"Ex Machina" was superior to this film in many respects, including the choice of the cast. A small feather in the cap was the choice of the song 'Helplessly Hoping' by Crosby, Stills, and Nash.
Otherwise a film where van Gogh talks in English to Gauguin, to French villagers in French and his own brother Theo in English, challenges your ability to believe what you are watching. Director Schnabel's decision to opt for this odd switch of languages seems to be oriented at pleasing American audiences. Give me Paul Cox's "Vincent" (1987), Minnelli's "Lust for Life" (1956) or Altman's "Vincent and Theo" (1990).
Unless I missed it, the filmmakers do not acknowledge Faulkner in the film's credits (even on IMDb!) That's not being honest about the adaptation.
I was stunned by the screen-presence of actress Evi Saoulidou, who plays the wife recovering from coma. Though her screen time was teeny weeny, she is a Melina Mercouri award winner for stage acting in Greece. I do hope some top international directors pick her up for bigger significant roles in their forthcoming projects.
The music and sound management in the film are very good. But the landscape does not resemble the Holy Land, the Sea of Galilee looks more like an ocean, and the flora does not belong to the Middle East.
Vietnam is presented as a heavenly tropical country in the 19th century, without insects or reptiles (a lizard is the only exception) even in bamboo groves, with washed linen hung out white as snow. One would wish more realism to match the time frame of the story.
Why was this film not Vietnam's Oscar submission for 2019 in the Foreign Language Film category? I guess there were technical reasons.
The director Bo Hu only made this feature film in his entire life before he committed suicide at age 29. The film is based on his book that he wrote under a pen-name. With a book and a feature film to his credit, Bo Hu evidently still felt trapped.
All the characters are innocent but nihilistic to the core caught within China's social "no-win" trap if you are not rich or have political connections. Nietzsche would have smiled at this film. There is no way out. Yet they hope optimistically for a better life. It is a curious film that ends up with stupid violent scenes as some recent award-winning films from China have. Nothing positive to take away here after 4 hours. The concept of the elephant sitting still is possibly positive, which is why four adults want to metaphorically see it. One positive takeaway in the indirect commentary on China today, rarely discussed in the media.
Best lines: There is no "The" before God or CIA: Friends can be enemies and enemies, friends; "And, yet, a certain word, a glance, a guise, will mirror, never show, reflecting not my gaze, but my uncertain question caught inside a shadow of our shifting eyes."
Problem sequences for me: the easy suicide of the tortured man, the dead finger in a coffee can (referencing "Godfather" of Coppola).
The film is important as it is belongs to the last phase of William Wyler's career. The only impressive bits of the film are the lead performances of Terence Stamp and Samantha Eggar, both of whom won the acting honors at Cannes for this film.
Is the film different from the rest of his work? Most of his work relates to absent parents and their children. This film conforms to that pattern. Here there are four female characters longing for their dead/missing father and a missing mother. Like Euripides' "The Trojan Women" perhaps where the women longed for their husbands?
The film belongs to the strong character Sachi and the beautiful actress Aruka Hayase's performance as Sachi, the other actresses Suzu Hirose as Suzu and the wonderful elderly late Kirin Kiki.
Also commendable for a Kore'eda film is the music composed for the film by Yoko Kanno.
A very delicate film, very Asian. Or modern Asian, would be more precise a description, since each of the unmarried women have their own private affairs/lovers known to the other sisters.
Original? Yes. But linked to his own earlier 2011 script for "Kiseki" (I Wish). In "I wish" an almost or fully broken marriage of two young parents were was being tried to be patched up by a son who was directly affected by the break-up. Here in "After the Storm" a son is similarly affected by the almost final breakup of his parents marriage, but the torn marriage is being tried to be fixed for the sake of the child by the father. thus one film is the positive action from the point of view of a son, the other later film from that of a father for the sake of the son and his wife.
So many films of Kore'eda deal with broken marriages and kids with missing parents in their lives. The most heart-rending one was "Nobody Knows," the most complex one was "The Third Murder."
Kore-eda seems to be getting better as a scriptwriter and director in each film. The subtle references to Christianity surfaces here with references to Mother Teresa, only to be more prominent in "The Third Murder."
This Kore-eda film is considerably helped by his stock artists Hiroshi Abe ("Still Walking", "I Wish"), Yoko Maki ("Like Father, Like Son") and the lovely late Kirin Kaki ("Still Walking," "I Wish").
Was there a problem with the film? Of course, there was. Where was the storm/hurricane? The only scene of inclement weather was the rain in the night, when the parents of the boy stay together. Even the day after the storm, the exteriors of the apartment didn't seem to be affected by a hurricane/typhoon/cyclone. Even indoors, there is no evidence of a vicious storm raging outside during the night.
But the Best Director award at Berlin Film Fest?!!! I am surprised. I can only make a clearer judgement when I have seen the other films that competed with it.
But the film has a major problem. The director introduces a strange fact that Noah of the Bible uttered the word Assa after the floods receded--and there is no such evidence in the scriptures.
It is humanistic. It respects the Native Indian community. It is pro-conservation of the wild buffalo that once roamed USA. It is against the "bang bang" killings that made westerns so popular. It gives importance to tiny tots.
What is commendable is to have the handsome Robert Taylor play the anti-hero after getting the top billing. Taylor as a dumb good looking gunslinger who sleeps with women using ability to kill as a threat.
Director Stanley Kubrick evidently copied a critical end sequence for his own film "The Shining," made decades later.
If the film belongs to anyone, it belongs to Brooks and to the majestic wild buffalo.
Awful because the premise of the film expects you to throw rational thinking to the wind. Appreciating it is akin to appreciating Superman.
On the other hand, the film offers awesome script writing in the two/three segments involving an old bearded gentleman.
Weighing both feelings, this Kore-eda film still offers more than what the American films "Her" and "Bi-centennial man" could offer. However, it does come up to the level of Alex Garland's "Ex Machina."