Wagnerian drama TYRANNOSAUR Interview with lovely PADDY CONSIDINE ROMANIAN NEW WAVE - feelgood winners
romanian new wave
Arguably the father of the Romanian New Wave, director Lucian Pintilie constructs a “Theatre of the Absurd” darker and more acerbic than any from Eugene Ionesco’s imagination. You would be hard-pushed indeed to find any opening scenes more compelling that those of THE OAK in cinema, in which Nela, a female psychologist, watches home movies with her dying father, in her small apartment crammed with toppling artefacts of communism. Pintilie’s powerful grasp of the theatrical helps to create a manifestation of her internal state within the confined physical space. The central theme of the film is established here as reality attempts to force its way into this space and disrupt the precarious balance of illusory reality she has created. The death throes of Ceausescu’s Romania are the focus of the work. One example illustrates the seemingly wilful illogicality of the regime - the dead are buried “in eternal glory”, but lack of medical facilities means that their organs can not be used for transplantation.
Nela meets a doctor, Mitica - a tempest of a man and together they confront and challenge authority, conformity and complicity as they travel through the landscape of the sclerotic utopia of communist Romania. As with Picasso’s Guernica, THE OAK transcends narratives of the human condition to also contextualise Pintilie’s personal experiences and confused relationship with his homeland. It forces us to question the nature of normality and abnormality, as well as our willingness to mete out harsh truths, and our unwillingness to hear them. It lurches towards madness as society’s self-erected
barricades can no longer withstand the pressure of reality and ends with a sequence which manages to be simultaneously romantic, challenging and chilling. Steve Williams
“A Romanian comedy?” I heard someone asking in disbelief after the film was over. And truly, the main memories evoked by the words “Romanian New Wave” are usually tedious long shots of aborted babies and people walking. It is no wonder, then , that it is hard to believe that one of the founding films of the new wave, Cristian Mungiu’s (yes the one who bagged a Palm d’Or with “that abortion film” as critics like to call it) 2001 hit OCCIDENT, is a hearty comedy. But fret not, if you have come to see people coping with a society crippled by 40 years of Communism, you will not be disappointed, for this is exactly what the film delivers. But in their problems and tragedies humour somehow found its place. In a PULP FICTION inspired triple narrative, we learn the stories of: two lovers, one of which wishes to leave the God-forsaken country for a better life in the West; a girl being abandoned at the altar, and her mother trying to find her a suitable husband via an agency from, you’ve guessed it, the West; and a man coming back to Romania from the West in order to return the belongings of a friend who has passed away there. It is a delightful film with a surprising craft in combining humour and drama, the latter feeling close to what real life might have to offer. The added bonus of a brilliant cast make this one of the feelgood winners of this Festival. Mihai Kolcsar
P A D D Y C ON S I D INE FH: With DOG ALTOGETHER, what was missing from that, that was vital, that you thought needed retelling for the new film? PC: I just think that DOG ALTOGETHER was the beginning of a bigger film, and even though I didn’t realise that at the time that I wrote it [...] this story blasted out of me in a couple of hours and I was really at a sort of desperate point with it all – I was in Spain and I was away from home, and wasn’t connecting very well, and I just thought, “something’s got to give” and I went to my hotel room and I wrote DOG ALTOGETHER that just blasted through, and I thought “If I’m going to direct I’ve got to prove it in some way. I’ve got to be able to stop the talk and just get on with it." After DOG ALTOGETHER I’d written another short for Olivia’s character and then I got too many responses from people going “What happens to these characters?” It felt like the beginning of something and it really was, so I just went away and carried on writing from that point. We told DOG ALTOGETHER in TYRANNOSAUR because I didn’t want it to be aesthetically the same film, I wasn’t totally happy with the way that DOG ALTOGETHER
