review 26 th November 2014
the magazine by NISI MASA - European Network of Young Cinema
Violet The Quiet Roar Allure Doc of the Dead Wild Tales Lucifer interview
from Violet by Bas Devos
Being probably the last meaningful film event of the year, the 18th Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival tries to sum up the passing year and at the same time create, for the upcoming one, a new wave of filmmakers. Considering the festival’s spectacular size as well as its mysterious selection, one thing breaks through them without any doubt. The most important films of the year were pushing the boundaries more frequently than we thought.
Edition of Wednesday, Nov 26 th 2014/#4 A magazine published by NISI MASA in the framework of a film journalism workshop for young Europeans
NISIMAZINE TALLINN NOVEMBER 17th-28th, 2014
Having said that, I would love to point out only the films made by the young generation of filmmakers, but it seems that John Cassavetes was right. “Artists rebel against the establishment because they cannot join it” – the American director admitted many years ago, stressing the fact that courage comes hand in hand with rejection. For him, trying to find new horizons in cinema was not a matter of age, but of attitude, spirit, temper. So this was not only the year of Lucifer directed by Gust van den Berghe (born in 1985), In the Crosswind, a front-runner of the international official competition here, by 27-year old Martti Helde, or Whiplash created by 29- year old Damien Chazelle. This year also belongs, for example, to the slightly older Myroslav Slabospytskiy, the artist behind the stunning The Tribe, that began its brilliant career in Cannes; the same place tied up together Xavier Dolan (and his energetic Mommy) and Jean-Luc Godard (with the innovative Goodbye to Language) who shared the Grand Prix. A 25-year old director on stage next to the 83-year old legend. Can you think of a more symbolic image for the cinema world this year? The 18th POFF could have achieved a mirror image for Polish cinema, clashing two films in one section: Jan Komasa’s Warsaw 44 and Andrzej Wajda’ s Canal. By refraining from showing them both, the festival made it impossible to notice how brave the young director was in portraying the historical event through the lens of pop culture. At the same time, even if Focus on Poland combines quite weird film choices in one section, it perfectly emphasizes how much Polish cinema wants to join the list of experimental filmmakers of this year; how much it defines experimenting not only as a way of searching something fresh and new in cinema, but also as a factor that individualizes us in the cinema landscape. At least two films, Urszula Antoniak’s Nude Area – Love in 15 Fragments and Field of Dogs by Lech Majewski, took a challenge to find new ways of expressing emotions in cinema- ending as a success in the first case and as a failure in the another one. But that is not the matter. The thing is that through them the audience can see that Polish cinema finally dared to look for something original, became more sensual, was not afraid anymore of being intimate instead of pleasing everyone around by telling ‘universal’ stories. Like it finally got the fact that there is no point of recreating reality as it is. That is what directors in the fifties did: they told us that people betray each other, love each other, kill each other, suffered with each other in one room. Contemporary cinema is about something else. It is about feeling their emotions and imprinting them on us through images. So a viewer could feel the cold breath of a fellow soldier dying on his friend’s knee or see the pain of a betrayed wife looking straight in her eyes. Contemporary cinema is an art of detail, subtle narration built of small gestures, a unique visual experience. It is the art of silence, where words are used rather to hide the truth more than to express it. It’s a dialogue of furtive looks.
EDITORIAL STAFF Editor-in-Chief Fernando Vasquez Editor Mirona Nicola Assistant Editor Ewa Wildner International Coordinator Luisa Riviere, Emilia Haukka Design Francesca Merlo Photography Daniel Allen (UK) Guest Tutor Ula Lipinska (Poland) Local coordinator Merli Antsmaa (Estonia) Image editor Edina Csüllög (Estonia) Contributors to this issue Ula Lipinska (Poland), Zuzanna Kwiatkowska (Poland), Chiara Puntil (Italy), Patrycja Calinska (Poland), Thomas Humphrey (Italy), Matthias Van Hijfte (Belgium), Harro Rannamets (Estonia) Special thanks to Tiina Lokk, Javier Garcia Puerto, Laurence Boyce, Heidi Koppel, Maris Hellrand, Helmut Janes and Emilie Toomela NISI MASA European Network of Young Cinema 99 Rue du Faubourg Saint-Denis 75010 Paris, France +33 (0)1 48 01 65 31 firstname.lastname@example.org www.nisimasa.com With the support of the Youth in Action of the European Union. This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This publication reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.
