10. Februar 2014


Estonian Nouvelle Vague @ Berlinale Forum 2014

(“Ballaad maailma heakskiitmisest”, 2013 Estonia by Veikoo Ounpuu with Laurie Lagle, Mari Abel, Jaanika Arum, Jim Ashilevi | 104 min)

Critique by Sieva Diamantakos
Ballaad maailma heakskiitmisest - Free Range
FREE RANGE is a movie shot by Veikoo Öunpuu. The young director has submitted this, his third full-length movie, to the Oscars (but was not nominated).
It is essentially the story of a couple who live in Tallin, Estonia; she gets pregnant, her boyfriend seems to run into an existential crisis. This leads him to question his way of life and his choices.
He loses his job, has an affair with his ex-girlfriend, and enjoys the company of older free-thinkers and friends who lead a bohemian way of life. All the elements of this movie seem to converge to one theme: the sixties - its values and its aesthetics.
Everything, from the content (it’s the story of a rebellion), to the dresses, and even the way it is shot (16mm) is reminiscent of that era, particularly the French Nouvelle Vague.
The shaky camera is combined with the grainy, washed-out photography to convey a fascinating feeling that wavers between nostalgia and a state of uncertainty.

There are two generations represented in this film. Primarily the film is focused on the youth which Fred (Laurie Lagle) and his girlfriend Susanna belong to; the portrait brings up the same idiosyncrasies that were so widely spread out among the young in the sixties. After losing his job at an art magazine for a biting film critique, the leading character seems unable to face his new responsibilities of becoming a father. He longs for freedom, spending his new life between parties and intellectual meetings, but for most of the time he seems lost and unhappy.

In the second half of the movie he finds a job as a forklift driver that he thinks will give him more satisfaction than selling his by soul writing meaningless articles. His alienation reaches its peak here; our hero is shown driving the truck back and forth without purpose, probably the image that best symbolises his state of mind.

The other generation has undoubtedly less emphasis in the film but it appears to be problematic as well; their old traditional values, namely those of Susanna’s parents, show all their limitations in our contemporary world.
Tallinn is portrayed as a post-modern city; the urban shots aim only to depict the suburbs against the new skyscrapers. The soundtrack, recorded from a vinyl, presents some hits from the sixties which frames Frank’s bold spirit.

There’s only one thing that would distinguish this movie from one realised in the sixties: the yearning soul of the director. This film looks like it is made by somebody who, though extremely fascinated by the revolutionary utopia, does not seek to celebrate it. Instead, he is conscious of its failure as he contemplates it with wistful eyes. The 16 mm film and the soundtrack play a huge role in conveying this feeling.

Unfortunately the characters don’t reveal themselves deeply (especially the main one) while dialogues are rare and not always effective. So there’s the risk that despite the stunning images the charming story will bore the audience.

Rating: * *

Ballaad maailma heakskiitmisest

9. Februar 2014

Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter


(USA 2014, directed by David Zellner with Rinko Kikuchi, Nathan Zellner, David Zellner | 105 min)

Critique by Sieva Diamantakos
Rinko Kikuchi in Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter
Here’s another Berlinale Forum film that lays on the boundaries between realism and fairytale. Kumiko, a young Japanese woman who lives in Tokyo, finds a tape in a cave on a beach. In “Fargo”, one of the masterpieces of the Cohen brothers, a suitcase full of money is buried in a Minnesota city of the same name. Kumiko’s life has a new aim, something that was apparently missing since the lead character showed every sign of an alienated existence.
The first part the movie stresses the loneliness of the main character, who has practically no friends, a job as office lady that she hates, and an empty relation with her mother whose only concern seems to be finding her daughter a husband or else convincing her to move back home, and so on. But fate offers Kumiko an opportunity; her boss gives her his credit card in order to buy a present for his wife and she uses it to book a ticket to Minnesota instead. The film turns now into a road movie where Kumiko will trail her treasure, trying to reach the spot she saw in the film.
There she would battle the cold weather, the lack of money and confront people living in those small towns, who are sceptical about her quest.