"... writing’s a weird one, if you let them do the job and not you, they’ll tell the story for you." looked, it was actually that that I was trying to get away from in TYRANNOSAUR. I didn’t want hand-held, I didn’t want any of that business, I wanted really structured frames and performance to make it look like cinema as we know it, as a big format, as opposed to this style we’ve got so used to, those bloody films with cameras all over the place, docu-style and improvisation – I want to make cinema, I didn’t want any of that. I just went off and wrote it in about a week. And strangely – writing’s a weird one, if you let them do the job and not you, they’ll tell the story for you. FH: What’s the hardest part that you’ve played? Was it in A ROOM FOR ROMEO BRASS? PC: That was the first time I’d ever acted, and strangely enough, these characters give you the energy – and you’ve got to remember, too, that one of my best friends was the director, and all I was doing was amusing him, so I’m doing this gypsy character thing, and Shane found it dead amusing, so because it made people laugh, I just stayed in character all day. And that’s the strange thing about film – because you see such brutal moments, you don’t see the bits in between where we’re all falling around laughing. Ferry Hunt
T A K E ONE © 2011
Cambridge Film Festival Review
Editor Rosy Hunt Deputy Editor Fiona Scoble Sub-editor Steve Williams Comms Manager Mike Boyd Design Rosy Hunt Photography Tom Catchesides
bernard hermann knowing the score
enhanced through intimation, rather than expensive and ultimately unsatisfying visual shots. Brand finished with a plea to directors to give their composers a greater degree of autonomy. On the basis of Herrmann’s achievements, one can hardly disagree. Chris Stefanowicz
HAMI S H M c AL P INE were always bigger than EMI. There’s an act to it, but at the end of the day it’s just about being a suit, it’s about fitting a square film into a round audience. FH: Were there films that you thought weren’t gonna get as big an audience that they deserved, and so labelled them with Tartan?
b l a ck
b u tt e r f l i e s Bernard Herrmann, the composer of a litany of groundbreaking film scores, was a genius. In this presentation, Neil Brand, an incredibly skilled silent film accompanist and composer himself, offered an intriguing insight into Herrmann’s methods. Brand began with Herrmann’s collaboration with Orson Welles on Citizen Kane, explaining how the music underwrites and explains the opening montage of images, while compounding the mystery of the newspaper mogul. The isolation of an individual instrument (frequently the haunting vibraphone) was taken to a greater extreme in Hitchcock’s Psycho, with a score composed entirely of strings. Listening to the score alongside the sheet music, the composition from the infamous shower scene, was revealed as frightening simplistic and yet brutally effective. Moving on to VERTIGO, Brand illuminated the major role played by Herrmann’s score, supporting rather than pre-empting the shock of Kim Novak’s Madeleine jumping into the San Francisco Bay. He continued with Herrmann’s technical innovations in a B-movie called BENEATH THE 12 MILE REEF, where he created the first in-studio reverb – in order to replicate the aural sensation of being underwater – by looping the recorded sound of 10 harps back into the recording microphones, with the slight millisecond electrical delay. Finally, he demonstrated how Herrmann’s score was a financial and artistic boon for the sci-fi film The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) because it enabled the fear of a potential alien invasion to be
Set against the 1960s era of apartheid in South Africa, BLACK BUTTERFLIES is based on the true story of poet Ingrid Jonker, as she descends through the darkness in her mind and the country around her. Moving from man to man, seeking a love that is never given to her by her right-wing politician father, it is through poetry that she tries to find some sense in the madness. Spell-bindingly bleak yet beautifully shot, BLACK BUTTERFLIES moves seamlessly between the intimate moments of the characters and the wider scale issues of South Africa, putting both in perspective of one another. The country and Ingrid herself become synonymous; glorious to behold yet crumbling underneath. The film is faultlessly crafted
...van Houten delivers a thundering performance as the wonderfully broken, selfdestructive poet ... with a powerful simplicity, relying on a strong script and even better acting. Indeed, Carice van Houten delivers a thundering performance as the wonderfully broken, self-destructive poet, and not only holds the film together but takes command - dragging the audience through the emotional turmoil of Ingrid's inner demons. The impressive supporting cast boasts a brilliantly subtle turn by Rutger Hauer as Ingrid’s father, caught between his love for his daughter, and his political views and reputation. Like the leading character, the film is poetic, harrowing and raw; coming to life in a heart-breaking tale of an artist who, despite herself, became a important voice within the collective consciousness of a nation crying out for freedom. Mike Boyd