Picture of the day
© Daniel Allen (UK)
Violet Bas Devos, BELGIUM/NETHERLANDS - Just Film How to show hopelessness in the situation of mourning combined with trauma after the death of a friend? How to create a world of solitude in the struggle for inner peace? Is it possible at all? The answer to this questions can be found in the feature debut of Bas Devos, who not only directed Violet but also wrote the script.
We observe the whole accident on four screens and can do nothing to help the injured guy. This is how the rest of the film will look like. A non-feature way of leading the plot shows scenes, not much related with each other, which are focused on the relation between Jesse and his family and friends after the tragedy.
The 15-year-old Jesse (very convincing performance of Cesar De Sutter) became the silent witness of a violent act whose victim was Jonas – his friend. Frightened by what was happening, he did nothing to help the other boy, who didn’t survive the encounter. Now he has to cope with the unusual situation: on one hand, nobody really knows how to speak to him, on the other hand, there are a lot of questions which inquisitive people try to ask in the most unexpected situations. Therefore, whoever he sees, wherever he goes, the atmosphere around him is full of awkwardness, silence and inconvenient gazes. Even his friends, with whom he rides on BMX bikes quite frequently, refer to him with reserve. It is truly not helpful at the moment, when the young boy is struggling with his memories.
Only diegetic sound is present. Without additional music from the outside, which could remind us that the story we are watching is fictive, it’s easy to feel more connected to the main character. As if with this movie the protagonist himself was trying to show to the viewers the misery of his position – a silent and lonely journey from returned images to oblivion. Nothing could disturb you from getting profoundly into the storyline, but at the same time, you need to be very focused all the time.
The singularity of the movie is ensured by three main factors: the images, the way of leading narration, and the sound. By slow, and really long shots, the atmosphere of intimacy is formed. Both close-ups and full length shots last long enough to let spectators notice absolutely everything that appears on the screen and focus on every significant detail. Without additional light everything looks more realistic and gives the impression of watching a documentary report from authentic events. At the beginning we are posed in the position of a guard, who is watching CCTV monitors inside the security room.
Although this combination of minimalist means fulfills its task, it requires from the viewer a maximum of devotion and patience. But this kind of engagement can be worth it. The magical shots, especially the ones taken after the sunset- including chiaroscuro experimentsinduce the feeling of an impressional, subjective view. This is not a typical story about an adolescent boy with a traumatic experience. Through its experimental form it fits into the emerging (after van Groeningen’s Broken Circle Breakdown) new wave in Flemish cinema. The word ‘experimental’ is the most essential and everyone should consider whether they are ready to face that kind of work. Otherwise, it will be just the triumph of form over substance. Zuzanna Kwiatkowska
inner turmoil is mirrored by the harsh landscape, a barren place that is almost sublime, magnificent and menacing at the same time. Images of the grey mountains, with fog lifting from them or waterfalls crashing on their rocky surface, are a recurring instance in the film. Their house, a beautiful, alien container filled with stifled emotions, also represents Marianne.
The Quiet Roar Henrik Hellström , Sweden/Norway - Tridens Competition When trying to picture an experience that sits between psychoanalysis, transcendental meditation and an LSD trip, it is tempting to imagine a surreal, colourful film. Nothing could be further from The Quiet Roar, Henrik Hellström’s first film as a solo director, a subdued, contemplative film in competition at the Black Nights Film Festival. The titular oxymoron is a perfect description of the film’s protagonist Marianne, a terminally ill woman who over the years has become estranged from her family. Knowing she doesn’t have much time left, she decides to confront her past self and actions. The way she chooses to do so is through a singular form of therapy consisting of an LSD-induced meditation trip, guided by the soothing voice of her counsellor Eva (Hanna Schygulla). This takes her back to a holiday to the mountains she took when she was 25, and she and her husband were beginning to drift apart. Marianne is an angry young woman, though you would never guess that from looking at her. Much to her husband’s frustration, she maintains an impenetrable surface, never letting anyone see her feelings. Her
The Quiet Roar has a slow pace that follows the protagonist’s meditation. As the plot unfolds, Marianne’s presence into her past becomes more and more intrusive. At first, she is just a silent observer; however, as Marianne and her husband begin to confront one another, she too begins to question her own actions, addressing both her younger self and her husband, as if she could somehow influence events or get a second chance at life. When dealing with a topic such as “If you could talk to the past self, what would you say to them?”, it is hard to strain from cliches, and the film’s dialogue can feel rhetorical at times. The characters’ style, which looks very contemporary (amongst other things: diamond knuckle tattoos), does not convince – but is also a hint that Marianne’s self discovery trip might be more of a drug-induced projection than a mere reminiscence from 40 years ago. On the other hand, The Quiet Roar deserves to be praised for the absolute lack of pietism with which it deals with terminal illness. Instead, Marianne is, and remains, an unsympathetic character, who asks for no compassion nor intends to offer any apology. What she seeks – and possibly achieves – is self-knowledge, through which she can try and let go of her past before her time comes. For her to reach that stage is important for the viewers too. Despite its calm tones, The Quiet Roar, very much like its protagonist, has a magnetic, hidden current that draws us towards the film, like a pond that hides a quicksand under a still, serene surface. Its silence and visuals are stunning too, and are likely to keep haunting its audience for days. Chiara Puntil more universal, it fails, making their fast-sketched, patchy portraits hard to identify with. The play of focusing and unfocusing characters and objects seems a constant quest for the incisiveness of presentation and constitutes the artistic dominant of the film. The cinematography seems interesting and visually intensive: colours are condensed into black and white, and a continuous balance of blurring and focusing keep the viewer involved. What a pity, the audience doesn’t care for the characters at all.
