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Change of heart
Barbara has a lover who comes from west Germany. She is herself from the east. The year is 1980. The only thing she wants is to go to the west, joining her lover, and be free. "You will not have to work, I have enough income for both of us" says her lover.
Stasi soon finds out about her intention and exiles her to a small town by the sea. It is not Berlin where she comes from. It is not a prestigious hospital where she used to work, but a local, small one. "Nobody can be happy here", she claims. Can't she?
She keeps distance at her new work. After all, it was just a stop over before she joins her lover in the West. But there are patients that she really cares for. There is work that she loves doing. And there is this open-hearted, sympathetic doctor that seems to have affection for her.
This is a love story, told subtly. Looks and expression say more than a thousands words; this is the strength of this movie, compared to other so many girl meets boy stories. Love changes Barbara. It makes her sacrifice what seems to be her most dearest: freedom. It changes her beliefs: perhaps she can be happy after all, as long as she does what she loves the most and be with someone that cares for her.
Les géants (2011)
Tale of growing up
During watching this film, I was a bit skeptical. It's true that some scenery shots are truly beautiful and some scenes are (supposed to be) funny. I find the humor is somewhat predictable, or it is just not my kind of humor. But I give this film a credit because one single message that comes over me. It came at the end of the movie.
The story tells a friendship among three teenagers, two of them are brothers. They are raised at an unlucky environment: lack attention of parents, an older brother who beats and sells and uses drugs. With their still naive view of the world, they try to have fun and survive.
The two brothers are left alone in their dead grandpa's house in a village. The parents seem not to care. They are having fun with a joyride in their grandpa's car, smoking joints and stealing food from the neighbor's cellar. So far so good, until they run out of money. They are told that they can earn money by renting the house for weed planting. From here things are gone wrong and they are forced to move out of the house with very little money. This is a recipe for a story: adventure, humorous and heartbreaking scenes.
The film did not succeed to intrigue me. It was somewhat predictable and it does not offer something new, in my opinion. Bit if you seek for an evening of good entertainment, this film would not disappoint you. It is 'light', but with a somewhat serious message. These young people finally choose adventure above security, a daring and exciting choice. Adventure into the wild, at the same time beautiful landscape. It's a symbol of growing up.
An antithesis of Little House on the Praire, or the Sound of Music, if you like
As a child I loved to watch Little House on the Praire (LHP). As an adult, now 30 years later, I LOVE Hanneke' s Das Weisse Band ( The White Ribbon). As a child I like the themes of LHP; family, religion, bad versus good, where the goodies always win. Each episode of LHP came with resolution and I was content the rest of the day because of the 'feel good' of LHP. Except from nostalgic point of view, these days I would not watch LHP and feeling satisfied, not to say bored.
Thank god, I would say, that my taste is changing, if not maturing, in the last 30 years. Otherwise, I would be all the time watching sweet movies like LHP's or the Sound of Music.
Why I use LHP to make an argument that The White Ribbon is an outstanding piece of cinema? This film explores the dark side of human nature, which in often denies in the mainstream film (if it is there, it usually take a form of a caricature, or something or someones that are literally bad). To be more provocative, it explores the dark side of children: that children can be, like adults are, violent, provided the 'right' environment. Others than LHP, where goodies and baddies are distinct, this film shows that things or people are not white or black (ironically, the film is shoot in black and white :-) ).
The film tells a children tale, but certainly not like the old fashioned one. The setting takes place in a German village; beautiful like you might expect from a postcard. But underneath this what might seem a harmonious, beautiful village, there is violence, jealousy, abuse, and revenge. And yes, it seems that children are actively involved in this.
These incidents involves beatings other children, making a trap for the doctor village to fall and seriously wounded. You are caught in a thriller with children as suspects, but there is no resolution: the film do not give away who done it. It only give clues and the audience can make his or her own conclusion. This kind of subtlety is also seen in many scenes and is a strong point of this film.
The story shows a religious , feudal village community, where powers are shared by few: baron, pastor, doctor. And the weak are suppressed: children women, and the poor. The violence is implicitly shown as a 'revenge' of the weak. And to think that children are the guilty ones makes this film provocative.
In spite of its darkness, there are some sweet and heartbreaking scenes: the love story of the narrator with the nanny and the young child of the pastor. The child offers his bird to his father as a replacement of his father's bird which is killed cruelly by his daughter. This is an act of revenge after she got punishment from his father and being humiliated. The bird, to which the father gave affection, was an object of her revenge, because she lacks exactly this affection from her father. The affection of the young child to his father make the father, who is usually controlled, touched. This scene shows that good souls exist, too.
From the cinematography point of view, the director made some brilliant choices. The story is told from an old man point of view on the strange incidents that happens long ago when he was a young teacher in a village in northern Germany. This form gives a fairy tale, old fashion feelings.
The choice to film in black and white produces some of most beautiful scenes. One is when the body of a wife of a farmer is cleaned in a room. The whole scene is shoot from one point only, and not all are shown. In spite of the subtlety, I feel the intense sadness of the farmer mourning, even I do not see his face, only his back, moving back and forth, crying. This scene looks like a painting from van Gogh in his early years. And there are more scenes like this.
The director points an intrigue theory that this film shows an origin of violence. Film the white ribbon is a story of the origin of evil: how children, suppressed by ideological idea, internalize the suppression by exercising violence on the weak. It was set in Germany, preceding the 1st ww, and it hints the origin of fascism that later on took on. However, it applies to all regions in the world where the young people are willing to sacrifice their life for an ideology.
