everything I need right here.
Rachel - Oh no you don't. You refuse to anyone love you.
Connor - Love is for poets.

Like I said simple but effective.

Lastly there is the scene in Connor’s Den in his modern day New York apartment, it’s almost like stepping back through history with him. The den is adorned with the artifacts and objects he has collected through his long life. Again it’s a simple device but it really hits home that Connor has lived all these lives down through the ages.

For me though the best scenes in the film are that of the Quickening, it’s jammed pack full of fantasy clichés and sword fights on top of mountains but it gets me every time. Ramirez played by the brilliant Sean Connery tracks down Connor to the Scottish Highlands in order to prepare him for the coming battles and to make sure that he doesn’t lose his head. It plays out like an 80’s soft rock video but given director Russell Mulcahy’s background in music videos it’s hardly surprising. Although I’m still not sure what the hell is going own with the whole deer possession thing, very strange.

The three main cast members in Highlander are also worthy of a mention. First up playing the title role of Connor MacLeod is Christopher Lambert, who as a Frenchman had to be taught English in order to play the leading roll. Given that however Lamberts portrayal of Connor is pretty good and his Scottish accent is not at all bad. However his American accent in the modern day setting does have a distinct French flavour. Next up is Juan Sanchez Villa-Lobos Ramirez played by the indomitable Sean Connery. Ramirez is supposed to a 2400 years old Egyptian living out his immortal years in Spain, but its Sean Connery, so what you end up with is a 2400 year old Scots man. But hey it’s Connery and he does lend the film a certain gravitas. Last but no least is the scene chewing acting behemoth Clancy Brown playing the very, very bad man the Kurgan. The Kurgan is the villain of the film and wants to win the prize for his own dark means; he is from a particularly vicious clan of killers from the Russian Steppes and as Ramirez points out to Connor the Kurgan’s like to "toss children into pits full of starved dogs, and watch them fight for the meat for amusement” which is nice. Perhaps not surprisingly then it’s Connor and the Kurgan left to fight it out for the Prize at the end of the film.

Another important part of the film for me is the soundtrack. The original musical score was composed by Michael Kamen however the soundtrack also includes several songs by Queen most noticeably Princes of the Universe and the Brian May penned choker Who Wants to Live Forever. Although there was no official soundtrack released to accompany Highlander the songs that Queen composed for the film can be found on the 1986 album A Kind of Magic.

Final thoughts

So there we have it a small blog post in praise of one of my favorite films Highlander, for me it’s a classic film that I never get bored of watching. Yes it’s got its flaws, but dodgy accents and ropey special effects aside I still love it and will continue to do so. Remember there can be only one, which is sage advice for the Highlander franchise as we don’t under any circumstances acknowledge the existence of any sequels, we really don’t.

No comments:

Post a Comment