DVD Review: Stylish MANIAC Glorifies Sexualised Violence

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Elijah Wood will forever be associated with the role of Frodo in The Lord of The Rings movies (and now The Hobbit). He’ll never be able to shake-off the ring-loving half-ling, but that’s the way the cookie crumbles in Hollywood. Wood has tried to branch out, selecting a variety of characters to distance himself from the one role that rules them all, and Maniac is his latest attempt to buck against type-casting. Wood is successful in this effort to crawl out from under Frodo’s shadow, but Maniac is a mixed bag. It’s well made, but I just don’t agree with the film on a moral basis.

Wood plays Frank, a mannequin restorer with a troubled childhood that has left him in a very fragile mental state. See, Frank saw his mother get up to things that a young boy should never see his mother doing and this has left him with a very unhealthy understanding of women. He now stalks and scalps them, attaching their locks to a selection of mannequins he keeps at home. Things look up for Frank when he meets Anna (Nora Arnezeder), a French photographer who appears to like Frank as much as she appreciates his plastic models. But can Frank keep his urges beneath the surface long enough to have a real relationship?

Franck Khalfoun’s Maniac is a remake of the 198_ film of the same name. However, this new effort has been shot in the first person – we get to experience all the horror from Frank’s perspective (much like the opening of John Carpenter’s Halloween). This is not a wholly new concept in filmmaking, but it is uncommon and Maniac is successful in its execution, making it more than a gimmick.

Maniac is an exceptionally well shot and scored movie. The look of the film is exceptional, and cinematographer Franck Khalfoun gives the film a wonderful twinkling neon sheen. The scenes where Frank cruises the city are the standout moments in the film, giving it an added melancholy that isn’t present elsewhere. The ‘80s style soundtrack by ‘Rob’ is also great. This coupled with the cinematography add a texture to the film that would rival Drive for synth-fuelled beauty.

Which brings me to what I didn’t like – the concept of seeing the film through the eyes of a killer.

It may just be me though I simply don’t want to watch a violent film through the eyes of a killer. Nor do I want to see gratuitous sex and violence. As a younger man, I always believed that a filmmaker should be able to present his or her vision on screen. I was against censorship. However, I’m now older and somewhat wiser. The world can be a dark place and we really don’t need to see that sort of terror on screen. I feel that something, as skilfully presented as Maniac (and it is skilfully presented) has to some extent glamorised violence. Disagree with me if you will, but this is what I think. Sometimes an artist should censor themselves. There’s much more to art than the shock factor.

Maniac is a well made film and I would be interested to see what its key figures go on to produce in the future. It’s a well-constructed piece that has a lot to recommend on a technical level. However, if they go on to make something with the same immoral tone as Maniac then I’ll be giving it a miss.

maniac-review