You want a dark, brooding movie about the ugly things young people do that ends with a blood soaked bang? Look no further. Robert Carmichael’s miserable life holds ecstasy for you.
Where Kubrick’s “A Clockwork Orange” presented youth violence in wild, chaotic imagery, Thomas Clay’s “The Great Ecstasy of Robert Carmichael” simply sits us right down in front of the violence in all its plain ugliness. It’s like a juvenile delinquent ant farm as we watch these characters trudge through their meaningless and brutal existence in scenes often made up of one single, stationary shot.
In an English seaside town, shy, gangly teen Robert Carmichael throws away his talent as a promising cellist and starts running with the wrong crowd, soon finding himself mixed up in drugs, robbery and overall punk a*s activities. But things get much, much worse. Rape and murder follow suit. While some of these activities aren’t shoved right underneath our nose, that doesn’t make them any less despicable. One such rape scene is made audible only, as it takes place behind closed doors, but another, more brutal act, as a result of a home invasion, is shown for all to see. And what’s going on all the while these teens are running wild? The war in Iraq. Television is often present in the film and it never lets us forget what’s going on in the Middle East.
Yet, “Robert Carmichael” isn’t jam packed with excessive violence. This is actually a very slow moving film, quite often with very little action taking place. But there is always a build up, a dark, red bubble getting ready to pop and it casts a sense of dread over the film’s proceedings. It takes away your sense of hope. It shows you that no matter how honky dory your life may be right now, there’s something coming down the road with every intent to tear all that happiness apart. And there’s nothing we can do about that. “Robert Carmichael” isn’t entertainment, it’s a warning.