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Mean Girls (2004)
8/10
a "magnified" genuine portrayal of the downsides of female friend relations in adolescence
28 September 2005
Had I seen the film a year, a month, a week or even a day earlier, I wouldn't have appreciated it as much as I did today when I was sitting in a small university auditorium, relating what I saw to the issues discussed by the professor prior to the projection, trying arduously to control the flow of thoughts and emotions in my brain.

Mean Girls is what a large number of people would consider a silly teen comedy. It tells the story of a previously home-schooled, brought up in Africa, adolescent who enters a cliquish high school environment. Essentially the film focuses our attention on a number of psychological issues touched in almost every similar teen movie. In the beginning the issue is adaptation to a new environment, and as the movie unfolds it centers on social cliques, female friend relationships, social prejudice, social influence, rivalry, or as the professor I heard put it - relational aggression.

What is especially interesting about the movie, in my opinion, is that it illustrates an unbelievably highly stratified societal group, and thus helps the viewer unequivocally identify with and easily take a stand on the issues discussed. Metaphorically it serves as a microscope for us to observe social interactions with. Moreover the actions of the protagonists are so blatantly right or wrong that they eliminate any ambiguity that might arise of considering the things happening in another environment or under other circumstances. That way the viewer simply focuses on the darkest characteristics of female interactions in society. In this sense the film is not about adolescent girls and their experiences in high school but rather about the most negative features of female friend relations in adolescence.

The very same genuineness of the film makes it so hilarious at many points. What prevents us from laughing at the ridiculous social trends, prejudices, and many people's beliefs, most possibly including ours, in reality is that our actual emotions and thoughts rarely come up to the surface. Even our actions in most situations are covert. Yet, paradoxically, our way of thinking is shaped by society which constitutes of other people who are also as secretive in this sense as we are. And this covert way of feeling and thinking contributes greatly to the growth of prejudice, misunderstanding, and ... meanness.

Revealing a prejudice I hold, I have always believed that the single most important objective of a film is to provide food for thought. That is why I think this teen comedy ranks among the best ones I have seen recently.
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Lilya 4-Ever (2002)
8/10
It is a lot more than a film concerning human traffic
10 October 2004
Warning: Spoilers
I like films that make one think. They don't answer one's questions, but rather help one find the answers for oneself. Such films are so valuable because they explore the human mind and personality. Everyone has been involved in situations when one needs to know what the person in front of him or her is thinking. Lilja 4-ever is a film that leads us in the dark world of a beautiful girl who has not yet grown enough to face the hardships of life, let alone the hardships of life in a place like that she lives in. Although the film is much acclaimed because it raises the problem of human traffic, it achieves much more than that. It raises the problems of human selfishness, betrayal, dignity, hopelessness, lie. It explores love and friendship. It conveys a simple but incredibly important message - we are those who are responsible.

What fascinates me about European cinema is that it explores in great depth the human personality. Lilja 4-ever employs an ordinary script and is directed in a way that ,at the time of watching, one does not, at all, think about the director's work. Thus, one can concentrate entirely on the plot, on the development of the characters and their stories. For that, I congratulate Lukas Moodysson.

Critics acclaim the film because it concerns the problem of human traffic. However, much of the film focuses on Lilja's life before she is forced into prostitution. During that time, Moodysson carefully explains why many people end up leading such terrible lives. She is an innocent girl who knows almost nothing about life. In an unbelievably short period of time she is abandoned by her mother, thrown out by her aunt, betrayed by her friends, cynically humiliated by her teacher. The only hope she has is her dream that one day she would be able to go to a beautiful country where she would meet hospitable people and have many opportunities. She is striving for happiness and tries to find it anywhere she can. Unfortunately, the only people who offer their help are little Volodja and a deceitful man. Volodja is the little boy who finds the angel inside Lilja. Ironically, the only person who truly likes and wants to help her is incapable of doing so. His life is as miserable as hers.

Lilja is abandoned, left to starve, raped, forced into prostitution, and yet not one of these moments disturbed me as much as the smile on her face when she is lied by a person in whom she sees hope and salvation. In my opinion, that is the single strongest and most substantial moment in the whole film.

Lilja 4-ever is a masterpiece in its own way. It changes perspectives ... It manages to explain how innocent and pure a prostitute's mind can be. How many of us relate words such as pure and innocent to prostitution? It urges us to be concerned, to feel responsible, and to believe in the importance of GOOD ...
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