It’s taken me a while, so my apologies for being late to the party. But I think I’ve finally figured it out. I’ve realised that the Twilight Saga is a work of utter genius.
Now, I understand your misgivings, Readership. Lord knows, I shared them for long enough. A visit to the third and most recent instalment of the series, Eclipse (documented with neat charm by the wise and lovely WDW here) was tantamount to torture for me. I was the only male of voting age in the cinema. The smirk from the attendant on taking my ticket should have been warning enough. The phrase “enjoy the film” have never been uttered with less sincerity.
We left the cinema with screaming headaches and jaws agape. In the pub afterwards (because trying to make sense of the film sober at that point was a task equal to knitting with live squids) we worked round and round the problem, before coming to the conclusion that many many people had arrived at way before us.
The Twilight films are utter shit. They don’t work as romance, as horror, as drama. They don’t properly work as films. They’re prime examples of a money-grab, where a franchise with a popular following is flung onto the screen with little care and attention. The fans will go and see it regardless, as long as there’s plenty of close-ups of the stars smouldering. Or topless. Preferably both.
I travelled home, swearing that this would be the last time I went to see a film on a dare, or under the assumption that it would be entertainingly bad.
And then, gods help me, I started thinking about it some more. Admittedly, I hadn’t stopped drinking. This probably contributed to my relaxed state of mind. And it led to an epiphany. I realised the essential point to the Twilight films.
The reason that the drama is so wooden, the acting so minimal, is that we are supposed to see through it. The Twilight films are Brechtian, concealing a deeper truth behind the faux-“thrills” on screen. The actors are not playing roles, they’re archetypes. They’re symbols. They may as well (and probably should) be carrying around placards stating their intentions. We’re not supposed to believe that the Cullens are actually vampires, for heaven’s sake. That’s why all the vampiric tropes have been stripped away. No fangs. No fear of daylight.
No. The Twilight films are about greed, and how desire for a single object can destroy a carefully balanced system. It’s a treatise on economics, and a telling satire on our culture and the focus on wanting what the other guy has.
Consider. There are two families living in an isolated location, who have come to a fragile piece after centuries of enmity. They stay away from each other, and the balance is maintained.
Then an object enters this system, that the scions of both families decide that they want. It could be a car. It could be a nice jacket. In the case of the Twilight saga, it happens to be a girl. It really doesn’t matter. Bella Swan is not a character in the accepted sense of the word. She’s the equivalent of Helen of Troy. She exists simply to be fought over. In true cinematic terms, she’s a maguffin. She’s the thing that everyone in the film is chasing after for their own purposes, and therefore helps to move things along. The boys, Haircut and Six-Pack, want her without really knowing why. There certainly seems to be no sexual attraction visible. Kisses are exchanged to drive the other guy mad, not as an expression of desire.
Meanwhile the villains of the piece, Redhead and CreepyGirl, want her as a weakness they can use to exploit the others. If they can have her, or at least prevent Haircut and Six-Pack from having her, then they have won. Possession of the Object of Desire is all. Everything else is subsumed into that simple, primal urge. All focus is on the fragile, Pantene-haired creature whose expression never changes.
It would be easy to compare her porcelain features to a mask, which would then strengthen the arguments towards Twilight becoming a modern form of Greek tragedy. But this would be a mistake. There is real heart and emotion at the core of Greek drama. No. what we have here is more akin to a cool scientific procedure. Elements are set adrift in a hermetically sealed environment (very little takes place outside Forks, and the forests that close it off from the world outside) to interact weakly with each other. The words “love”, “need”, and “desire” are used but there is never any sense that the elements using them understand their meaning. The only term that makes any sense in this context is “want”. Everyone wants Bella, but they wouldn’t know what to do with her if they got her. Having her is not the point. It’s the wanting that matters.
It’s this understanding of the illogical and destructive power of greed that makes the Twilight Saga such a clever and rewarding piece of art. It’s completely fascinating, and I’m saddened that it’s taken me this long to cotton onto the ideas that make the film tick. Fancy me thinking it was just a godawful soul-less teen franchise. I really should know better.
I can’t wait to see what happens in Breaking Dawn…