FH: If you had three musts to become a Tartan film, what would they be? HM: Well it depended, there are two different criteria. One was whether buying film to release on DVD, classic films, whether it was the Bergman library, or Godard, maybe Truffaut. Obviously then you were just dealing with pedigree. If I was looking at a brand new film, the main thing had to be: did it move me, was it a piece of art. People come up with different definitions as to what art is. For me
... a work of art is something that moves you, you’re not the same person as a result of having looked at that painting, having listened to that piece of music ... a work of art is something that moves you, you’re not the same person as a result of having looked at that painting, having listened to that piece of music, it causes you to challenge things, to re-evaluate what you think about other paintings, other pieces of music, and that’s always been the main criteria. So that was always the first off, it was, “Did it rock my boat?” “Was it gonna change my world?”, the second was, “Could I persuade other people?”. If I could do that, the third criterion was, “Was it affordable?”. FH: Talking about films being art pieces, some say it is the promotion of art that is the art work itself. You being the promoter in this case….? HM: No, Janis Joplin was never as big as Damien Hirst or Tracey Emin. It’s the artists, the Beatles
HM: No, I wouldn’t say I was a charity worker, I just think that often the films I liked, that I thought more conventional companies thought “Oh we don’t want to waste 10 thousand man hours trying to figure out how to get this to a non-existent audience.” No I never ever took pity on a film, or thought “oh poor little thing, I’m gonna look after you and give you a home” Tartan was never Battersea dogs‘ home. FH: What was the most difficult film for you to watch? HM: I don’t find films difficult to watch, I think the most uncomfortable scenes in one of my films was the rape sequence in Irreversible. Everyone though the BBFC would take great issue with that scene, but from my battles with them I knew I’d never have a problem. Because the BBFC’s ruling was in a scene of sexual violence, could the scene be construed to be erotic, and there was no way that that scene could be construed as erotic. But I always knew I was going to have a problem, which I did have, with the opening sequence, the guy being attacked with a fire extinguisher was going to be the subject of my battleground with the BBFC. Ferry Hunt
Hamish McAlpine and Nicolas Winding Refn both told us that they are great fans of Vince Gilligan‘s excellent TV drama BREAKING BAD, starring Bryan Cranston who has a leading role in Winding Refn‘s DRIVE.
ROBER T J . FLAHER T Y P IONEER O F D OC U F ICTION
Robert Flaherty’s NANOOK OF THE NORTH (1922) is considered by most film historians to be the medium’s first ever feature-length documentary. Filmed on Canada’s Hudson Bay, within the Arctic Circle, this uniquely expressive ethnographic work follows the Inuit master hunter and his family. Flaherty’s episodically-structured account of their nomadic existence and daily struggle for survival highlights encounters with other human inhabitants and various wildlife, along with the specific tasks necessary to brave the harshest of environments. Nanook’s fishing in a wandering ice field, harpooning a walrus, and tugging a massive seal to the frozen surface are all depicted in vivid detail.
Flaherty infuses NANOOK OF THE NORTH with both an explorer’s sense of sweeping adventure and a deep melancholy... But the film’s true centerpiece is a sequence devoted to the building of an igloo. In a triumph of early crosscutting, Flaherty seamlessly collapses an hour-long step-by-step process into less than ten minutes of screen time, all the while underscoring the family’s collective effort to sustain life, by using the natural elements at their immediate disposal. Flaherty infuses NANOOK OF THE NORTH with both an explorer’s sense of sweeping adventure and a deep melancholy (at the very start, the viewer is informed that Nanook died a year after filming was completed). The threat of starvation amidst this desolate landscape is a constant that looms large over every image, down to the film’s haunting final frame. Flaherty’s aesthetic, which he would later refine on the masterworks MAN OF ARAN (1934) and LOUISIANA STORY (1948), relies on a fusion
... a deceptively simple interplay between captured reality and staged reality ... of non-fiction and fiction filmmaking techniques, a deceptively simple interplay between captured
D IMEN S ION S d ir : s l oane
u ‘ ren
Having sold their house to fund the production, it’s safe to say that Dimensions is a labour of love. With a reported budget of £180,000, the makers poured heart and soul into bringing their dream to the big screen and anyone that is willing to risk everything to follow a dream has to be admired. But sometimes a dream should remain a dream.
