A Film a Week - Silence 6-9 / Isyhia 6-9

 previously published on Cineuropa

This year, the Greek Weird Wave has added another name to its roster of auteurs. Christos Passalis, formerly recognised for his acting (he played the role of the son in Dogtooth and the part of Manolis in The Miracle of the Sargasso Sea), has turned his attention to filmmaking, first with the Berlinale-premiered experimental essay documentary The City and the City, which he co-directed with Syllas Tzoumerkas, and now also with a fiction feature, Silence 6-9, which Passalis directed on his own. The Crystal Globe Competition at Karlovy Vary might prove to be a fitting launch pad for a cryptic, dream-like, retro-futurist love story like this.

The title comes from one of the key rules in the largely abandoned dystopian town that our hero Aris (Passalis himself) comes to: the inhabitants must remain in complete silence between 6 and 9 o’clock in the morning, so the antennas surrounding the town can do their recording. And what do they record? Anything related to the people of the town who have gone missing, not to be found. But before they went missing, they recorded their own cassette tapes so that the others who stayed would be able to remember them.

Similarly to the beginning of Jim Jarmusch’s Dead Man, here, a stranger comes to a strange town to do a strange job for a strange man, called the Manager. His new post is not yet entirely his, and he has to wait for confirmation from the Manager, who might have lost his mind. While waiting, he is stationed in a hotel with Anna (played by Passalis’ co-star in both Dogtooth and The Miracle of the Sargasso Sea, Angeliki Papoulia), a woman whose job it is to act in a show based on the recorded cassettes of the missing people. Since they have a lot of time on their hands in a desolate town, they get closer and closer until they fall in love. Or is it just a dream that two strangers share while comatose in the hospital, perhaps a reference to Christopher Nolan’s Inception?

Stories set in an altered world, such as a dystopian future or present, demand some additional attention to the world-building details, and are usually hard to pull off in a brisk format of just 80 minutes. In that regard, Passalis’ work is commendable in all three roles he takes on here – as the leading actor, director and co-screenwriter. His vision is well written to the extent that it keeps the audience intrigued for the whole running time, while slowly revealing the information, and it is also perfectly executed on a visual level, along the lines of the Greek Weird Wave classics, with thoroughly composed and highly symmetrical, largely static shots of an arid landscape lensed in sun-bleached colours by Giorgos Karvelas, accompanied by the melancholic and toned-down retro soundtrack by Yiannis Loukos and Antonis Georgou. The production design by Márton Ágh, in which there is no item from a period more recent than the mid-1990s (apart from the antennas), is also one of the highlights, while the love story is convincingly powered by the chemistry between the two lead actors.

The only potential trouble with Silence 6-9 is its cryptic nature. A film like this is clearly a metaphor for something (or things), and the answer to the question of what this movie might be about will not please some audiences, especially given the potential meaning of the anti-cassette and anti-silence protests, and the new government that leads them. But still, Silence 6-9 is a smooth blend of style, substance, emotion and provocation that leaves the viewer with plenty to ruminate on.


A Film a Week - Even Pigs Go to Heaven / Nosila je rubac črleni

 previously published on Cineuropa

We already know that all dogs go to heaven, but what about pigs? They are among the most intelligent animals, somewhat trainable, but they also have strong personalities and can certainly be adorable in movies. So, 27 years after George Miller’s Babe, let us meet another very special pig, this time from the Zagorje region in Croatia, in the third feature film directed by the Croatian-American filmmaker Goran Dukić, best known for his debut, the American indie film Wristcutters: A Love Story (2006). Even Pigs Go to Heaven premiered in the national competition of the Pula Film Festival, and its next festival booking is just around the corner, at Motovun.

Narrated by the all-knowing Jesus Christ on the cross, and set in the hilly area of Zagorje (north of Zagreb) in the year 1991 when the war broke out in Croatia, Even Pigs Go to Heaven plays out like a light-weight comedy-drama about pigs and their human companions dealing with the hardships of life, love and the well-meaning but sometimes overbearing environment. Our human protagonist is Anka (Nataša Dorčić of You Carry Me fame), a smart and energetic village woman that has to handle various situations on the verge of scandal. Firstly, her goddaughter Ančica (Tesa Litvan) is about to get married to a hopelessly naive and seemingly mentally challenged man she does not love, while she carries the baby of the village priest in an environment where everybody knows everything and everybody judges everyone, but where discretion is an imperative of sorts. And secondly, her beloved sow Beba (voiced also by Litvan) really has the itch to mate for the first time. Anka has Rocky, a dark-haired, big and strong boar in her mind as a perfect match for Beba, but the trouble is that Rocky is Serbian and what would the village think of her while the young lads get mobilised into the army to fight against the Serbian aggression?

