Review of "Men" Directed by Alex Garland

25 September 2023
In the ever-evolving realm of science fiction, Alex Garland's "Men" emerges as a poignant testament to the genre's capacity for deep introspection. The film, at its core, is a journey of Harper, a woman seeking solace and independence. 

Yet, as the narrative unfolds, she finds herself ensnared in a web of male-dominated perspectives that challenge her very essence.

Garland (Annihilation, Ex Machina) masterfully juxtaposes the raw power of nature against the constructs of mankind. The recurring symbol of the Green Man, embodying life and rebirth, becomes particularly evocative when he transforms into the homeless man, cyclically birthing all male characters. 

This cyclical nature of life is further emphasized by the vaginal imagery reminiscent of the Sheela-na-gig, underscoring themes of life, death, and rebirth. 

This is one trippy film, that demands a viewer's patience. 

men film alex garland review themes

Such imagery, combined with the vicar's references to Harper as Eve (heck, she ate an apple she placuked of a tree in the first minute of being at her rented house...) and the age-old trope of women as temptresses, layers the film with rich symbolism. 

At its heart, "Men" offers a scathing critique of patriarchy, showcasing how mankind, in its hubris, has perverted the gift of nature. The film delves deep into the colonization of birth, a domain traditionally associated with the feminine. 

Harper's interactions with the male characters are particularly telling. 

Each man, in his own way, views Harper through the lens of his needs and desires, emphasizing a broader societal message: women, all too often, are perceived through the prism of their relationships to men, even when they ardently seek independence.

One of the film's most striking themes is the cyclical nature of life and rebirth, embodied by the Green Man. His transformation into the homeless man, who then cyclically births all male characters, serves as a powerful allegory for the relentless cycle of life, death, and rebirth. The Sheela-na-gig imagery, a symbol of fertility and the cycle of life, further accentuates this theme, suggesting that while life is cyclical, society's perceptions and treatments of these cycles can be distorted.

A reference point to this theme would be Darren Arronosky's Mother! - albeit that film goes harder than most before it. 

The film also delves deep into the dynamics of patriarchy and the colonization of birth. Through the lens of Harper's interactions, "Men" critiques how women are often perceived and defined in relation to men. Each male character, in his own way, perceives Harper not as an individual but through the lens of his needs and desires. This reflects a broader societal issue: women's identities are often overshadowed by their relationships to men, even when they ardently seek independence.

Religious and mythological references, such as the vicar's allusions to Eve and the tale of Zeus and Helen of Troy, layer the narrative with rich symbolism. These stories, deeply ingrained in our collective psyche, serve as reminders of age-old narratives that have shaped perceptions of women. They symbolize the colonization of female narratives and the age-old trope of women as temptresses or mere objects in male-centric tales. Viewers would not be wrong to note the parallels of Darren Aronofsky's Mother!.

Garland's choice of visuals paints a hauntingly beautiful picture. 

There is so much greenery. 

And the odd nude man, out standing in his field. 

Each frame, meticulously crafted, tells a story, making "Men" a visual treat. 

The film's soundtrack, a harmonious blend of eerie and evocative tunes, complements its narrative, adding depth to the viewing experience. The seamless integration of practical and digital effects further enhances the film's horror elements.

Drawing parallels with his previous works, Garland's direction in "Men" stands out for its visual narrative and intentionally obtuse nature. 

While the film is undoubtedly a masterpiece, its abstract storytelling might not resonate with all. It's a piece that demands reflection, and in its abstraction lies its beauty. However, this very nature might make it divisive in the broader realm of science fiction. Nonetheless, "Men" remains a testament to Garland's prowess as a storyteller, offering a deep dive into gender dynamics and the cyclical nature of existence.


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About the author Jimmy Jangles

My name is Jimmy Jangles, the founder of The Astromech. I have always been fascinated by the world of science fiction, especially the Star Wars universe, and I created this website to share my love for it with fellow fans.

At The Astromech, you can expect to find a variety of articles, reviews, and analysis related to science fiction, including books, movies, TV, and games.
From exploring the latest news and theories to discussing the classics, I aim to provide entertaining and informative content for all fans of the genre.

Whether you are a die-hard Star Trek fan or simply curious about the world of science fiction, The Astromech has something for everyone. So, sit back, relax, and join me on this journey through the stars!
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