katrinaolson.ca - This Must Be The Place

Posted on Thursday, January 26, 2012 at 12:00 AM

This Must Be The Place (2011, Paolo Sorrentino) stars Sean Penn as the character Cheyenne, a retired rock star (mix between Edward Scissorhands and Robert Smith), who lives in the UK with his wife (Frances McDermond) and Step-daughter (Eve Hewson). Cheyenne struggles with his guilt, and deciders to go visit his father who passed away, after not speaking with him for 30 years. Upon Cheyenne’s arrival to New York (via ship because of his fear of flying) he decides to hunt down his fathers persecutor, a Nazi war criminal from Auschwitz.

This film is loaded with innuendoes and social commentary on our current sentiments on not dealing with our past in Western culture. This Must Be the Place is a clever combination of the film feel brought about by Ghost World, Garden State and Somewhere. It compasses this searching, an inner search for meaning in a lonely world. Penn’s character, the melancholic Cheyenne, goes about his journey through the United States, stopping in Michigan, New Mexico and Utah, all the way with a voice over of his father reading through a journal he keeping during his time in the concentrating camp in Auschwitz, sounding very similar to Victor Frankl’s book Man’s Search for Meaning.

When Cheyenne goes to see his father on his death bed there is an extreme close up of his father’s numbered tattoo on his forearm from Auschwitz, further into the film in a small town in Michigan,  Cheyenne sits next two a man who is littered in tattoos mainly of Jesus. Cheyenne has a dialog with the man about whether he likes tattoos or not. His response is that he is undecided. The response seemed profoundly diplomatic considering the earlier footage of his fathers tattoo, when he is faced with someone who embodies characteristics of a neo-nazi.

There was a scene in this film where a large native American man in a suit gets into Cheyenne’s truck at a gas station and silently hitches a ride into the middle of the dessert. This may have been some social commentary on white washing society, or perhaps it was a random occurrence, either way, it stuck out in film randomly, as did the massive pistachio, Cheyenne’s truck engine spontaneously combusting, the story about the revolution of wheels on luggage and the buffalo chewing its cud as viewed through a window.  Cheyenne was constantly drinking from a tall soda bottle straw, a thirst for something, but never seemed to be quenched?

There was a quote from Cheyenne in this film which was really moving and stuck pretty hard: “We go from an age of where my life will be that, to that’s life”. Basically we go out on our journey in life with things to accomplish, but at the end of the day it is written for us and we accept our fate or destiny. This may have been a way of Cheyenne’s character rationalizing the atrocity of the holocaust and the role it played in his fathers life then subsequently his upbringing and present state of depression.

The imagery of this film is so strong on the surface which really contradicts with the rather ambiguous dialogue, and folky emo music. The film is contrasty and saturated, really full of colours and shadows. The stylistic slow motion walking sequences feel very familiar and foreign simultaneously.  Cheyenne’s wife in the film is Frances McDormand (best known for her role of Marge Gunderson in Fargo (1996, Coen Bros.)). Her character, although the wife seemed the masculine energy in her marriage, where Cheyenne wore make-up and painted his nails, was emotional, and was a stereotypically a more feminine embodiment in character. Both Penn and McDormand are such incredibly talented actors with amazing repertoires that their performances in This Must Be The Place were no exception to what audiences have come to expect with their work.

The conclusion of this film was very light hearted, leaving the audience with a good taste in their mouth after some of the more more complex issues dealt with prior.

To view the official trailer please click on link below:

This Must Be The Place Official Trailer

Images courtesy of Weinstein Company USA

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