As I said before, this is a kind of modern fairytale; Rinko Kikuchi perfectly plays the role of a borderline personality which struggles to find a place in this world. What happens to her, especially in the first part of the movie when she is still in Tokyo, is charged with a certain degree of surrealism. The scenes in which she meets an old friend of hers, or where a new girl is coming to work, or when she looks out of the window and she sees a couple dancing in another apartment, are so peculiar as to register as absurd.

Some visionary moments occur also when in the US which transcends the topic of alienation and isolation in the modern world. The inability to communicate is explored in a completely different environment; language plays a big role because Kumiko does not understand English very well, but this is clearly not her only obstacle. She encounters people who lead a simple life. The naive sheriff (played by Zellner), the old woman who wants to host “the treasure hunter” simply to abate the loneliness she feels after the loss of her husband, and, in the end, even a deaf taxi driver.

The director shows a substantial amount of irony that helps him to dig into these themes  without making the storytelling too dissuasive for the audience. Having said this, all the characters presented by David Zellner are lonely creatures. It is irrelevant if they live in the countryside or in a big city as this is something that at most changes the way they face their solitude, but not their existential state. Another important topic that emerges from the work of David Zellner is the contrast between a Japan that remains traditional and the changes of the contemporary world. The director shows nicely how, for certain individuals, these contradictions are not so easy to cope with. Kumiko feels trapped in a city which leaves no room for an alternative way of life.
The photography of the film is undoubtedly beautiful; the red overcoat that the lead character wears contrasts with the cold city as well as with the snowy northern American landscape. Colours are vivid and the style is rigorous, a good choice for this odd fairytale.

I personally appreciate the message that unfolds in the last sequences of Zellner’s work, but, to talk about that, I would spoil the ending which would be a disservice to those interested in watching this great movie.

Rating: * * * *

Rinko Kikuchi in Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter

Der Samurai

Village Cop vs. Swordsman @ Perspektive Deutsches Kino 2014

(Germany 2014 directed by Till Kleinert with Pit Bukowski, Michael Schumacher, Ulrike Biefert, Uwe Preuss | 79 min)

Critique by Sieva Diamantakos

Der Samurai, Michael Schumacher © Emi Maria Bohacek, Edition Salzgeber
Jakob, a young police officer, works in a small town close to the polish border surrounded by dark woods. A wolf lives there that the shy police officer feeds with meat.
This small, secure world has now been threatened by an ominous samurai; a young man dressed like a woman that kills with the katana, a Japanese sword.
Jakob is on his trail but the more he manages to get in contact with him the more the samurai becomes cruel and dangerous. Jakob’s world that previously relied on a fragile system of values collapses amid the audacious personality of the samurai who, with his life and his words, questions the young policeman’s way of life.
Jakob finds himself fighting against his insecurities, against his fears, against his inability to stand out in life while the reality around him changes into a surreal landscape, filled with magic. That is, until the inevitable final fight where our tragic hero must fight both his bold enemy and himself.
Though the samurai is not the only presence that provokes the main character, he just does so in the most spectacular way. The film explores other real situations and implies the various impacts these have on Jakob while he waits for his reaction to awake. The guys of the village, for instance, bully him despite his role as an officer. A girl he encounters on the way expresses her libertine personality. The wolf itself symbolises an appetite for freedom and strong instincts, repressed by Jakob’s everyday duties.
In one interview director Till Kleinert stated that he got a lot inspired by the writer HP Lovecraft and particularly in the sense that his characters are mostly alienated in a world that they don’t fully understand and are “…on the verge of being overwhelmed by something that is out of our conscious.”
He adds:  “…There are always forces from outside that try to destroy this little conscious safety that we have”. This theme constitutes the spine of Kleinert’s work, and it is the core of his battle against the mainstream realism which is spread so widely nowadays.
It’s difficult to define a genre for this movie, it stands among horror, drama and psycho-thriller, but, although the subject is uncanny, its purpose is not only to provoke the audience’s reaction but further strengthen the story’s ability to rely on the interesting characters and on the well structured dramaturgy.