Silly as it seems, Even Pigs Go to Heaven is actually a love letter to the unique landscape and the unique mindset of Zagorje that combines religiousness, alcohol, hard work and humour with some of the nasty habits of gossiping, being judgmental and getting in conflicts with neighbours, friends and family members for various petty reasons, masked by a blend of sex, romance and the comedy of human nature that sometimes turns into a proper drama. Spiced up with emotions, decorated with cutesy animation and dressed as a period piece, detailed in terms of music and sound design, this film is certainly a demanding production that manages to keep the local taste while telling a universally understandable story.

The script written by Sandra Antolić (Branko Schmidt’s Agape and Once We Were Good for You) is quite detailed, rich in local flavours regarding customs and the dialect, while the basic story of human and animal love as overseen by a benevolent figure works in pretty much any language, both as a folktale and as an observation of human behaviour. Nataša Dorčić carries the film with zest and grace. On the technical level, everything is a top notch effort, like Branko Linta’s postcard-worthy cinematography, Iva Rodić-Novak’s production design, Morana Starčević’s costume design, animation and visual effects done by the co-production company Vertigo Visual and especially Ivana Fumić’s smooth editing, while the soundtrack consisting of jazzed- or rocked-up traditional songs (and those newly written that sound traditional) by the band Cinkuši is absolutely fitting. It seems that Even Pigs Go to Heaven was a meaningful project for all involved and that Dukić, who can certainly make a cute, feel-good yet extravagant film, also had a good time directing it.


Wild Men / Vildemaend

 kritika objavljena u dodatku Objektiv dnevnog lista Pobjeda

Podsetimo se one najbistrije opservacije u filmu ,,Eight Mountains“ Feliksa van Groningena, recenziranog nedavno na ovim stranicama.

Ona se svodi na to da strahopoštovanje prema prirodi, ponekad uzdignuto do nivoa religijske opsesije, najčešće gaje gradski ljudi koji je doživljavaju kao neki apstraktni i holistički koncept. Dok su oni koji u prirodi i od prirode žive, skloniji njenom raščlanjavanju na upotrebljive elemente: planine za osmatranje, šume za lov, reke, potoke i jezera za ribolov, livade za ispašu i sve u tom stilu.

O bekstvu od „normalnog“ i stresnog svakodnevnog života u divljinu, prirodu ili makar na selo uglavnom maštaju gradski tipovi koji imaju malo pojma kako stvari tu funkcionišu. Pustimo Crnog Bombardera koji je pretio da će otići u Indiju da gaji konoplju jer je zapravo pretio iz prazne puške, a i imao bi dobar razlog za takav poduhvat, u vidu policije koja mu je za petama. Ali frajer koji se napali na neku fantaziju o selu / prirodi / divljini je vrlo standardni koncept koji se često koristi u skandinavskoj literaturi i kinematografiji (roman ,,Dopler“ Erlenda Lua i film ,,Out of Nature“ Olea Gjevera i Marta Vold iz 2014, na primer). Odakle nam u nekom izmenjenom, crno-humornom i žanrovskom obliku dolazi i danski ,,Wild Men“ Tomasa Daneskova, prikazan poslednjeg dana Motovun Film Festivala.

Prvi od naših „divljaka“ koje upoznajemo je Martin (Rasmus Bjerg) koji je na klasičnu fantaziju o muškarcu – lovcu i sakupljaču koji živi (zapravo kampuje) u prirodi dodao i onu vikinšku. To u prevodu znači da Martin nije bacio mobilni telefon, samo se na njega ne javlja, a kad mu ponestane sakupljene ili ulovljene hrane, ide u supermarket, s vikinškim obrtom da umesto karticom ili kešom on nudi trampu kao opciju plaćanja. Za njegove kože i sekire niko nije zainteresovan, ubeđivanje dovodi do tuče, pa policija biva alarmirana da neki ludi „Viking“ teroriše malo mesto.

