So, Are We Watching the Watcher? The question is a good one. Because, from the promotional materials, it isn’t clear what you’d be getting into. Interestingly though, I recently watched it and found it better than I anticipated. Maybe even a factorial better than I anticipated. Was it great? No. But better.
Initially, it was obvious that the movie was one more nail in the “Crazy Woman” over-trodden coffin. (Wait, what?) You know, the movie wherein all evidence is hidden from the world save for one, unstable, teetering on the brink, woman. She alone sees the bad guy. She alone witnesses the danger. She alone communicates the risk to herself, to her family, to the community, and… everyone believes her immediately. NO! No one believes her until the movie ends. And, sometimes she’s insane and the threat is zero. And sometimes she is right. And worse, sometimes she is right, and dies. Because yeah. And that is the sort of movie we have here today.
The movie opens with Julia (an American) and Francis, moving to Bucharest. Francis is in Marketing, and he has returned back to be near his mother who is Romanian. The movie utilizes language as a barrier. It isolates Julia, and it isolates the audience too… that is, unless you also speak Romanian. I actually started watching this movie on a train in Switzerland… (198 kilometers an hour! Woooot.) but stopped. Why? Why would I stop such an amazing movie like Watcher? Well, because at the opening of the movie, there were lots of people talking. I couldn’t understand them. OBVIOUSLY I NEEDED to download subtitles or something… they had to be missing. So, I stopped. When I finally got back to the movie, remembered it even existed, I found the best subs I could, loaded the movie up – and voila: “Woman speaking Romanian.” “Taxi driver speaking Romanian.” No no no… these subs must be broken! I loaded new ones. Same thing. Huh. OOOOooohhhh. Got it. We are separated, isolated, and vulnerable – just like Julia is. Got it.
Probably the very first thing we notice with regard to her new home is the enormous bank of windows their apartment looks out onto. (Echoes of Kowloon Walled City anyone?) And that there is a man that is almost always ominously staring down her direction. Things slow burn to eleven when Julia hears that there is a serial killer in the community that the news media and law enforcement have given the moniker “The Spider.” Oh, and said spider seems to be decapitating women. So, obviously not something she needs to worry about at all. During a stroll through the city, she is followed by a man who sits behind her in a theater, then trails behind her as she flees to a nearby market. Later, an obviously rattled Julia convinces Francis to go with her to review the security footage of the market. But Francis obviously isn’t convinced that the man was specifically targeting Julia. (This is how these things work you know. Credible (or insane) woman worries… her loved ones doubt her. Is she insane? Is the threat real? I don’t know. Let’s reserve judgement, and see if she turns up dead… and then we’ll know for sure.)
(Anyone else get the feeling that Julia and Francis should have had a better plan for Julia there in this new foreign town than leaving her to her own devices, alone… on her own, with nothing to do? Sorry. I digress.)
Julia and her neighbor hang out a bit – and we learn that Irina has a gun stashed away for safety. McGuffin anyone? And when her boyfriend Cristian knocks, Irina sends her away. That night, instead of hiding from the man in the window, she confronts him, and escalates things by calling the police. Julia is absolutely convinced that he’s the one that has been following her through the city. And from this police visit, we learn that this man’s name is Daniel Weber. And a few days later, Julia follows Daniel through the city (turn about is fair play… no?) Julia learns that he works at a strip club as a janitor. Irina, surprisingly, a dancer at the club notices Julia, and the two chat. But Irina knows absolutely nothing about Daniel. Hrm. Weird. And when there are noises coming through the wall of her apartment, Irina’s side, and Julia calls in the landlady, everyone becomes impatient with her for overreacting. I mean, The Spider was recently caught… so, duh, Irina is just fine. Because that logically follows.
This, that, the other, and next thing we know, Daniel is at Julia’s door alleging that Julia is stalking him. Shoe on the other foot. Or some such. But, that is in fact what is happening. And the cop that comes to Julia’s apartment to investigate Daniel’s allegations decides it was all just a big misunderstanding.
When Francis and Julia head to a company party Julia discerns through the Romanian that Francis has been belittling her fears among his coworkers. Nice. Yeah, he’s a nice guy regardless of a spider or a hypochondriac tendency. She should have knee-capped him right there and headed back to the states on the first available flight. But who am I to judge? Instead of flying back to the states, she gets on a subway that is eerily empty, and notices that Daniel, the lurker, Daniel the Watcher, is there too. Good times. Or not. Daniel, to his defense, decides to normalize his voyeurism with Julia… he attempts to explain why he watching is okay. You know… boring life. Caring for dad, and all that. Oh, and it seems like there might be a head in his bag? Yeah. About that.
Smartly, Julia exits stage left as soon as possible, and then quickly heads back home. Suitcase, clothes, let’s go. Time to go. Now, she is finally gotten the right idea. Bailing on Francis. Bailing on David. Bailing on this entire country is the right move for sure. But she’s interrupted by the sound of music playing next door in Irina’s apartment. Obviously, Julia has to investigate what is happening… is Irina there? (Julia, an airplane is what you need dear.) But when she finds Irina’s headless corpse, she is then smothered by Daniel. Hrmm. Waking up, Julia is told by Daniel about how he killed Irina. That he cleverly hid from Julia and the landlady. And then Daniel slashes Julia’s throat. Attempting to get Irina’s pistol from the table – she doesn’t make it, losing consciousness.
Francis, having arrived home, calls Julia’s cell, hears it ring next door, and he heads out to the hallway where he is met by Daniel who is exiting the apartment. As Francis heads towards the man, Julia shoots the man several times having feigned death for long enough to get the pistol and exact revenge. As the movie ends, Julia gives her husband a look that says this… let’s see if I can translate it perfectly: “Look you dumb idiot, I was right all along. This man was trying to kill me, and you belittled me for it. And now I’ve killed him because you were too much a pansy female hater to realize you needed to protect me, and I had to do it myself.” Did I get that look translated correctly? Cause I think I nailed it.
Are We Watching the Watcher?
Now, this is interesting… now that it’s over, why are we watching the Watcher? I found it interesting that this movie deftly utilized the foreign country as much of an alienating force for Julia as her husband was an idiot. Language was the real demon here. At least initially anyway. I was fairly shocked when I found out that the subtitles I thought were missing, weren’t. Then it all clicked and I realized that I, too, was being alienated. That I, too, was being marginalized along with Julia. But beyond that, the film creaked its way along the same exact tired tropes that the rest of the movies that have built over top the backs of this “Crazy Woman” motif.
Do you love movies that fall into this sort of genre? Is she? Isn’t she? If so, there are a pile of them that you can choose from. The Wind – a movie based on the frontier idea of prairie madness. The Invisible Man – a sci-fi version of a stalker movie. The Novice (is this one? If so, it’s an amazing one.) Black Swan – a ballet dance slowly (quickly) goes completely nuts. Memoria – is she going insane? Or aliens? I don’t even rightly know at this point. She Dies Tomorrow? I mean. You get the idea, and I’ve got ten more for you, if you are dying for them. This was me trying to find original selections on the trope.
The Watcher did some interesting things with the idea. It brought in international social differences and language as similar sized threats to the hero as was the The Spider. But maybe once? Once? We can allow someone other than the woman see the bad guy for who he really is. But I gotta say, if you are going to give your husband a look of I told you so? This look at the end of Watcher? Can’t be beat.
Edited by: CY
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