Dialogues are remarkable, especially where they stress out the dialectic pupil-master dichotomy that develops between the two main characters.
During the vision we are lead to identify ourselves with the young officer, to question our lives ruled by routine and to ask ourselves what our reaction might be if something so extreme happened to us. Pit Bukowski is outstanding in the lead role; his free spirit - which embodies anger, craziness, boldness and violence - magnificently contrasts with the shy and submissive attitude of Michael Schumacher (the policeman). The photography of the scenes, mostly shot in the evening/night time, manages to deepen the mysterious and dramatic atmosphere into which the film melts.

In the nineteen thirties Germany had a well deserved reputation for combining unheimlich stories with expressionist shootings, now that this genre is long gone there’s the possibility to fill this void with something fresh that again blurs the boundaries between reality and fantasy.
According to the director this genre could easily find a commercial outlet, and I personally hope that German producers will recognise its potential - at least until the time that the crowd funding campaigns in Europe become a viable alternative to the state film funding.

Rating: * * * * 

Der Samurai, Pit Bukowski © Emi Maria Bohacek, Edition Salzgeber

4. Februar 2014



Viele Freunde und KollegInnen fragen uns nach Filmtipps für die 64. Internationalen Filmfestspiele Berlin 2014. Aufgrund des Presse-Embargos für Weltpremieren, können wir allerdings lediglich einige Titel nennen und auf die Berlinale-Webseiten dazu verweisen, wo die Selbstbeschreibungen und Termine stehen. Kritiken veröffentlichen wir separat nach den Premieren. Auf zum größten Publikumsfilmfestival der Welt!

Wie immer ist für ausreichend Augenschmaus im Programm gesorgt, das sehr viele Geschmäcker bedient und unseren geistigen Horizont ausdehnt. Konflikte wohin man schaut. Leid und Lust und Leckereien. Das kann man auch von einer so kostspieligen Industriemesse und dem gigantischem Kommerzfest (Jahresbudget 21 Mio. €, davon 6,5 Mio. Staatsförderung) erwarten.
Wonnig darf man sich nach Herzenslust einen Film nach dem anderen zu Gemüte führen (wenn man akkreditiert ist) und mit Erstaunen oder Tränen aus den Kinos treten, um von den neuen Imbissbuden am Potsdamer Platz einen Snack zu kosten.

Als normalsterblicher Cineast wird man sich auf Schlangestehen und überteuertes Restegucken einstellen (oder online Karten bestellen). Sammler lechzen nach Autogrammen von Filmstars, die in angenehmer Menge anreisen, um für sich zu werben oder gar auf Preise zu hoffen.
Als Filmeinkäufer und Verleiher lässt man sich auf dem riesigen FILMMARKT umgarnen, erspürt Trends und Schnäppchen. Kritiker stellen sich auf Meckerei und Gemäkel ein. Studenten und Jungspunde küpfen unter der Rubrik TALENTS zarte Produktionsbande und lassen die alten Hasen berichten, denn ein beträchtlicher Anteil des Programms besteht jedes Jahr aus Werken von ehemaligen Talentcampusteilnehmern. Auch Fans der RETROSPEKTIVE dürfen in Erinnerungen schwelgen und Gourmets berappen gern 85 €, um sich beim Filmeschauen bekochen zu lassen. Wer Ken Loach mag, schaut in der HOMMAGE vorbei.
Auch für Filmfans ohne Zeitreserven bietet das Festival mit BERLINALE GOES KIEZ viele Spielorte in der Hauptstadt an. Das legendäre Gruppengefühl kommt bestimmt auf, egal wie das Wetter wird oder wer Olympia boykottiert.
Ganz nervenstarke Kunstfans, Verächter des linearen Erzählfilms und Hippster tingeln gewiss zu den Experimentalfilmen bei den SHORTS oder dem FORUM EXPANDED, um mitzuerleben, wie in Kinosälen gebuht und geschimpft wird. Ein Festival als Protestbewegung.
Wer genug Kommerzfilme sah, darf sich auf der Gegenveranstaltung BODDINALE bei selbstgemachten Wundern entspannen.


