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EDITIONS
 Monday, 6 January, 2003, 14:40 GMT
Spider
Ralph Fiennes
Newsnight Review discussed Ralph Fiennes in David Cronenburg's psychological thriller Spider.



(Edited highlights of the panel's review)

MARK KERMODE:
The difficult thing is the book has a narrative. It's a story told by a mad man and you distrust that voice. Cronenburg's contribution is to takeaway the first narrative so there is no voice over. The untrustworthy narrator becomes the director and the camera. You look at the world where you don't trust what the character tells you or what you see. It's an image of London not based in reality. It's inspired by films and drawings and paintings and looks artificial. The characters are played on the edge of caricature. It's exactly right. The characters you see are characters imagined by the central character whose world is fracturing. Miranda Richardson does a great job, playing the virgin/whore dichotomy. Two characters who may or may not be the same person. I thought it did those things extremely well.

BONNIE GREER:
I just saw it a couple of hours ago in a multiplex with some kids. I think they thought they were seeing Spiderman. The test of this film is they stayed. It's a horror film in the sense that the horror is interior. That the unreliable narrator which you were referring to is actually the camera. So that you actually go into the world so if you compare Beautiful Mind to this one this one is deeper and darker than Beautiful Mind, you in a sense don't know where this thing is going until it gets to a certain point. There are three Oscar calibre performances in this. Fiennes, Gabriel Byrne and Miranda Richardson who is stunning.

EKOW ESHUN:
These are charitable readings of this film. I went to watch it. All I found was a big screen version of Tales of the Unexpected without the frills or the drama. It's supposed to be a complex woven plot. It's a linear plot. What it says is traumatic childhood leads to traumatic childhood, big surprise. I can see why it attracts Ralph Fiennes, he gets to be on screen every single moment of the film, he gets to mumble and moan all the way through the film. It's a great vanity piece for an actor, for the audience I don't know what it was doing.

KERMODE:
Can I say it is not a linear narrative that says traumatic childhood leads to traumatic adulthood. All you know of the story is his version looking back, the point is you never know how much he remembers of his childhood. Secondly, in terms of the Ralph Fiennes there's nothing Ralph Fiennes barely speaks as coherent sentence.

LAWSON:
His fans may want to know Ralph Fiennes takes his clothes off yet again. He only keeps his clothes on if it's artistically necessary.

ESHUN:
I don't think the film was necessary. It's a pathetic film in that we have this whole lead-up and psycho drama. The psychology is not very sophisticated.

LAWSON:
There is beautiful visual patterning. Some of the use of webs. The most subtle stuff. When a window is broken in an asylum they have to put in together so there are no shards of glass missing and when he turns up with one that was beautifully done.

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