The ?Season of Joy? has been portrayed on film a great many times ? as a backdrop for zany comedies, weepy melodramas, and even some disaster movies. This Christmas, it's Borja Cobeaga's turn, with his timely new film No Controles, featuring airports and New Year's Eve. This reminds us of other classics of the genre, which we will call ?The Nightmares of Christmas?.There's nothing lukewarm about Christmas ? either you love it or hate it. The fact is that this time of year, which brings either interminable family reunions, or the lonely grandeur of solitude, brings out the best and the worst in all of us and, in the end, Yule-Tide is a gold mine for either the most sentimental or crazy stories in cinema. If you are more of a Scrooge and have only caught snatches of It's a Wonderful Life between naps, we would like to remind you of some of the best Christmas movies and the ?goodwill? they inspire, which has little or nothing to do with Christmas carols.
"A Christmas Carol", the famous novella by Charles Dickens, has been adapted for cinema many times. The first version dates back to 1935 and the latest, which came out recently, was shot in 3D. However, perhaps the most emotive version is Scrooged, by Richard Donner (1988), in which the heartless miser of the title is a cynical TV executive played by the inimitable Bill Murray, in one of his most characteristic roles. That Christmas he was beset by phantasmagorical experiences which could have made him change his wicked ways.
Billy Bob Thorton was a highly disreputable Santa Claus in Terry Zwigoff's Bad Santa (2003), a surprising black comedy about a petty criminal hired as Santa Claus by some department stores; taking advantage of the costume, his plan is to rob them, accompanied by his black midget sidekick. A rude, vulgar and drunken Santa who thrilled audiences but failed to enchant the American censors, who cut a whole ten minutes out of it.
The Nightmare before Christmas
On a lighter note, comedian Will Ferrell gets dressed up as one of Santa's little helpers in Elf (2003) and, when he finds out that really he's a human, he travels from the North Pole to New York to meet his father, an enemy of Christmas. With his absent-minded look, lost in a concrete jungle of cynical non-believers, Ferrell makes an unforgettable elf, funny yet oddly reassuring.
Sometimes, Christmas starts off merrily enough but then degenerates into a nightmare, especially where animals are involved. A little boy is given a cute pet, but warned that if it is fed after midnight it will multiply and turn into a horde of uncontrollable vermin called Gremlins. They are partial to New Year's Eve, cross-dressing and imitating Frank Sinatra.
El día de la bestia (The Day of the Beast)
Nonetheless, the most twisted and iconoclastic vision of Christmas was actually produced by our own Spanish film industry. In El día de la bestia (The Day of the Beast) Alex de la Iglesia follows the adventures of a priest who has deciphered the secret message of the Gospels, according to which the Antichrist will be born in Madrid on December 25, 1995. The priest is prepared to go to any lengths to prevent this, enlisting unlikely helpers and chasing clues all over the city, lit up and full of eager Christmas shoppers. This brilliant film, funny, caustic and violent, made its director famous and he duly won the Goya for Best Director in 1995.
En este mundo no hay caridad,
ni nunca la ha habido,
ni nunca la habrá.
This could be translated as:
There's no charity in this world,
And there never was,
Nor will there ever be.
How right he was...