Der in einem Görlitzer Kaufhaus gedrehte Eröffnungsfilm kommt schon am 6. März regulär in die Kinos: THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL (Großbritannien / Deutschland 2014, amüsante 100 Min | Englisch | Regie: Wes Anderson | Darsteller: Ralph Fiennes, Tony Revolor, F. Murray Abraham, Mathieu Amalric, Adrien Brody). Anderson lieferte schon einige bemerkenswerte Arbeiten ab. Könnte sich lohnen.

Zwischen Welten 
Wolfgang Ennenbach © Independent Artists Filmproduktion
Wer deutsche Soldaten beim Afghanistaneinsatz sehen will, kann in Feo Aladags exzellentem neuen Drama ZWISCHEN WELTEN fündig werden und die Sichtweise der Einheimischen verstehen.

(Deutschland 2014, bedrohliche 103 Min | Deutsch, Englisch, Pashtu, Dari | D: Ronald Zehrfeld, Mohsin Ahmady, Saida Barmaki, Abdul Salam Yosofzai, Burghart Klaußner, Felix Kramer).

Geballte Starpower läuft außer Konkurrenz zum zweitbesten Programmplatz am Samstagabend: THE MONUMENTS MEN - Ungewöhnliche Helden (Budget 80 Mio $ ? | R: George Clooney | USA, Großbritannien, Deutschland 2013, entspannte 120 Min | Englisch | D: George Clooney, Matt Damon, Cate Blanchett, Bill Murray, John Goodman, Jean Dujardin). Alliierte Kunstschutzoffiziere fahnden nach Schätzen, die im 2. Weltkrieg bedroht sind. Gedreht in Deutschland, wo also viel Geld in die Produktionskosten floss und ab Ende Februar in den Kinos anläuft.

Interessant klingen die Namen im Ensemble von KRAFTIDIOTEN - The Order of Disappearance (Norwegen / Schweden / Dänemark 2013, drückende 115 Min | Norwegisch | Regie: Hans Petter Moland | Darsteller: Stellan Skarsgård, Bruno Ganz, Pål Sverre Hagen, Birgitte Hjort Sørensen, Anders Baasmo Christiansen)

Richard Linklater ist wieder im Programm mit BOYHOOD (USA 2013, stolze 164 Min | Englisch | mit: Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke, Ellar Coltrane, Lorelei Linklater). Ein Stammgast des Festivals.
NYMPH()MANIAC - Uma Thurman
Kaum Jugendfreies darf man von Lars von Triers NYMPH()MANIAC VOL 1 (LONG VERSION) erwarten, dafür aber jede Menge Haut, Depression und Geräusche in den Memoiren einer Sexsüchtigen. (Dänemark / Deutschland / Frankreich / Belgien / Schweden 2013, erotisierte 145 Min | Englisch | D: Charlotte Gainsbourg, Stellan Skarsgård, Stacy Martin, Shia LaBeouf).

Ein kafkaeskes Drama erwartet uns in dem Remake LA VOIE DE L'ENNEMI - Two Men in Town (R: Rachid Bouchareb | Frankreich, Algerien, USA, Belgien 2013 | Englisch, Spanisch | D: Forest Whitaker, Harvey Keitel, Brenda Blethyn, Luis Guzmán, Dolores Heredia).


American Hustle

Ebenfalls hochkarätig besetzt ist die Betrugsdramödie AMERICAN HUSTLE (R: David O. Russell, USA 2013, schmerbäuchige 138 Min | Englisch | D: Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Jeremy Renner, Jack Huston, Michael Peña, Louis C.K.). Spannendes Kino und einige Oscarnominierungen! So kann es Tricksern ergehen.