Dodatna nepovoljna okolnost po Martina je to da je ipak stranac, Danac u Norveškoj, pa štrči i jezikom, a ne samo pojavom, zbog čega ga zapravo nije teško pronaći. Sve smrdi na privlačenje pažnje, naročito kad saznamo da mu je pozadina biznismenska, a da je pobegao od svoje servilne žene i dve kćerke koje ga vole zato što ne razumeju njegovu potrebu da se oseća kao muškarac.

Drugi „divljak“ u ovoj priči je tu silom prilika. Musa (Zaki Jusef) je takođe Danac, ali je karijerni kriminalac u bandi srednje-krupnih švercera hašiša u begu do skrovišta na teško dostupnom ostrvu. Kada zajedno s „kolegama“ doživi saobraćajnu nesreću, deluje kao da je on jedini preživeli, pa povređen uzima torbu i naleće na Martina koji ga uzima pod svoje i u smislu brige i u smislu „obuke“ za preživljavanje, dok Musa samo želi da se skloni.

I jednog i drugog, naravno, juri policija, a ni predstavnici zakona najčešće nisu puno bistriji od lovine. Izuzetak je jedino mudri načelnik Ejvind (Bjern Sundkvist) koji pokušava da shvati situaciju i reaguje pravovremeno i odmereno, u čemu mu pomaže njegova dugogodišnja praksa „meditativnog“ pecanja na mušicu. U poteru se uključuje i Martinova žena Ane (Sofi Grabel) s kćerima u pratnji, dok Musu jure i njegove kolege koje su ipak preživele sudar s irvasom i misle da ih je on namerno pokrao. Pičvajz za finale je, dakle, zagarantovan.

Ustrojen kao pažljivo složena crna komedija s elementima trilera i filma preživljavanja, ,,Wild Men“ počinje snažno i u prvoj polovini vrlo dobro „radi“ zbog žanrovskog miksa na tragu filma ,,In Order of Disappearence“ (Hans Peter Moland, 2014) koji se, opet, poziva na američki postmoderni žanrovski film. Dakle, na Tarantina i braću Koen, čiji se tragovi osete u dugim dijaloškim scenama koje, su nosilac ne samo humornih momenata, nego i pronicljivih opservacija na temu moderne muškosti, prirode, unutrašnjeg divljaka kojeg moramo probuditi i onih deluzija koje prvo gutamo, a onda i sami gajimo. Vrhunac humora je onaj apsurdni pasaž u vikinškom „selu“ (zapravo kampu) koji nudi „autentično vikinško iskustvo“ (i svejedno zahteva plaćanje karticom ili u domaćoj moneti).

Kako film grabi prema kraju sve više skreće prema domenu drame o prijateljstvu i lojalnosti i nekakvom pseudoakcionom trileru sa sve jurnjavom, pucnjavom i tučnjavom, tako gubi momentum. A situacija sa početka, u kojem se kratki padovi u tempu brzo otklanjaju verbalnim ping-pongom, ovde se menja u takvu da generalno predvidljiv prosede biva tu i tamo isečen nekakvim bljeskom neočekivanog. Olakšavajuća okolnost je i to što u filmu nema očitih nevinih žrtava i pozitivaca, odnosno da su svi, neki manje, a neki više zapravo budale, svaki iz svog razloga, ali da u tome mogu biti izuzetno simpatični ili makar zanimljivi.

Do sada relativno nepoznati reditelj Tomas Daneskov prilično solidno režira scenario koji je napisao u kolaboraciji s debitantom u formatu bioskopskog dugometražnog filma Mortenom Papeom, fokusirajući se pre svega na razradu likova. Glumci za uzvrat „proždiru“ svoje mesnate likove i čini se da se usput jako dobro zabavljaju, dok je upotreba fotografije inteligentna u podvlačenju toga da se lokacije norveških planina, šuma, ostrvaca i fjordova čine impresivnim iz daljine, ali ni izbliza toliko podatnim jednom kada smo tamo. Takav kakav je, ,,Wild Men! sasvim zgodno dolazi kao relaksacija na kraju festivala.


