Opening 15 Jan 2009
Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) moves from Arizona to Forks, Washington, population 3120, to live with her father. Her mother follows her new husband to his place of work, a baseball summer camp in Florida. Bella adjusts to a new location, a new home, and a father whom she hasn’t seen for many years, although he takes his paternal responsibilities seriously. She befriends the Indian son of her father’s buddy as well as a companionable, mixed-race, high school clique. Friendly and open, she meets the Cullen family siblings who also attend her school (except on sunny days, when they stay at home). Dr. Carlisle Cullen and his wife have several teenagers who, though adopted, all share a similar pale complexion, styled hairdo and strange sliding gait. Bella falls flatly in love with one of them: Edward (Robert Pattinson). They date; father Charlie worries; she meets Edward’s family – all in a typical high school day, except that it isn’t at all typical because Edward is a vampire. He rescues her using his superhero strength to run like lightening and stop moving cars. His family makes an effort to serve her dinner (in their super modern glass house) although they are vegetarians (unlike their distant relatives who prefer meat). The film ends on a positive note after Edward and his family eliminate an unfriendly, blood-sucking vampire in a ballet school before he can sink his teeth into Bella. Another one escapes to guarantee that there will be a sequel – or three or four.
The story is idiotically simple. The text is so infantile that even non-English speakers will understand. I woke up in the second half when the baseball game offered a hint of action. Still, this film by Catherine Hardwicke has recovered eight times its production costs in a short time. Why is it successful?
It is based on the enormously successful book Twilight by Stephenie Meyer so that there was a fan pool even before the film hit the cinemas. Obviously, Englishman Pattinson and his dark eyebrows fulfilled the fantasies of the (mostly young female) readers, although I would have picked one of the other vampires. The film sticks to cool colors: grey, blue. There are references to the Quilente Legends about wolves becoming werewolves. The scenery of the American northwest is stunningly beautiful. All of this adds to the film’s success, but the real secret is the underlying romance which is 10% in the film and 90% in the minds of the viewers. Twilight is so romantic to young people because of the theme of a first love. Although Edward has been 17 since 1918, we believe that Bella is his first girlfriend. There is always a sense of holding back, of illegitimacy, of forbidden fruit, of not “going all the way” which would turn Bella into something else, a point of no return. Edward says, “I can never lose control with you,” and “You are my life now.” Every girl’s Victorian fantasy! He reminds me very much of his namesake, Edward Scissorshands, another sensitive, lonesome misfit in love. (Becky Tan)