Vladan Nikolic, USA - Competition of North American Indies Allure. Charm. Attraction. All these nouns connecting to women’s social reception are deceiving – as well as New York City is. At least in the last film of Vladan Nikolic, focused on a problem of female immigrants, flocking to New York City from all over the world. Liliana, Valerie , Kasoke, Jin and Sophie– heroines of Allure represent the biggest minorities in USA, speaking Spanish (Mexico), French (Canada), Estonian (representing Slavic countries in general) and Chinese. There’s a Congolese, too, but she refuses to speak her mother tongue anymore. “Since I came to New York I prefer to speak English”, she says. The language constitutes a mask, behind which the ladies hide. Characters change to their mother tongues in the moments of fear, having someone beloved nearby, celebrating solitude. Daily they disguise as Americans, and they shed the costume when speaking their first language. The construction of using native tongues in the film seems like a very interesting concept, a part of presenting the inner world of the heroines. Unfortunately, these are not convincing. Their portraits are more improvised than carefully constructed. A factor meant to make the figures 3
A factor rising internal tension sharply is the music. The disturbing sounds of piano halftones and minor thirds keep us in standby. The film finds its best way when combining the heroines’ episodes with the Occupying Wall Street movement, which burst in September 2011. In some parts the film has almost documenting value. In the others the strike is perfectly blended into the structure. When Jin leaves the party, mad at her boyfriend and accompanied by piano discords, she seems to be a part of the group – even if she’s just passing by. That makes New York the habitat of clashing values, interests and world-views. The city becomes one of the characters – maybe the most important one. Luring, but not alluring at all. The director takes its charm off, stripping it in each single scene. The characters have to find their new path – far afield and usually alone. Becoming a part of the mosaic of New York City’s growing problems doesn’t help to find inner peace. All these interesting ideas melt down, mixed with a cliché approach on women’s problems. Focusing on the highlighted topic, the director has killed the free spirit that you could feel in the cinematography and mise-en-scéne. New York City represents diversity. It’s tolerance and wealth of cultures, sharing a living space altogether. Is a film, telling the stories of immigrant women, escaping from the trap of pretensions and repetitiveness of obvious truths? It did – partly. Despite the interesting form and striking way of conceptualization problems of immigration, the film slides into banality in presenting women’s issues. Patrycja Calinska
does – because he actually drinks his own filtered pee in the movie. Frustrated indie filmmakers take note: Before you say you’re giving your all for your art, consider whether you’ve drunk your own urine yet.