Holy Spider

 kritika objavljena u dodatku Objektiv dnevnog lista Pobjeda

Zabluda je da se serijska ubistva dešavaju negde drugde, daleko na „trulom Zapadu“, skoro pa isključivo u samom srcu divljeg kapitalizma, u dekadentnim Sjedinjenim Američkim Državama, kako to tvrde razne totalitarne propagande.

Najglasnija u tom smislu bila je sovetska komunistička propaganda, ali i SSSR je imao svog „konja za trku“ u domenu serijskih ubistava (o onim masovnim, neserijskim koja su dolazila s komandom državnog vrha izlišno je i govoriti) – Andreja Čikatila, kojeg su partijske veze štitile od progona sve do raspada zemlje.

Svoje „kandidate“ imale su i ostale evropske nacije na istoku i zapadu, čak i na socijaldemokratskom severu ili na mekom socijalističkom jugoistoku, u Jugoslaviji (Metod Trobec i Vinko Pintarić kao najpoznatiji), a fenomen je takođe prisutan i na svim drugim kontinentima, čak i u vrlo tradicionalnim i moralno-opresivnim društvima.

Iran tu nije nikakav izuzetak. Između 2000. i 2001. godine gradom Mašadom (koji ima status svetilišta posvećenog imamu Rezi, osmom od dvanaest kanonskih imama šiitskog islama) strah je širio serijski ubica nazvan Pauk koji je napadao gradske prostitutke. Kada je njegov identitet konačno utvrđen, ispostavilo se da se radi o Saidu Haneiju, građevinskom radniku, veteranu Iračko-iranskog rata, porodičnom i čak religioznom čoveku, koji je ubistva pravdao božanskom misijom čišćenja svetog grada od poroka.

Slučaj ubice Pauka dobio je filmske tretmane, kako dokumentarni u filmu ,,Along Came a Spider“ (Maziar Bahari, 2002), tako i igrani kroz film ,,Killer Spider“ (Ebrahim Iradžzad, 2020). A u Kanu, u maju ove godine, premijeru je imao i film ,,Holy Spider“ u režiji Alija Abasija koji stvarni slučaj verski motivisanih serijskih ubistava, traljavost istrage i podeljenost društva koristi kao predložak za fikcionalnu obradu. Abasi je inače skandinavski (švedski i danski) režiser iranskog porekla, poznat po dva prethodna filma, paranoidnom hororu na temu trudnoće ,,Shelley“ (2016), a naročito po svom drugom, fantastičnoj trolovskoj ljubavnoj priči ,,Border“ (2018).

Sa ,,Holy Spider“, Abasi prvi put radi dve stvari. Prvo, vraća se u Iran, makar tematski, ako već ne i fizički (film je snimljen u Jordanu), donekle i stilski budući da kompletnu glumačku i manji deo tehničke ekipe sačinjavaju Iranci. Drugo, Abasi ovde prvi put optira za realistički stil, lišen bilo kakve fantastike, ali svejedno vođen određenim žanrovskim okvirima.

Realistični stil možemo prepoznati od samog početka filma, uvoda u kojem pratimo prostitutku Somajeh (Alis Rahimi) u njenim večernjim rutinama priprema za odlazak na posao. Nakon što poljubi dete pred spavanje, izađe na svoje regularno mesto i odradi par klijenata, s akcentom na detalje poput „pozajmljivanja“ malo bogataške kozmetike, ona će se naći u nebranom grožđu kada je pokupi čovek na motoru. Taj čovek je upravo Said (Mehdi Badžestani), njena poslednja mušterija, koji je brutalno ubija davljenjem uz pomoć marame i njeno telo odlaže van grada.

Ona nipošto nije njegova prva žrtva, već osma od ukupno šesnaest, tako da on već ima rutinu, kako u svojim noćnim pohodima na motoru, tako i u održavanju fasade normalnog, skromnog porodičnog života sa ženom Fatimom (Foruzan Džamšinedžad) i decom. Možda Said neće ženi i kćerima pokazati da ga nešto muči, ali znakovi nelagode su prisutni u njegovom odnosu sa sinom za čije nestašluke koji uglavnom uključuju fudbalsku loptu ima manje strpljenja, ali ni to nije neočekivano za oca. Said će se možda najviše otvoriti svom ratnom drugu i šefu veteranskog udruženja Hadžiju (Firuz Ageli).

