I would be the first to call Tomas Alfredson a perfect director; someone who hits every possible emotional note in his films, whose impeccable timing offers the viewer a spectacular sense of pace and mood. So why, then, are reviews for his films still fairly mixed? Why, with a film as sound as Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, are critics still divided? Even I gave Tinker Tailor a slight knock for it’s apparent inaccessibility.
I used to attribute this to a lack of distinct style – there are no hallmarks of an Alfredson film the way there are for Fincher or Allen, no distinct camerawork, spunky dialogue, or plot device to signify his handiwork. Then why is it that I know an Alfredson film when I see one? The answer: his style is, quite simply, borne through his perfectionist direction.
Indeed, the problem with Alfredson that has lead to a lack of public appeal is his perfect direction – his prodigious technique wherein he periodically gives the audience morsels of story to chew on and learn from as the movie progresses is just, simply, too advanced for the average movie goer to appreciate. This isn’t to say that the audience is somehow not intelligent enough to understand what’s going on, but rather that they aren’t looking to think when they go to the theater. Sometimes, we as audience members like being hit over the head with plot points; sometimes we just want escapism, which is something that Alfredson, in all his prowess, ironically fails at.
This isn’t to say that Tomas Alfredson would benefit from a Michael Bay-esque overhaul of his films, although that’d certainly bring in a very different, very large demographic. In fact, I would hesitate to suggest that Alfredson change his modus operandi at all – there will always be a place in the film universe for the directors who lack the broadest appeal but excel technically. No, Alfredson must continue to produce filmic masterpieces for his fans, and be proud of his achievements thus far.
And I’ll be among them, heading to the theater and eagerly handing over my money.
Featured image from deviantART member Mcus.