Doc of the Dead Alexandre O. Philippe, USA - DOC@P�FF If you’ve recently bought a zombie survival kit, then bad luck; because Doc of the Dead – the latest essential for all zombie purists – has just been unleashed as part of Doc@PÖFF! And if you’re sat at home waiting for the apocalypse or your next multiplayer game of Nazi zombies to finally start, you should be worried. You could have survived, but now you won’t because you don’t have this eighty-minute documentary (I want to say “infomercial”). All because you won’t know where the nearest zombie carwash, walk or porn site is… Now we’ve all confirmed the existence and extent of zombie porn, let’s continue. Useful information on this documentary also includes where in the world you can get a proper pandemic training experience (think painful amateur dramatics in rural England). Details on all the slaying weaponry you’d need are there too – often shown with a healthy peppering of social critiques on America’s gun culture. Most important, however, is this film’s considered look at the risk dehydration would pose if revenant hordes ever do paretically nibble your forearm. So bare that in mind. The director Alexandre O. Philippe (also famous for his previous cult flick, The People vs. George Lucas) certainly
Moving on, if ever you get bored with the how of zombie survival, Doc of the Dead is also full of the why. And that bit’s really interesting. Who, for example, knew that the zombie movie is effectively born out of America’s past of misguided interracial relations? No, I didn’t either. Apparently it all stemmed from African voodoo being married with Western Gothic art. So the early films cathartically played out white viewers’ fears of being menaced by African Americans who – rather than being undead – had been zombified by sorts of slave-labour. The film also shows how these supernatural beings have then always mutated to suit our biggest fears. And the discussions here are rather clever and fun, like a postmodernist’s wet dream. But sometimes the invited experts are a little forced (sadly particularly true of Simon Pegg). Nevertheless, the film shows just how inventive people can be with this cultural trope. A special mention goes out to the man who dressed up as zombie Borat – that is some hardcore free-association you did there. Equally the film’s painfully cheery transitions between canonised films like Day of the Dead and people’s own parodic or sincere homages are not as bad as they could be. Nor is the awful music taken from a genre I did not know existed. They all serve an evil, self-mocking purpose: to show how central the undead has become to popular culture. The problem is that people like Joshua Oppenheimer have also shown us that documentary does no longer have to be just talking heads and vaguely relevant bits of archive footage (which unfortunately Doc of the Dead is). Ultimately just ask yourself three questions, though. Is there the incomplete beginnings of a zombie film on your hard-drive? Are you writing an essay on the zombie? Do you care about the difference between an infection and a zombie film? If the answer is yes, then you will enjoy this film. I certainly did. Thomas Humphrey
tery if you don’t feel entertained by the quirky savageness of some of the scenes on play.
Damián Szifron, Argentina/Spain - P�FF’s Vitamin Boost In this era of polished words and fake political proclamations you sometimes want to bullet out all that suppressed anger. Even the nicest normal figures sometimes lose it. Letting your temper switch to barbaric when a person just irritated the nails from under your skin in “computer says no style” could even be the one thing that turns you into a New Wave internet hero. This is only one of the outcomes that evolves out of the ardent frustration of the Wild Tales’ protagonists – over a bureaucratised world, people who shove you around or tenacious pasts. Hence, the thematically linked fantasies of director Damián Szifron are a bold bundle of cinematic power play that will ruin your greatest plans for revenge. Trust me and the word around, there is no vengeance too furious for the gifted mind of the deliriously uproarious Argentinian filmmaker. Not only does he have the fast paced distinctiveness and glorious camera positions and movements of Billy Wilder, but also an irresistible wit. You have to present a level of sourness that burns a bat-
Rather than listing up all the premises that are definitely worth not to be spoiled, let’s just say that the heated events in the film sprout from those moody situations wherein we all would take pleasure in putting our civilised manners aside. People that ever drove an automobile know the feeling when car drivers pressure you to the other side of the road or do not let you pass; and this is definitely not an empathic sense. The thing that makes Wild Tales so unique is that it turns these events into ecstatic encounters where the characters absolutely look and feel like they could go “cuckoo” in these particular circumstances. This can partly be credited to the brilliant casting of an ensemble that would make the all-star cast of the awful Movie 43 want to burn all the copies of their film (if they didn’t already tried that). Rita Cortese, Ricardo Darin, and Erica Rivas – to name only a few – grow fast into their short roles and give their appearances a lingering quality. But without a doubt, the actors also had a refreshing script to work on. The stories presented in the film may not have the political significance of Leviathian or Winter Sleep – two of the crop of high level films Wild Tales had to compete with in the main competition of Cannes – but at least the film is grounded in relatable irritations that are driven to unexpected results. Therefore, it doesn’t dissolve into the pushy nihilistic approach of critical darling Spring Breakers, that also had it share of laugh-out-loud scenes but missed respect for the way it handled its characters. Wild Tales invites people to come fly with it and crash hard. You will all survive the hit and turn home with a story you thought was too wild to even exist. Matthias Van Hijfte 4
® Monika Martyniuk ® Daniel Allen