reality and staged reality. His work, in other words, is far removed from the dogmatic constraints of cinema verité, and, instead, focused on capturing the poetic spirit of his subjects. In this way, his films are the cinematic precursor to the non-fiction work of Werner Herzog. Unfortunately, in recent years, so many other filmmakers have degraded the documentary form, preferring to use it as a mere vehicle for the dispersion of raw information and shallow ideologies. Even today, the pioneering experience of NANOOK OF THE NORTH, one of the genuine treasures of the silent era, reaffirms that a documentary could potentially be a beautiful, humanistic, and timeless work of art. Franklin P. Laviola
On the face of it, DIMENSIONS has a solid team behind it. The director, Sloane U’Ren, has worked on a number of blockbusters whilst the cast all have decent CVs. The problem lies with both the director and the writer working outside of their comfort zones. Sloane U’Ren’s previous career was in production design and Anthony Neeley, scriptwriter, is a composer. They prove to be perfectly competent in those areas but when trying to focus on character and narrative form, it all falls apart. At certain points it’s as if the makers try to highlight the gaping plot holes by fading to black and then cutting to a different scene. Trying to placate the audience with amateur explanations of the space time continuum and heavy handed references is insulting. You can’t help but wonder if the cast were blinded by sympathy for the film makers. Henry Lloyd-Hughes looks lost in the wilderness as he tries to give
pathos to an awful part, and other members of the cast look almost embarrassed to be saying the lines. You can‘t help but wonder if the makers could get their house back. Is too late? Have people already moved in?
and broken classical world. It was such a visual feast that
DIMENSIONS oozes passion from every pore but that isn’t enough to make a good movie. For a film about time travel it’s ironic that my time can’t be refunded.
words seem utterly inadequate to describe the richness, and horror, of this purgatorial vision. Here was an Escher-like landscape of broken cathedrals, ruined temples and battling swordsmen underscored by texts on fighting. It was like some disturbing violent video game, complete with Darth
Dorian Stone REVIEW
C ROA T IAN S HOR T S
These offerings should have come with a health warning: animated shorts can seriously mess up your mind. Zagreb seems to be the epicentre of stunning visual creations, magical mixed media mesmerisms and animated nightmare. This assault on the imagination was, to be frank, a bit much for an early Saturday morning when a quiet coffee and a bagel might be enough to stimulate the mind. The seven shorts were incredibly varied and offered a master class in the drawing edge of animation. The programme began with a
... an Escher-like landscape of broken cathedrals, ruined temples and battling swordsmen ... charming and gentle piece, MY WAY, about the pleasure and angst of growing up seen through a story about shoes. It ended with a truly disturbing dystopia, FLOWER OF BATTLE: a gory and hallucinatory vision of hell on earth, in the setting of a cracked
It was like some disturbing violent video game, complete with Darth Vaderlike narrator.
Vader-like narrator. On the gentler end of the scale was a bittersweet mini gem, DOVE SEI, AMOR MIO, the melancholic tale of a sad and lonely widow caught up in dull daily routines but haunted by the violent death of her former lover. There was a creepy little short involving a baby doll (they are always as scary as clowns) doing unspeakable things and a very charming short, THE ORNAMENT OF THE SOUL, in which we see the shadowing auras of people as they go about their everyday business. All the shorts were visually stunning, bursting with creativity and the utter freehand that comes with the medium. But next time, I’d like to watch them after a few stiff evening drinks. Mike Levy
ty r a n n o s a u r
DIR: PADDY CONSIDINE
The responsibility of owning a dog is so great because there is nothing you can do to stop a dog from loving you. That's meant to be true of Christ, too. In Paddy Considine's début as a feature director, TYRANNOSAUR, both ideas are tested to bloody destruction. One of them does not fare well. Unimaginative viewers might complain that the characters are stereotypes. Maybe: abused wife, naive Christian, gruff diamond-in-the-rough with a heart of something resembling gold, a Frank Gallagher clone; even deadpan comic relief child makes an appearance. But maybe they are Wagnerian archetypes. Like Der Ring des Nibelungen, TYRANNOSAUR deals with the largest themes in the smallest setting. Like the Ring, TYRANNOSAUR is domestic drama dealing with the nature of God, the power of love and what happens when they collide. And as with the Ring, music is used to great effect. Perhaps too great. Audiences are primed to respond so fully to certain musical tropes that the soundtrack at times felt manipulative.
