Films that are thought provoking get your mind off the fever. And if there’s something unexpected about them, even better. Here’s a couple that helped me through my last bout.
First up: The Tribe. It’s a Ukrainian film from 2014. This excellent film comes with a problem: no dialog. Well, actually there is a dialog, but it’s all in sign language. No subtitles. I figured I’d last about 15 minutes with that dreary scenario and then bag it for something more interesting. I was wrong. Turns out it was very easy to follow the story even without knowing what the characters were saying. And It’s gritty and sordid and who doesn’t love that? I stayed for the duration.
You do have to watch every second. It’s shot in the style of a lot of Eastern-type films: static wide shots with the action taking place in the distance. So what an American viewer typically thinks of as background, is probably the main action.
In the story, a young man enters a boarding school for the hearing impaired. It’s far from a sentimental tale of a sweet group of people that have the misfortune of being born handicapped. It’s violent and tawdry. The old kids beat on the younger kids. The male students prostitute the female students. Groups of four and five go out and rob from city dwellers and commuters on trains. The shop teacher is corrupt and part of the whole crime ring.
It ends on a happy note, though, sort of. Watch it and see if you agree.
A second film with a gimmick is Victoria (German, 2015), filmed in one long take. Well-planned-out sequences capture the story that takes place in a single night. Magic and mayhem.
As impressive as the feat is, I think the film suffers because of lack of editing. Some scenes just went on too long. IMHO. The actors were all spot on. They improvised well, and did a great job keeping it moving. I can’t imagine how exhausted the cameraman was when they were done as well as the title character, played by Spanish actor Laia Costa. But it wasn’t enough to sustain the story for me. At one point I was sure they were winding down to a finish, but it continued on for another 15 agonizing minutes. It was the meat of the story, though, and necessary, I just wished they’d gotten to it a little quicker.
I give anybody credit who tries this stunt, especially in this age of quick cuts, no imperfections allowed, and tight plots. It’s audacious. I look forward to whatever else this director (Sebastian Schipper) has done, but this one? It’s okay.
Both these films are available for streaming on Netflix.
You know what’s not available on Netflix? That’s right: Traffic Opera. It’s not available anywhere yet. It might be coming to your town for a festival at some point, but for now, the best you can do is follow Traffic Opera on Facebook for news of its whereabouts.