Dok jedna radnja priče nastavlja da prati Saida u njegovom pohodu i održavanju fasade normalnosti uz pokriće religioznosti, druga linija u centar stavlja teheransku novinarku Rahimi (Zar Amir Ebrahimi). I to od trenutka kada ona počinje da vodi svoju istragu, zajedno sa kolegom Šarifijem (Araš Aštijani). Njena pozicija je autsajderska, i privatno i profesionalno iz tek ovlaš objašnjenih razloga koji otkrivaju mizoginiju kao modus operandi iranskog društva, dok je njegova ipak malo bliže centru istrage, i to zbog Saidovih „zodijakovskih“ poziva upućenih baš njemu.

Dok policajci predvođeni kapetanom Rostamijem (Sina Parvaneh) tapkaju u mestu, možda čak i namerno jer ubica radi njihov posao „čišćenja ulica“, dvoje novinara čine sve da reše slučaj ili mu makar daju dovoljno publiciteta da ne može biti tek tako zataškan.

Potencijalni problem s Abasijevim vođenjem priče su njena linearnost i „spojleričnost“, u čemu se gubi osnovna misterija toga ko je ubica i zašto to čini. Slučaj je, doduše, vrlo dobro dokumentovan i već je bio predmet drugih filmova, ali ,,Holy Spider“ svejedno nije doku-drama pa da može tek tako da otkrije identitet ubice odmah. Gledalac će tako u svakom trenutku znati više od likova uključenih u istragu, pa će se činiti da oni linearno kasne za nama u publici, zbog čega se stvara rizik da film postane nezanimljiv.

Sa svoje strane, međutim, glumci se trude da fino podese emocionalni registar i doziraju aspekte unutrašnjeg života likova. Neumerenost u izrazu, teatralnost i preterana ekspresivnost inače znaju biti problem u iranskoj kinematografiji, ali Abasi, režiser s danskom diplomom, to uspeva da drži pod kontrolom i u žanrovskom ključu evropskog „noara“.

U tome mu dosta pomažu Nadim Karlsen sa fotografijom kamerom iz ruke na širok format slike u kojima jordanske lokacije sasvim fino igraju Iran s početka ovog veka, eklektična muzika Martina Dirkova u kojoj se kombinuju neoklasika, elektronika i električna gitara pomalo po uzoru na nedavno preminulog Vangelisa, kao i montaža Olivije Nergard Holm i Hajedeh Safijari koja održava trilersku napetost u visokom ritmu.

Abasija, međutim, više zanima nešto drugo što se nalazi u pozadini radnje: onovremeno, ali i savremeno iransko društvo obeleženo opresijom, korupcijom, siromaštvom, mizoginijom i verskim fundamentalizmom, kao i konflikti različitih grupa. Uostalom, biografski podatak da je autor, tada student tehničkih nauka, emigrirao netom nakon Paukovog terora, nije tek puka koincidencija, već ima značaj u smislu motivacije i inspiracije za ovaj film kao i za autorov pripovedački pristup.

To će se ponajbolje otkriti na kraju, u završnoj četvrtini filma u kojoj ćemo shvatiti da je Pauk tek jedan od mnogih produkata svoje surove sredine u kojoj ljudski život vredi malo i u kojoj se od ljudi stalno zahteva nekakva žrtva za viši cilj. Takođe, na suđenju ćemo shvatiti da je slika sveta protagonistkinje i antagoniste zapravo dosta slična, ma kako se na prvi pogled činila različitom. Oni, jasno, nastupaju s dijametralno suprotnih pozicija, ali i jedno i drugo vide zaveru konzervativnih krugova koja se sprema, samo je on očekuje i priželjkuje, a ona je se pribojava.

Iako otvoreno politički kraj popravlja utisak o filmu koji nam se do tada činio izrazito linearnim i predvidljivim, premda zanatski solidnim, dometi filma ,,Holy Spider“ ipak ostaju unekoliko ograničeni tom ranom linearnošću. Opet, bespoštednost prikaza i iskrenost motivacije za ovakav film se Abasiju ne mogu zameriti, tako da ,,Holy Spider“ zaslužuje pažnju i poštovanje.


