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Parallel storylines tell the current state of affairs for two ex-lovers: Nora's a single mother who comes to care for her terminally ill father; holed in up in mental ward, Ismael, a brilliant musician, plots his escape.
Grace is still grappling with the disappearance of her daughter five years earlier. Her husband Lukas is trapped in his own helpless grief. He and Grace have long since stopped communicating. As Grace confronts a series of small absurdities in her apartment building, Lukas finds himself unable to complete even the simplest of daily tasks. When something truly heartbreaking happens in a family, the deepest response is often unspoken. In this intimate and moving film, the Belgian director probes those inchoate emotions, seeking a visual language for the unsaid. She creates a world in which small gestures can explode with meaning.Written by
Warsaw Film Festival
Close up at the inner feelings of a failing couple
Fien Troch is a promise young Belgium writer/director and I had the pleasure of seeing her World Premiere at TIFF of this atmospheric and intricate drama, as well as participate in the Q&A and chat a few minutes with her afterward about her artistic viewpoints and process for this production.
She wrote and filmed her first feature length, Someone Else's Happiness, in her native Dutch. This time around, she wrote it in Dutch, but decided to film the original screenplay in French when four times Ceasar-nominated Emmanuelle Devos showed interest to the film. Emmanuelle's presence in the film is phenomenal and everyone is more than happy with that decision. The French film title she played with was "Le non-dit" but did not convey exactly the ambiguity of the concept. She eventually opted for the title "Unspoken" even if in English, adding another layer to the language metaphysical metamorphosis. In the end, I don't think their was much Lost in Transation (to give a clien d'oeil to Sophia Coppola) as the dialogue is extremely sparse in the movie. In fact, if there is one thing to take into account going into this is that this movie will seem long and heavy.
The good thing is that for an attentive audience, it never gets tedious. The scenes build momentum not from the dialogue or the action but by an innovative combination of sly camera-work and use of space with subtle acting and directing plunging the viewer into a strange state of intellectual and emotional dreamy plane.
The story is strong and deals with a couple trying to cope with the unexplained and unresolved disappearance of their teenage daughter. The primal parental emotions remind me of two 2001 great dramas, namely the American "In The Bedroom" and the Australian "Lantana". Whereas these two exhibit exceptional directing and acting with powerful scenes, this one does not venture into the typical roller-coaster emotions and retains an austere and minimalist atmosphere throughout which works quite well for its own purpose and way of telling the story and interacting with the viewer.
A few strong scenes come to mind, but again, they are not born out of dialogue or plot, but rather by meticulous hard-nosed storytelling that grips you in an unexpected way. Troch tries an approach that literally focuses on the actors to glimpse at the inner thoughts and emotions of the two protagonists. Most of the movie shows almost uncomfortably close close-ups that become the real language of the film. This works very well due to Troch's vision from script to film and with an intricate interplay with her actors and cinematographer.
As for the editing, friendly Fien tells me that it is true that a slow-paced, calm and uneventful movie like this needs a clear editing rhythm and understanding of the evolution of the stringent story. She confesses that the editor was actually her father for this movie, but that she would have had to work hand in hand with whichever editor felt up to the tricky task. Well the father did a fine job, even if I felt the beginning still a little too slow and haphazard. There is no question that this 97 mins film easily feels like 2 hours or more, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. It is quite a rewarding affair, even if not entirely pleasant or entertaining in the usual sense.
The Belgium version is supposedly cut down to 90 mins. If it is in the beginning, this may be of help, but in any case, if there is one thing that Mr. Troch can be sure is that he has many reasons to be very proud of his daughter. Kudos to both of you and I look forward to see more audacious film from this young wide-eyed Belge.
Definitely worth a look for the fans of fine dramas, creative cinematography and innovative directing.
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