"Twelve Canoes" is a series of short films that paint a compelling portrait of the people, history, culture and place of the Yolngu people whose homeland is the Arafura Swamp of north-central Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory.
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Rolf de Heer,
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Rolf de Heer
Entertaining unpredictable story about neighborly behavior, and taking action when police doesn't
I saw this film at the Ghent filmfestival 2012. The announcement text in the festival brochure sounded intriguing, and promised a series of surprising as well as disturbing turns of events. It worked out different from what I expected, but still surprising and disturbing alike.
Imagine a well-to-do couple buying a new house in what looks like a classy neighborhood. On one side a young couple with one little daughter, with whom they make friends easily, even to the extent that they make a small door in the fence to allow the kid walking in and out when she wants to.
On the other side is a house that looks disorderly, to say the least, inhabited by an antisocial man (called "King" for short) who receives even-so antisocial people on a daily (and even nightly) basis. Loud parties, drug deals, fights et cetera keep the newly moved couple from their badly needed sleep. They call the police from time to time when the noise from the neighbors borders on unbearable, as law abiding citizens should do, but it has no effect whatsoever. They approach the neighbor and try to reason with him, but his reaction shows a total lack of communication, and the dialog doesn't lead to anything useful. Some people tell them to stop bothering, and to buy earplugs to solve the problem.
You easily sympathize with the couple, while observing how desperation creeps up gradually. Finally they reach a point where they decide to take action. Their plan is to hide some of their silverware in the neighbor's house when he is away, and to call in the police. Their hope is that he gets arrested and disappears for some time. Being amateur burglars it proves not that easy for the faint of heart to break into someone else's house by night. Some hilarious scenes show how they eventually get in. For spoiler's sake this is as far as my synopsis goes. Expect the unexpected after that.
I very much like the way the couple is portrayed as proud house owners and their fruitless steps to deal with the nuisance their neighbors cause, initially by calling the police, later on by trying to reason with the neighbor. It all leads to more despair, thus needing desperate actions. You only can ponder how you would act yourself in such a situation. Hopefully it remains a thought experiment, to never come true in the real world.
All in all, this film can be considered quality entertainment. Do not try to think more of it. However, I found the final scenes a bit far fetched, more than necessary depending on caricatures. I had expected the scenario writers to get more out of the finale. But that is easy for me to say from my comfy chair. The rest of the scenario is well thought out, including the good versus bad neighbors contrast.
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