Gust van den Berghe director of ‘Lucifer’, BELGIUM- International Official Competition Gust Van den Berghe´s career has been a successive collection of successes with titles such as Little baby jesus of Flanders and Blue bird achieving major critical praise. His new film, Lucifer, is bound to follow the same steps. So we could not let the chance to sit down with him once again to discuss his vision and process. Here is an appetizer for the long interview that will be coming out in our special ebook. Have you put the viewer in the position of God looking at your characters and looking what’s going on through this hole? Like looking from the space? Well, it’s about perspective, that’s for sure. I was not so worried about god when I was doing the film. It was something completely different when working on the theme, I was just looking at Renaissance paintings – not what they did, but how they did it. I think it’s a very interesting period: on a certain level, the mathematical knowledge was quite known, but God was still the centre of the universe. I think that’s what fascinated me. I 5
tried to come up with the techniques and perspectives to tell a story that has been told many times in film, but forgetting about film history, and look at the history of paintings. In that sense try to make new images because when you talk about devil or paradise, we often repeat images. You worked mostly with non professional actors. Did that leave you any room left for intuition? Only two of them were professional actors. Initially I only wanted my Lucifer to be an actor, because then I could
talk to him and say things other people wouldn’t understand. For me, the actor in the movie is the one who understands the bigger picture. And it’s nice if you make a film about paradise and you have somebody in that picture that doesn’t get the bigger idea. And it’s just there. And trusts you. It’s not only about them getting the idea; it’s also about trust. I had to bring one actress in because in that village it was very complicated to make a girl play pregnant. Because of the gossiping, it’s very, very difficult. I saw a lot of girls in that area, around 100-150 girls perhaps. But I treated her in a way I treated other non-actors: she had not an idea of what was going on. All good films have intuition. It’s about trusting you path, even if it’s a very mainstream film, it’s very intuitive. The guy who played Lucifer is a very talented actor and he was able to handle that, but it’s not easy. It’s very difficult to play against that stream. Have the locals who participated in the film seen it already? Yes. It was the best experience I had. It was beautiful. For several reasons: they were just laughing from the beginning till the end, that’s the best compliment you can have. They got to see their own faces on the big screen. It was also nice that the cinema started to smell like fire, horses and rain, because of the clothes they have. For me it was the other way around: I entered the theatre when it was full, and it was really great. I was quite moved. Doesn’t happen that much, but that was a good one. The dialogue is all in Spanish. Did you ever felt you are putting a lot of trust in the translator? Were you ever afraid it might not work? Actually the translation indeed was a very complicated part, more than expected. We were constantly translating: from their local language to Spanish, from Spanish to English. The art of translating for me was very important, we had to constantly translate. Most of the film is seen through a circular aspect ratio, but towards the end you opened the frame. It was a shock. Suddenly you had lots of light. It was kind of enlightening. Why did you choose to do that? At the same time, for me, the following image is a beautiful shot. It is a very joyful shot: you see dancing, drinking. And then again, there’s a lot of sadness. It’s such a beautiful story on it’s own after that film. It was indeed a little bit risk to add this epilogue, because we could have just as easily ended with a circle. But I think the fundamental thing of cinema is that you can only tell it with a cut. It’s something you have to look for an hour and a half: and then you cut. I really enjoyed it. Also, this element, after doing it and seeing it with an audience for the first time: seeing everybody going “oh!” Even me, I was surprised. It really worked. To be very honest, the ending came on the set. I didn’t write that epilogue. I never write my endings very specific in my scripts, I really believe you build up to it. My beginnings are very founded, and we build on top of that.
® Daniel Allen
All your three movies so far have been rather spiritual, will the forth one continue the path? I believe the themes are not necessarily so spiritual, but the languages. I really see that there’s something sacred in the visual language of films, photos or paintings. In this one I used the themes because that’s where I come from. I didn’t want to make a point about religious theme. I think at the end it’s humanity at the centre of every film, the rest is just a story. Religious stories are also about human beings. I don’t think there’s a need to continue in that way. There’s no idea yet. If it comes around, why not. That’s not the direction of my work, I think. I don’t want to make a point that God is good or bad, or whether he exists or not. Are you a religious person? Why are you interested in this subject? It’s a difficult question. Why? I have no idea why. It’s something that I had as a child, an unexplainable attraction to stories of saints. I like the idea of having miracles and these kinds of characters. I really enjoy all these apocalypse stories. As a kid, my biggest wish was to become a saint. I thought I was the reincarnation of Saint Francis. I was waiting for the birds with my hands wide open. I like the idea that at one point there was a holy ghost that inspired mankind to do fantastic things: build beautiful buildings, make fantastic music, make most fascinating images. And I think that´s something incredible. It’s not about believing in God or not, it’s about respecting that. Interview by Harro Rannamets 6
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