Although there are some startling close-ups, the camera is a camera, not a participant. The action takes place in a few claustrophobic settings, each symbolic, with Joseph (Peter Mullan) marching between them through an working class suburban shambles sometimes photographed in epic colourdrenched wide-screen. Where the photography is not deliberately beautiful it is clinically precise. Although there are some startling close-ups, the camera is a
camera, not a participant. Grotesque events unfold before it and while we may flinch it does not. The actors make full use of their restricted sets, fitting into the interstices of a realistically complicated world. TYRANNOSAUR will not be an easy film to watch twice. The anguish of Hannah (an astonishing performance by Olivia Coleman) is genuinely jaw-dropping and the violence threaded throughout the story will make anyone sweat. But it might be necessary to. Considine talks openly about his Asperger's and one gets the impression that no single thing in any frame, however small, is there by accident. They say that the greatest trick the Devil ever pulled off was to convince us that he does not exist. TYRANNOSAUR offers the possibility that God's greatest crime is that he does not. Keith Braithwaite
TYRANNOSAUR evolved from the short film DOG ALTOGETHER (2007)filmed in Glasgow. TYRANNOSAUR is the first of many films Considine plans to write and direct. At the CFF Q&A he told the audience that his next project would be a ghost story called THE LEANING. He also expressed a keen interest in working with the actor Tom Hardy, whose performance he admired in Nicholas Winding Refn‘s BRONSON(2008)
T HE G ERBER
S Y N D ROME
The faux documentary has become somewhat of a cliché for first time horror directors, but with low production costs and easy scares, who can blame them. Drawing heavily on Romero classics, Dejoie's début picture THE GERBER SYNDROME exploits our fears of fatal pandemics on a personal, as well as national level; divides of society being ripped apart.
... the seemingly harmless young girl becomes an infected time-bomb ... Itself splitting down two threads, the film follows both the daily rounds of Luigi, (Piluso), henchman for the mysterious “Central Security”, delegated to control the outbreak; and the slow descent of student Melissa (Bartola) into the malaise. As “Gerber's” worsens, the seemingly harmless young girl becomes an infected time-bomb placing relentless stress on relationships with her boyfriend and between her parents. Meanwhile the urban Italian nights are explored with the complex and embittered Luigi, packed with the stumbling not-yet-dead, ready to be delivered to the asylum-like treatment centres.
Somehow, rabid cannibals just aren‘t scary enough any more. Both fast-spreading diseases and documentaries gone-wrong, are familiar territories for horror, and this maybe why Dejoie's bleak vision never truly terrifies. Somehow, rabid cannibals just aren't scary enough any more. Yet, in truth it is the film's subtlety and intelligence that more than delivers it as a spectacle. Even-handed towards both delicate issues and delicate characters – all too often neglected – gives THE GERBER SYNDROME an elegance that is to be admired. Similarly well thought-out peripheries to the central cataclysm, such as the infestation's effect on night-life, show sparks of ingenuity and social awareness. Edd Elliott
S UR P RI S E FILM S !
Despite the success of the previous incarnation of SURPRISE last year at CFF, a gritty and atmospheric reboot has been planned by showcasing a film with an entirely different director and wholly surprising characters, themes and actors. By re-examining what it truly means to be unexpected, SURPRISE is guaranteed to leave no stone unsurprised in its search for weapons-grade astonishment. SURPRISE will screen back to back this year with SURPRISE 2. Continuing with themes of bewilderment, discombobulation and perplexity, the sequel again pulls the rug from under the unsuspecting surprisee by being shockingly unrelated to its flabbergasting predecessor. Although a truly bemusing move, the inconsistency between films is thematically undeviating. More startling than a Michael Bay remake of THE TREE OF LIFE and more out-of-the blue than a Quentin Tarantino biopic of Mary Whitehouse. Rumoured to have been given the legendary and much sought Charles Hunt seal of approval, audience’s jaws will drop when they learn the female characters are neither feisty, bubbly, svelte, a ‘classic femme-fatale’. The cinematography, plot and actors performances will have the viewer struck dumb. We wouldn’t be all that surprised if both sell out, really. Jim Ross