Indeed the children in the film would grow up in Nazi Germany. Although you can be skeptical about this far reaching conclusions (because violence, I think, is universal, every where, in any cultural setting possible) I do believe that violence has more chance in a suppressed society, like the one shown in the film.
This film is a master piece.
Le gamin au vélo (2011)
100 ways to get messed up in life and yes, love is the answer
If one word can describe the theme of this beautiful cinema, then it is love. I think you can call it a love story. No, not a romantic one, but an obsession to have someone that accept and love you, isn't is universal? And of you are a kid that love comes normally from your parents. If it isn't there, what you're going to do? Well, Cyril knows one thing. He must have it. Even when he cannot find his father, the only person who suppose to give him unconditional love, he keeps searching. Even when his father does not want to see him, he keeps coming and begging for his love. And one time, in one second that he could not go anywhere because people chasing him, he thought he had to cling to something, someone, and fast. In that second that he had to decide who is to be clung to among all people in the room, he clinged to Samantha. And boy, what a cling. That is the first encounter between the boy and the woman who loves him. Unconditionally. Well, I expect a melodrama after this, but it is far from that. The plot and the acting prevent any king of melodrama and kitsch. Anyway, Cyril encounters several paths that would almost ruin his life, or even take his life. This is told convincingly, thanks to excellent performance of this young actor. The final scene touched me the most when Cyril seemingly to decide to choose life because of love.
Another Year (2010)
There's something about Mary
There's more to this film than meets the eye, that's why I absolutely LOVE it. This film touches me so much more than King's Speech, which apply a rather standard feel good recipe wrapped in royalty touch. Another year, on the other hand haunts me. I agree with reviewer DiddlyDee from the UK, that this is a sociological HORROR film, not a drama. Some people just have bad luck and don't have a happy ending.
It is said that this film is about a happy couple with unhappy friends around them. I would say that this film is about unhappy people clinging at a happy couple. I especially think that this film is about Mary. She desperately looks for love but fails time and time again. She is immature mentally, like a kid. This makes her difficult dealing with real life. The happy couple act as surrogate parents for her, but they are NOT, meaning that they just pity her. When it comes to choosing between the happiness of their son and Mary, the choice is made. Yes, Mary is jealous of love going around her. She was jealous when the happy couple showed affection to each other. Or when the son brought a brand new girlfriend. Isn't jealousy a lack of something that one does not have? And what if that thing is something fundamental, like love?
This film is about Mary. This film asks for compassion and understanding. Because you never know what life gives you beforehand.
Jodaeiye Nader az Simin (2011)
Asking difficult questions
Have you ever been watching a movie where you could not take your eyes of the screen, not even for one second to take a zip of your wine? This movie is for me a thriller, even though labeled a drama. The shoots were artistically taken; I see a beauty in a scene when a woman is walking with her long vein downstairs. Couple arguing in front of a judge where when she was asked whether the man beats her because she wants a divorce saying: no, he is a good man, but I want a divorce.
This is a universal story set in Iran. Universal human emotion set in an Islamic country. It is difficult for me to pinpoint what the theme(s) of this film. Yes, it begins with a separation of a couple after years of marriage and having a daughter in stake. But that was only a trigger. A trigger to a journey that seeks the boundaries of human existences. A journey where things are not black and white, but somewhere in between. The characters have their flaws but I somehow feel sympathy for them, even for the one who is violent.
Perhaps the movie is about asking question what is a good person, in a situation where it is very difficult to be one.
The Deer Hunter (1978)
Troubled, fascinating film!
I love this film because it took me a lot of emotion to be able to watch it to the end. The first scene of Russian Roulette (RR) in the jungle really made me tremble and shiver. I guess I love films that trouble me.
It tells the story about friendship in a small Russian community in the US (Isn't a coincident: Russian community, Russian roulette?). The people are very much connected with each other. The three friends: Mike, Steve, and Nike were just about to go to Vietnam. But there were still wedding party and deer hunting to be done. This first part introduces the characters and their carefree life before going to the war.
The film brings you abrupt to the second part: the hell. The three men were in captivity and were forced to play Russian roulette, for the sake of entertaining the Viet Cong. They luckily (?) survive this and made a run. Along the way they were separated.
The final part shows that even though all three survive the enemy captivity, there were parts of them that are dead. Steven became paralyzed and could not face the family at home and prefer to stay in the institution because it feels like vacation there with its Bingo and basketball playing. Nick survived the war but mentally he is a dead man. Mike's attempt to rescue him seems to be doomed because Nick was already dead in a way. Mike went home and found consolation in the girl he loved, Linda, Nick's girlriend. Linda, who also desperately lonely found also comfort in Mike but still feels sad about Nick who did not come back. This is one of the reason, I think, that Mike went back to Vietnam searching for Nick. It was an attempt trying in vain to put all the things right there just like the old times. But sadly the damage has already taken place and even Mike could not turn the hands of time.
Like many all said, RR is a perfect symbol of going to war. Th dispute whether it really happen in Vietnam is for me not important. It's about the story, and for me the story is credible and heart breaking. The first part of the movie contains funny scenes, though, and shows beauty and innocence that are soon destroyed.
The singing "God bless America" at the end seems to present the irony of the war. Patriotism is often a label used to cover the absurdity of war.
The deer symbolizes the innocence and beauty that Mike came to realize at the end. The activity of deer hunting itself shows the joy of men bonding together in a small traditional community. Mike can not enjoy this activity any more after the war.
The story begins with wedding and ends with death ceremony, which represents the dark nature of the story. It is NOT a feel good movie, but one that definitively fascinates me.