Speak No Evil / Gaesterne

 kritika objavljena na XXZ


režija: Christian Tafdrup

scenario: Christian Tafdrup, Mads Tafdrup

uloge: Morten Burian, Sidsel Siem Koch, Fedja van Huet, Karina Smulders, Liva Forsberg, Marius Damslev

Sa odiumom koji je sa sobom poneo još od premijere u ponoćnoj sekciji ovogodišnjeg izdanja Sundance Festivala, Speak No Evil je na neviđeno bio jedan od intrigantnijih naslova Pule, gde je prikazan u svojstvu posebne projekcije. Reč je o trećem zajedničkom projektu danskog autorskog i bratskog dvojca koji sačinjavaju nekadašnji glumac Christian Tafdrup koji je sada preuzeo ulogu reditelja i ko-scenariste, te njegov brat Mads, pre svega scenarista. Svi njihovi filmovi se uglavnom bave dinamikom parova i skokovitom promenom iste u intrigantno konstruisanim situacijama, ali sa Speak No Evil oni izlaze i na međunarodnu i na žanrovsku (doduše „elevated”, artističku i festivalsku) scenu.

Speak No Evil je, žanrovski govoreći, horor, ali od one vrste kojoj treba vremena da se razvije, a dotle hoda po stazama drugih, odnosno drugačijih žanrova. Ovde je to uglavnom izrazito neprijatna „dramedija” smeštena u relativno ograničeno okruženje koja funkcioniše i kao satira na društvene teme. Zamislite tako Rubena Östlunda iz faze od Force Majeure nadalje u situaciji koja podseća na Hanekea (Funny Games) s dekorom gadosti von Triera (Antichrist), pa ćete biti na dobrom putu da prokljuvite sve one sugestije i tragove, krive ili prave, koje su braća posejala po svom scenariju.

Prvi od znakova upozorenja su kombinacija crnog, nešto starijeg Volvo-karavana (da je neke druge boje, to ne bi bilo zloslutno, već bezopasno) i klasične muzike koji ukazuju na potencijalnu psihopatiju. Toga su naši protagonisti, danski par Bjorn (Burian) i Louise (Koch) blaženo nesvesni, a svesni će postati tek mnogo kasnije. Oni letuju u Toskani sa svojom kćerkicom Agnes (Forsberg) i na tom letovanju upoznaju holandski par, Patricka (van Huet) i njegovu ženu Karin (Smulders) koji takođe imaju sina Abela (Damslev) koji je od Agnes tek koju godinu mlađi. Oba para odaju utisak uglađenih situiranih intelektualaca, pa se po tom ključu povezuju, toliko da nakon kraćeg razmišljanja Danci prihataju poziv Holanđana da ih posete kod njih kući, u južnom, šumovitom predelu zemlje.

Već prvi „taktovi” posete otkrivaju to da domaćini nisu baš onakvi kakvim su se na letovanju predstavljali. Kuća je relativno mala, pa je očekivano s njihove strane da traže da „čeljad ne bude besna”, čak se i zaboravljanje prehrambenih navika gostiju nekako može prihvatiti, ali insistiranje da vegetarijanka Louise proba Patrickove specijalitet od divljači je prilično neukusno, a neki dalji potezi koji slede čak i otvoreno preteći. Atmosfera je na momente takva da deluje da su Bjorn, Louise i Agnes slučajno upali u nečiju tuđu internu šalu, a sve to zapravo orekstrira Patrick s položaja alfa-mužjaka koji svojim ponašanjem testira granice i inače mlakog Bjorna i tek za nijansu žešće Louise, od grebanja za večeru na koju je on pozvao, preko nabijanja agresivne muzike u autu čak i kada je zamoljen da to ne radi, pa do maltretiranja Abela pred publikom.

Jasno je da će se Bjorn i Louise naći u nebranom grožđu, pre ili kasnije, ali uglavnom će to biti njihovom zaslugom. Mehanizam koji braća Tafdrup ovde ispituju je učtivost, odnosno isfolirani, društveno nametnuti oblik iste kao neka vrsta imperativa po kojima se „dobri”, a zapravo glupi i slabi ljudi ponašaju predvidljivo. Negde pri kraju će Patrick dati iskren odgovor na pitanje motivacije za tako nešto, a to je da on to radi zato što može, i to će biti sasvim dovoljno. Uostalom, s Bjornom koji nema snage ni da se pobuni, ni da vrisne, a koji opet ima potrebu za muškim savezništvom, ma kako čudnim, kao protivnikom, nijedan mu poduhvat neće biti težak zadatak, dok se Louisina jezikavost kada treba da nekoga ili nešto osudi ne pretvara u ikakav stav koji je u praksi borben i spreman na otpor.