THE TURNING ist eine einzigartige Verfilmung der bekannten Kurzgeschichten von Tim Winton: Fürs Kino interpretieren 18 renommierte australische Künstler auf persönliche Weise die lyrischen Erzählungen über ganz gewöhnliche Menschen an einem Wendepunkt ihres Lebens.(Australien 2013, beachtliche 180 Min | Englisch | D: Cate Blanchett, Rose Byrne, Miranda Otto, Richard Roxburgh, Hugo Weaving).

A Long Way Down © DCM
A LONG WAY DOWN kann sich ebenfalls mit Stars brüsten (R: Pascal Chaumeil | Großbritannien, Deutschland 2013, läppische 96 Min | Englisch | D: Pierce Brosnan, Toni Collette, Imogen Poots, Aaron Paul, Rosamund Pike, Sam Neill, Tuppence Middleton, Joe Cole). Vier Lebensmüde begegnen sich in der Silvesternacht auf dem Dach eines Hochhauses und verschieben gemeinsam ihren Selbstmord auf den Valentinstag. Die schwarzhumorige Komödie nach dem Roman von Nick Hornby folgt der Notgemeinschaft beim Überlebenskampf. 

Eine friedliche Protestbewegung in Kalifornien zeigt CESAR CHÁVEZ (R: Diego Luna
USA 2013, ergreifende 101 Min | Englisch, Spanisch | D: Michael Peña, America Ferrera, Rosario Dawson, John Malkovich, Jacob Vargas, Wes Bentley).

Kirsten Dunst © Studiocanal 2013

THE TWO FACES OF JANUARY. Athen 1962. Reiseführer Rydal trifft das vornehme Ehepaar MacFarland. Ein fataler Unfall treibt das Trio zur Flucht über Griechenlands Inseln. (R: Hossein Amini
Großbritannien, USA, Frankreich 2013, stramme 96 Min | Englisch, Griechisch, Türkisch | D: Viggo Mortensen, Kirsten Dunst, Oscar Isaac, David Warshofsky, Daisy Bevan, Aleifer Prometheus)



Eine grandiose Schauspielleistung erwartet Irland-Fans in CALVARY. Der Film lief bereits auf Sundance, daher berichten wir darüber. (R: John Michael McDonagh | Irland, Großbritannien 2014, kuriose 100 Min | Englisch | D: Brendan Gleeson, Chris O'Dowd, Kelly Reilly, Aidan Gillen). Ein Pfarrer probiert sich in Detektivarbeit, denn sein Leben ist bedroht. Eine Woche streifen wir mit ihm durch sein Küstendorf und treffen viele seltsame Gestalten.

Der Regisseur Michel Gondry sprach mit dem bekannten Sprachwissenschaftler Noam Chomsky in New York und machte putzige Animationen dazu. Er visualisiert träumerisch das sprachliche Erfassen der Welt. IS THE MAN WHO IS TALL HAPPY? (Frankreich 2013, lehrreiche 89 Min). Unser Bericht dazu auf Englisch.

LAST HIJACK. In einer Mischung aus Animations-, Dokumentar- und Spielfilm wird berichtet, wie der Somalier Mohamed zum Piraten wurde. Die Lebensumstände in seiner Heimat führen dazu, dass immer noch viele Fischer in die Fänge von Piratenrekrutierern geraten.(R: Tommy Pallotta, Femke Wolting | Niederlande, Deutschland, Irland, Belgien 2014, polygame 83 Min | Somali, Englisch).

BLIND @ Berlinale 2014
BLIND verwirrt uns mit einer origenellen Erzählweise. Mehr dazu.  (R: Eskil Vogt | Norwegen, Niederlande 2013, verträunte 96 Min | Norwegisch | D: Ellen Dorrit Petersen, Henrik Rafaelsen, Vera Vitali, Marius Kolbenstvedt).

Auch für das Denkorgan gut ist TRIPTYQUE, worin sich eine Frau nach einer Gehirnoperation mittels Sprechern an die Stimme ihres Vaters erinnern will. (R: Robert Lepage, Pedro Pires | Kanada 2013, gelungene 94 Min | Englisch, Deutsch, Französisch | D: Lise Castonguay, Frédérike Bédard, Hans Piesbergen).


