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Impressively visualized group journey through rural landscapes. In fact about loneliness and egoism, and (alas) a few confusing mystical elements
I saw this film at the Rotterdam film festival 2013 (IFFR), where it was part of the Bright Future section. It gave us an interesting view on a group of five juveniles, how they travel together and try to survive while on the run. We don't know their respective backgrounds, but it is clear from the start that they don't have much in common other than their escape from prison. We can only guess what they did to wind up in jail and what their youth looked like. We get to know a few bits and pieces, coming from stories they tell each other: they all have a violent past, and none of them is reluctant to kill people when the need arises. I find this lack of a full background not a problem, it is merely an observation. The violent tone is set from the opening scenes on, where we witness their escape from prison. We see people needlessly killed in the process, their only fault being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
The main part of the film is about their journey. It should have taken a week according to the original plans. Their would-be destination is a distant godfather of one of the group members, an endpoint that they never reach however. More relevant for us viewers is the group process along the way, their interaction with the people they meet, the hostile environment, and of course how they work with/against each other. A learned psych would probably state the this film is in fact about loneliness. The group does not really work together, and each one acts egoistically, only doing what works best for himself.
None of them had any earlier experience in the wild, and it is a miracle that they came as far as they got. Important in this film is that we closely observe how the group gradually falls apart. The first loss was due to a hunter passing by, and they gave him a respectful burial, still operating together as a group. I was surprised that the one girl among four boys was no source for internal troubles. That was apparently not what the film makers had in mind as an interesting issue to explore. They deemed the tribal aspects more relevant, where cooperation and task distribution are essential for survival as a group. Further along the journey they meet other people, and some take that opportunity to leave the group. I see no use in further condensing the story here, since the film itself does a much better job in this.
Nevertheless, there are a few things I could not quite follow. In the end we see a mysterious figure appear. Is it a dream?? It must be, since the dogs did not alert his arrival. Similarly unclear is a statement that fire consumes everything (hence solves everything??). Last but not least, I wonder about the long closing view on landscape and rain. I assume that it demonstrates total loneliness. I think that the film makers loose themselves here in the final scenes. The film thrives away from us, going from reality to mysticism (something along that line happened earlier with a wild pig, but this and all other metaphors were lost on me).
All in all, I think the film makers succeeded very well in what they intended to get across. You can easily ignore the preceding paragraph about the things lost on me, since there is enough interesting material left for us to admire. The story line develops slowly but in a steady pace. There are enough unexpected developments to keep us awake for the whole two hours. Finally, that this film was put in the Bright Future section, is fully justified in spite of a few faults that I'm prepared to overlook, especially in the context of the grand landscapes and the interacting juveniles.
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