Filmski i tematski uzori su tu i vidljivi su, od ranijih radova Tafdrupovih, preko pomenutih Östlunda (od kojeg se preuzima tema društveno kondicioniranog mlakog i „pristojnog” muškarca), Hanekea (atmosfera nepoverenja u zatvorenom okruženju dva para ili dve familije) i von Triera (mračne, sadističke implikacije na tragu Antichrista), ali Speak No Evil je i pored toga jedan više nego solidno realizovan film koji pokreće solidna, iako pomalo otkrivajuća gluma, čiju emocionalnu dinamiku diktira soundtrack, čija fotografija u širim planovima kad god za njih ima prostora Erika Molberga Hansena vrlo dobro funkcioniše, dok nas ritmična montaža Nicolaja Monberga drži u priči.

Naravno, ništa tu nije posebno novo, pa samim time ne može biti šokantno nekom treniranijem gledaocu, čak i gadosti (kada do njih dođe) ostaju uglavnom izvan kadra, ali Speak No Evil svejedno sasvim dobro „vozi”. Razlog tome bi moglo biti nešto drugo od „niskih udaraca” u autonomni nervni sistem poput šokova i emocionalnih ucena, čak i nešto suprotno od toga i krajnje cerebralno. Radi se tu o filozofskom pitanju na temu dva straha: je li strah od toga da ispadnemo nepristojni i zbog toga odbačeni od društva ili makar neposrednog okruženja zaista veći od straha od bola, emotivnog ili fizičkog. I o tom pitanju treba dobro i dugo razmišljati.


A Film a Week - The Uncle / Stric

 previously published on Cineuropa

Ah, Christmas… An endless amount of effort and constant anxiety attacks for all members of the household, all for the sake of fitting in with the socially imposed ideals of celebration and “holiday spirit”. The work and the anxiety are doubled if it’s a larger gathering, and you can triple it if a rich relative from abroad is coming, as a real show must be put on. This particular Christmas gathering with an uncle coming from Germany to socialist Croatia (then part of Yugoslavia) in the 1980s, as envisioned by Andrija Mardešić and David Kapac in their feature debut, The Uncle, which has opened the new Proxima competition at Karlovy Vary, is something that will not be easily forgotten.

The family, consisting of the father (Goran Bogdan, very active recently in Croatian, regional and even global cinema), the mother (Ivana Roščić, of Mare and Tereza37 fame) and their twenty-something son (the young and talented Roko Sikavica), are awaiting the titular uncle (star actor Predrag Miki Manojlović, best known for his collaborations with Emir Kusturica on the filmmaker’s earlier works). Once he arrives in his blue Mercedes, the spectacle incorporating religious overtones and nationalist undertones begins. Not everything is perfect: the turkey is undercooked and the cookies are burnt, the son is acting like a teenager for some reason, and the authoritative uncle is too condescending towards the family and visibly displeased with some of their questions. Other strange “glitches” do appear in that 1980s reality, which cast doubt on whether anything in this constructed setting is real.

As it turns out, it is not. It is a show “written and directed” by the uncle, who knows exactly what he wants, but doesn’t have the skills to make it happen. Repeating itself in circles day after day, this show conceals a far more sinister plot of emotional and mental, and sometimes even physical, abuse.

The duo’s filmmaking influences are pretty obvious, from the works of Michael Haneke (especially Funny Games) to Yorgos Lanthimos (most notably Dogtooth, but The Uncle sometimes ends up in darker, less well-charted territory that we have not yet seen in Croatian cinema. Their attention to detail, constructing the reality of the late-1980s and early-1990s Croatian emigrant workers posing as dissidents while flying a nationalistic and hyper-religious flag, is commendable, as it is obvious from the production and costume design, the fitting choice of synth musical score composed by Miro Manojlović and the VHS segments masterfully edited into the largely digitally shot material. The crisp cinematography by Miloš Jaćimović (Ivan Ikić’s Barbarians and Oasis) adds a layer or two of coldness to this atmospheric piece.