Fast alle Kinderfilme handeln von Familienthemen. Meist fehlt ein Elternteil und muss gefunden werden oder überwunden.
Loulou, l'incroyable secret © 2013 Prima Linea Productions
Loulou, l'incroyable secret | Loulou, das unglaubliche Geheimnis (R: Grégoire Solotareff, Éric Omond | Frankreich 2013, hüpfvergnügte 80 Min | Französisch, deutsche Einsprache). Der junge Wolf Loulou und sein Freund Tom, das treue Kaninchen, geraten an einen Ort Wolfenberg, wo grausame Raubtiere herrschen. Auf der Suche nach Loulous Mutter entkommen sie hungrigen Mäulern, bestehen gefährliche Mutproben und entdecken ihre wahre Natur. - Sehr kindgerechter Trickfilm über Freundschaften und Abenteuer.

Beyond Beyond
BEYOND BEYOND - Johan und der Federkönig (Animation. R: Esben Toft Jacobsen | Schweden, Dänemark 2014, ergreifende und fantasievolle 78 Min | Schwedisch, deutsche Einsprache). Auf einem Kutter lebt der Hasenjunge Johan alleine mit seinem Vater. Sie sind auf der Flucht vor dem Federkönig, der einst Johans Mutter in sein Reich entführte. Der Hase ist entschlossen, sie zu finden und taucht dafür in fantastische Unterwelten ab. Viele mythologische Bezüge vermischt der Film zu einem neuen Gebilde aus der Sicht eines Kindes, das einfach nur seine Mama wiederfinden und behalten will. Was kümmern ihn die Regeln des Universums?

FINN (R: Frans Weisz | Niederlande, Belgien 2013 | musikalisch-ergreifende 90 Min | Niederländisch, deutsche Einsprache | D: Jan Decleir, Daan Schuurmans, Mels van der Hoeven, Hanna Verboom, Jenny Arean | Empfohlen ab: 8 Jahren). Fast täglich geht Finn zu einem verwunschenen Bauernhaus in der Nachbarschaft. Dort lernt er von einem geheimnisvollen Mann, wie man Geige spielt. Erinnerungen an seine verstorbene Mutter werden wach. Doch der Vater ist gegen jeden Umgang mit dem Alten.


Der Samurai © Emi M. Bohacek, Ed.Salzgeber

Meinem Kollegen Sieva gefiel DER SAMURAI (R: Till Kleinert | Deutschland 2014, 79 Min | Deutsch | D: Michel Diercks, Pit Bukowski, Uwe Preuss, Ulrike Hanke-Hänsch, Kaja Blachnik).
Der junge Dorfpolizist Jakob jagt einen furchteinflößenden Samurai. Um ihn aufzuhalten, muss sich Jakob auf dessen Spiel einlassen – auch auf die Gefahr hin, vom Wahnsinn seines Gegners angesteckt zu werden.

Zeit der Kannibalen © Pascal Schmit
Köstlich amüsierte mich die Schauspiellesitung im Kammerspiel ZEIT DER KANIBALEN, worin sich 3 Firmenberater einen verbalen Schlagabtausch in noblen Hotels liefern, obwohl draußen Bürgerkrieg herrscht. (R: Johannes Naber | Deutschland 2013, gierige 93 Min | Deutsch, Englisch | D: Sebastian Blomberg, Devid Striesow, Katharina Schüttler ).


