Director: Bill Condon
Writers: Melissa Rosenberg (screenplay), Stephenie Meyer (novel)
Stars: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner
Runtime: 117 minutes.
On Sunday at 8pm the Mimosa Mall cinema watching Breaking Dawn was full. In fact so full my girlfriend and I had to sit in different seats. Thanks to Twilight’s emo fans though, someone scootched up for us and we were able to watch it together. No surprise then that Breaking Dawn opened with the fifth biggest weekend in movie history, (the all time record goes to another Twilight flick, New Moon). A decent achievement given that none of the Twilight flicks tried to boost box office receipts with faux 3D.
In Twilight New Moon (2009) Bella Swan starts crying and says, “[I]t doesn't make sense for you to love me. I'm nothing... Human. Nothing.” Edward responds by saying, “Bella, you're everything to me. Everything.”
Sometimes life and especially love is a lot like that. One moment empty, hopeless and despairing, the next triumphant, beautiful and abundant.
Interestingly, Kristen Stewart (who looks both beautiful and awful as Bella in this iteration) described her love scenes with Robert Pattinson (Edward) as “awkward”, adding that by the end of the shoot “it didn’t feel like we’d just filmed a love scene.” But it must have helped, because by October this year swirling rumors of a real relationship between Stewart and Robert Pattinson were confirmed when Kristen blurted as much during an interview with Britain’s GQ. Bella’s onscreen detachment, it seems, translates equally into Kristen Stewart’s real life reserve. “But this subject (her relationship with pattinson),” she told GQ at the time, “I don't think you realise what a big deal it is for people. Well, it is a big deal. And right now, even me talking about it like this is a big deal.”
As for London-born Pattinson, he prepared for the love scene by maintaining a strict diet and exercise regime over a 6 month period. After the love scene was shot, Pattinson (who unlike his werewolf rival, seldom appears shirtless) soon aborted both diet and training.
For Twihards, look out for a cameo with Twilight author Stephanie Meyer. Meyer makes an appearance as a wedding guest; she’s in the background when Bella walks down the aisle. This scene is a great example of the existential subtlety of Breaking Dawn; a relative rarity in contemporary cinema. Bella does not say that she feels nervous or uncertain or intimidated by the large crowd of strangers. But the cinematography shows very clearly that she is not completely comfortable, or herself. Until she says Edward. Then she finds herself, and knows once again who she means herself to be. Bella has told Edward before why she wants a life by his side: “appears in the wedding during the ceremony as a wedding guest. She can be seen as Bella walks down the aisle.
The Twilight saga is jammed full of metaphors; it has fairy-tale devices that depict and color all those internal scenes all of us feel in such abundance at that age. Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner), who (sorry girls) wears his shirt quite a lot in Breaking Dawn, represents one aspect of that animal attraction. Author Stephenie Meyer nicely balances Jacob’s dark haired, tanned earthy-ness (which makes him accessible, and in a sense more human) via his tribal roots, with his aggressive, angry, animal nature. Edward’s fair-skinned wealthy upbringing with the Cullens represents a more idealized young-girls-dream, of wanting to be a princess to a wealthy prince in his castle, yet the rawness of sexuality is still in the background given Edward’s incredible bed-breaking strength, speed, mental acuity and let’s be clear, serial blood sucking.
In Bella’s world, while one lover turns into a furry, oversized wolf, another sparkles like a Ken-doll covered in tippex and glitter. Neither of these fantasies are realistic, which is exactly the point: they are true to some of the fantasies girls have when growing up. And what could be more luxurious than having two opposing males (and their extended families) fighting over you for their affections, and professing undying love whether you’re in the arms of the one or the other.
If you’ve noticed that very little of Breaking Dawn’s plot has been given away so far, you’re right. It’s easy to spoil this film by offering up epithets of the plot, so I’m not going to do that. What I can share are a few ordinary observations. A Facebook friend called it right when she described Breaking Dawn as “good in parts, comical in others.” It’s fair to say some parts of the film are downright silly, and some critics (especially men) find the whole saga tedious and unrealistic. This is the same accusation the girls level at equally successful science fiction sagas, like Star Wars. While the metaphors may seem silly, they aren’t meant to be taken literally. What they refer to, of course, are real emotions, real desires, real issues. And as is the case with Star Wars, this is a story about finding one’s place in the world. Bella has to decide now, finally, who she is, and who she is going to become. These are big decisions, and the vampire context manages to convey the scope of these decisions in a powerful way.
The existential feel of the flick is something that is rarely seen in Hollywood movies. The camera takes long looks at Bella’s mute changes of expression. The extended responses to a comment or a realization are subtleties we tend to associate with art house film. Meet Joe Black is a well known example, and a far more tedious and clumsy flick than the crisp melodrama of Meyer’s Twilight Saga.
Lize Labuschagne from Mangaung Studios calls Breaking Dawn “amazing”, and summarizes the best parts of the flick as “the marriage and honeymoon.” But it’s in Part 1’s third act that we find the crux of the tension. Bella’s transformation fuels the premise for Part 2. What makes Breaking Dawn compelling is that the elements of each of the three acts in Part 1 comment on some of the most critical decisions, and most powerful – and hopefully happy – memories we’ll probably make in our lives. Twilight is really about a young woman who, thanks to her adolescence, is being propelled into the world. Does she resist, or bust through?
In last year’s Eclipse Bella says, “ I've always felt out of step. Like literally stumbling through my life. I've never felt normal, because I'm not normal, and I don't wanna be. I've had to face death and loss and pain in your world, but I've also never felt stronger, like more real, more myself, because it's my world too. It's where I belong.”
Edward responds: “So it's not just about me? And Bella says, “No.” Twilight is about girls stepping out of their shells, finding and being in love, and transforming from shrinking violets into seductive vampires.