Mardešić and Kapac are also pretty good at working with the actors. Miki Manojlović still has the star power of an actor in his prime and can now dive headfirst into playing the malevolent figure. Bogdan and Roščić have some convincing chemistry together as a cowardly father and a mother on the verge of a breakdown, respectively, while Sikavica channels weirdness and helplessness convincingly.

However, there is a problem with the circular structure and the number of repetitions, which results in complications when it comes to the drip-feeding of the information revealed, the twists and turns, and the gradual changes in the atmosphere. Indeed, the entire middle part of the film, from the end of the first repetition to the last couple, drags on and feels a tad repetitive. Nevertheless, The Uncle is an intriguing debut that showcases the talents of its two creators, and which will surely surprise domestic and international audiences.


A Film a Week - A Far Shore / Tooi tokoro

 previously published on Asian Movie Pulse

An underage club hostess’ life goes from bad to worse in Masaaki Kudo’s (I’m Crazy, Unprecedented) Karlovy Vary official Crystal Globe competition entry A Far Shore. The film is set in Okinawa, to the western audiences best known for WW2 historical reasons, whose contemporary side of being Japan’s poorest prefecture is less explored in cinema.

Aoi (Kotono Hanase) is a 17-year-old hostess working along her best friend Mio (Yumeni Ishida) in the club called Night Babylon, attending to the emotional needs and the needs for company of their clients. This kind of work is strictly illegal since the girls are under the legal age limit for both work and drinking alcohol, which is one of the principal requirements, but compared to the honest day’s work for a highschool dropout with no specific skills and a teen mother, it is quite lucrative. Every night after work, Aoi picks her son Kengo (Tsuki Hasegawa) from her grandmother’s place and heads home to a cramped little studio apartment where her drunk, lazy, abusive and more often than not violent partner Masaya (Yoshiro Sakuma) waits for her. Masaya has the habit of not showing up for work and spending Aoi’s money on drinking benders, but she is resourceful enough to keep some of her earnings well hidden.

However, after a police raid on her club, her luck is about to change from bad to worse. First, Masaya finds the majority of her stash and goes spending it. Also, every conversation with him about him getting a job ends up in beating he gives her. Beaten up, she cannot find a job as a hostess, and without money, she cannot pay her rent and support herself and her son, so her only option proves to be prostitution. With Masaya in prison, little to no help from others, her best friend’s judging, her work that requires detachment that could be only achieved through addiction, and the social services intervening on Kengo’s behalf, the vicious circle closes on her.

Watching A Far Shore resembles reading a feel-bad novel which, if done properly, does not have to be a bad thing. Unfortunately, this is not the case here. It all starts from the script divided in five chapters titled after some “wise” lines of dialogues spoken in them. The script, written by Kudo and Mami Suzuki, is riddled with clichés that are expected to be taken face-value, but also with some unnecessary repetitions, overly explanatory dialogues, and, for a good measure, elliptical jumps in plot development. Even though it is an original work, it seems like a clumsy adaptation of the literary material where the exposition is too long (it takes almost the half of the runtime) and some developments are rather cut than transferred to a cinematic material in a convincing fashion.

There are some moments that could be seen as inspirational and insightful, such as the politician’s speech on the radio in which he praises the Okinawan hospitality and solidarity and states the determination not to leave anyone behind, which actually could not be farther from the truth. Also, the attempt of showing the real life on the island, along with its own language, rifts between the generations and genders, as well as the pressing social matters is noble, but it gets overshadowed by the plot driven by, at best, two-dimensional characters.

On the craft level, Kudo is capable of executing a scene or even a sequence, especially in the lighter mode earlier on in which he can be convincing in presenting why a life of club- and party-girl is and should be attractive to someone like Aoi, but also when he has to show the brutality later on. However, his lyricism, highlighted with Takayaki Sugimura’s cinematography often gets impaired with the piano-heavy score by Hironori Ito and Keefar that feels like coming straight out of a TV melodrama that works only when it is spiced with synth drone simulating the sound of wind instruments or with J-Pop blasting from the background. Acting itself, especially Hanase’s is not problematic by itself, but the actors are tasked with playing in the heightened emotional register all the time, which feels excessive.

In the end, A Far Shore could have been a proper example of feel-bad cinema that unveils the emotional and the social aspects of a hard life and abuse in a hopeless place. But, executed this way, with particular clumsiness and the sense of certain manipulation of the audience going on, it actually betrays its important topic.