Ko Asung, Song Kang-ho - Courtesy of Snowpiercer Ltd.
SNOWPIERCER beschreibt eine bevorstehende menschengemachte Eiszeit, deren letzte Überlebende in einem Schnellzug ohne Halt um den Globus kreisen – die Reichen in den vorderen Waggons, die Armen, aus deren Perspektive die Geschichte erzählt ist, in den hinteren. Der aufwendigste koreanische Film aller Zeiten gilt als Parabel auf die letzten Tage der Menschheit. (Seolguk-yeolcha | R: Bong Joon-ho | Republik Korea 2013, apokalyptische 125 Min | Koreanisch, Englisch | D: Chris Evans, Song Kang-ho, Tilda Swinton, Jamie Bell, Octavia Spencer )

Velvet Terrorists
ZAMATIVI TERORISTI - VELVET TERRORISTS (R: Peter Kerekes, Pavol Pekarcík, Ivan Ostrochovský | Slowakische Republik, Tschechische Republik, Republik Kroatien 2013, bombige 87 Min | Slowakisch, Tschechisch). Drei ehemalige Bombenleger berichten über ihren Widerstand gegen das tschechoslowakische Regime in den 70ern und 80ern. Aller 3 verbüßten Haftstrafen. Einer probiert nun Rendezvous aus, einer demonstiert Bombenbau und telefoniert. Der Dritte bringt einem Mädchen Selbstverteidigung und Schießen bei. Gute Doku!

The Darkside
THE DARKSIDE (R: Warwick Thornton | Australien 2013, geisterhafte 94 Min | Englisch | D: Lynette Narkle, Merwez Whaleboat, Sacha Horler, Jack Charles, Claudia Karvan)

13 Geistergeschichten von bekannten australischen Schauspielern nachempfunden: Traurig, absurd, lustig. Es entsteht ein facettenreiches, mystisches Mosaik, das sich der dunklen Seite der australischen Vergangenheit und dem Umgang mit den Aborigines widmet.Fast ohne Schnitt ziehen die Erzähler das Publikum in ihren Bann.


BLIND © Kim Saatveldt


(Norway / Netherlands 2014, by Eskil Vogt with Vera Vitali, Henrik Rafaelsen, Elena Dorrit Petersen)
Critique by Sieva Diamantakos

The characters in BLIND are a woman (Elin) that came from Sweden to live alone in Oslo after she has left her husband and her son, whom she barely sees. A couple (Ingrid and Morten), she just turned blind because of a rare illness while apparently her husband is cheating on her.
The last character is a lonely man (Einar), in the middle of his thirties, that indulges himself in all the perversions offered by the internet porn market. It’s difficult at first to recognise who’s the main character in the story. The director Eskil Vogt seems to present different situations tied by a thread that will be revealed just in the end. And in a sense it would be true, but only one story is really happening, the others are just in Ingrid’s mind, when her blindness turns into paranoia, creating unreal situations  that are products of her weaknesses.
This becomes clear just towards the end, though the director wisely rations some “mistakes” that warn you that something is wrong. These hints are anyway too feeble to grasp what is happening. At first I thought the roles were changing as in David Lynch’s movies. Or as in Cet obscure object du désir by Luis Bunuel. 

Nevertheless Ingrid thinks that her husband is betraying her with that Swedish woman, her fantasy goes further when her mind unfolds a scene in the restaurant where they meet and Elin, the new lover, turns blind due to the same illness she is suffering.
The sequence is shot with realism so that is difficult to understand whether it is really happening or not; thus the scene becomes even more effective. The characters are acting naturally, as they have been presented until now, so when you realise that everything is illusory, you understand how deep Ingrid’s mental disorder is.
In her desperation she struggles to keep her material life in focus, which is already a huge issue in a world in which we tend more and more to ignore the other senses in favour of sight. But her inner conflict is much worse, as she looses her faith to her husband who cannot longer see, and, because of that, all her insecurities take over and leave her in a state of constant threats.

The story twists at this climax, the scenes become distorted, touching the boundaries of the surreal, as in the party at the end of the movie.
Another interesting point of the plot is when Einar meets Elin and starts having sexual fantasies about her, due to the fact that she is blind. He’s used to watch porn every day for hours so she cannot be more than a sexual object for him.
The more the plot develops, the deeper the story gets, laying on two levels: The characters’ psychology and the reflection about our society dominated by technology. Ingrid believed in what she saw. Einar lives his life obsessed by virtual perversions, that help him to cope with his anxiety. Even when he seems to look after a real woman (Elin), he’s excited only by the fact  that she cannot see, replicating the same one-sided relation he has while indulging in porn sites; he watches, gets aroused, but he’s not being watched so basically he can’t be judged.
There’s a sense of powerlessness in this film, the world we are living has become too liquid, due mainly to internet and the latest technology developments, while our fears easily take over on our weak minds.
But this layer of pessimism and loneliness well represented also by a cold photography are mixed with sense of irony and the surreal, especially in the last scenes, that balance a movie that otherwise would have been too hard to digest.
Instead, this story is a gem that questions the nature of our knowledge and our souls, which have become too dependent on what we see.

Rating: * * * *
Blind © Kim Saatveldt

3. Februar 2014


(Documentary / Animation, USA 2013 by Michel Gondry, with Noam Chomsky, Michel Gondry)
Critique by Sieva Diamantakos

Is the man who is tall happy? / by Michel Gondry
IS THE MAN WHO IS TALL HAPPY? - by Michel Gondry
Is the man who is tall happy is a conversation between Michel Gondry and Noam Chomsky, one of the most influential thinkers of our time. While Noam talks, the director animates his thoughts with his wonderful drawings, drowning the viewer in an ocean of coloured scenes. The topics are linguistics, learning processes and science while Noam’s political views are barely touched. There is also space for the intellectual’s personal life, from his childhood onwards, but not enough to give the audience something deep to dig into.
Many topics are just hinted, and due to the vastness of the subject they are useful for further elaboration. On the other hand the French speaker Gondry does not seem to fully understand the intellectual partly because of his English, partly because his interviews sometimes don’t focus the points. The director starts the film with an assumption that seems to unify his editing theories with Noam’s ones; the audience isn’t aware of the manipulative process in cinema because they forget the cuts, a faculty called psychic continuity. Gondry says his movie wouldn’t follow this pattern, because it will make the audience aware that it is just his interpretation.

One of the main topics of the movie centers around the ideal of teaching: Noam openly criticises the competitive school system that has its main limits in the way the present concepts become dogmas where students are allowed only to remember and not to question them. In life and in our careers (especially scientific ones) we should learn how to be puzzled, to develop ideas of our own and not taking anything for granted. If we don’t do that, we risk to simply become replicas of someone’s else mind while science doesn’t go any further.

The concept of endowment has been widely explored by Noam: Through his research the nature of our cognitive system is criticised. This is due to the fact that scientists, philosophers etc… don’t pay enough attention to our innate mechanisms that are the reason why children are able to construct complex phrases at very young age, avoiding by instinct the easiest solution. The example that follows gives the title to Michel Gondry’s documentary. When children construct the interrogative sentence “Is the man who is tall happy?”, they use a much a more complicated structural proximity instead of linear proximity. This is a good example for us to be puzzled.
Chomsky is almost never shown while the drawings visualise the concepts; they are undoubtedly beautiful and moving but sometimes a little too fast to be stuck in your mind. The director sometimes shows his opinion too, as in the case of inspiration. He admits that ideas often come to his mind because of misunderstandings. For the thinker, the source of inspiration is still unknown and it changes widely among individuals.
Chomsky and Gondry
One of the most emotional traits of the documentary goes into Chomsky’s personal life. While he refuses to talk about his recently deceased wife, admitting he didn’t get over it, Gondry shows both of them walking over the clouds on two horses while a song from Mia Doi Todd completes the touching scenario.

If you judge the conversation itself as a source to deepen your knowledge about concepts, it doesn’t fully reach the aim, but if you look at it as an inspirational piece of art, you can be thrilled. With this spirit, each time you see this documentary, Chomsky’s words and Gondry’s mixed media technique will become more and more fascinating.

Gondry will be part of the Berlinale Main Competition Jury, while his film is shown in the Panorama section for the European Premiere.

Evaluation of the film: * * *