Monthly Archives: April 2012

  • The Kid With The Bike (Le Gamin Au Velo) Jean Pierre Et Luc Dardennes (2011 Be. Fr)

    The Kid with the Bike (Le Gamin au Velo) Jean Pierre et Luc
    Dardennes (2011 Be. Fr) Cecile de
    France; Thomas Doret

    Viewed Tyneside Cinema 5 April 2011; ticket price: £7:95

    Bad child archetype: what’s locked up in our heads

    The de-industrialised zones of Belgium have spawned their
    own recent depressing history of serial child abuse. It is possible to
    caricature the place as a smashed landscape of twisted sexual desire, a carnal
    parody of the dominant consumer culture that sates its appetite on the flesh of
    its children.

    Of course it’s probably no different from anywhere else in

    The Dardennes’ Rosetta (1999) seemed to me a philosophically walled off world. Its eponymous heroine was trapped in
    the mechanical process of a scenario that seemed to have been created in order
    to show the role of deterministic principles in the playing out of fate. The idea of freewill in Rosetta’s
    situation was demoted to some sort of fanciful propagation of the ivory tower.
    After Rosetta something changes in the outlook of the brothers. Perhaps some consideration of the
    serial crimes of Marc Dutroux sensitised the Dardennes Freres (DF) to look
    again at the underlying philosophical direction of their scripts and the relationship of their scenarios to the
    fate of their child subjects,
    particularly from the underprivileged areas where they choose to locate their
    films. The determinist notion
    leads only to darkness. With children there needs to be at least the notion
    that there is the possibility of avoiding complete blackout.

    With their next two films, Le Fils and L’Enfant, the collective Dardennes’ philosophy of
    mind has moved on. In particular
    Le Fils has at it centre an exploring of the idea of free will. Focusing on
    Oliver the protagonist and carpentry instructor at a training centre, the film
    is a subtle probing from without
    of his state of being as he struggles to make a series of critical
    decisions. The viewer doesn’t have
    access to Olivier’s state of mind, that has to be inferred or more correctly
    interpreted, from the signs given out by him in the film. DF don’t engage the
    audience with certainties only with possibilities. The characteristic feature
    of Le Fils is that we are in Olivier’s world; it is in his world that the film is set and develops.

    In contrast KB seems to have too many worlds competing for

    The signs and wonders that constitute the opening section KB
    indicate that we are in situations where there is the possibility of free will,
    where the players decisions shape and change the course and outcome of
    events. However in KB there are a
    number of significant worlds put into play, which crowd each other and engender
    confusion. The world of the kid,
    Cecil dominated by the absence of his father, the world of Samantha, which is
    in fact two worlds a personal one and professional one as the owner of a hair
    styling salon, the world of the gang, and the world of the community where the
    action takes place. All these vie
    for primacy. DF might contend that
    life is like this; a myriad of worlds surround and confuse us; but I think this
    would be a weak defence of the film’s structure.

    Film is not real life, or rather it is like ‘real’ life in
    that it is selective and the ‘real’ is accessed through one operating mind or
    Consciousness of another we can observe but never penetrate, a fact the
    Dardennes use as the basis for their film practice As in Le Fils where the fulcrum is Olivier, so in KB the
    fulcrum appears to be Samantha, the small business woman who fosters Cecil. But
    her operations and capacity to inform us an emitter of signs, is simply crowded
    out by a scenario that is more interested in following the mechanics of a
    script which is driven by the idea of the gang and a botched violent robbery
    (the which is not very credible). In Le Fils as we follow Olivier there is the
    possibility of understanding his decisions and actions, which sustains the life
    of the film. In contrast when Samantha is ‘followed’ in the scenario, she is
    immediately blocked off or taken off stage by different events. The consequence is that KB loses the
    possibility of a deepening and operates only in the shallow waters of affect
    signs, rather than in the deeper zones of actions and gestes. Too much happens without
    anything being revealed. Although Samantha’s outer behaviour
    suggests an underlying free will, as the film progresses, in the confusion of
    competing worlds, she diminishes rather than increases as an intensity, and the
    film dwindles into an inconsequentiality.

    Le Fils was characterised by a distinct visual style that
    incorporated in its look, the paucity of the environments: the training centre,
    the bachelor apartment. Everything looked sparse rather bleak, worlds that offer no encouragement to the soul. The film’s visual look is an important
    part of its story. KB in contrast
    lacks the complement of a strong visual statement: it looks like any other
    product originated on 35mm film and screened on HD. There is little to detain or attract the eye
    everything is big and clear and in a way uninteresting. For a film whose
    intention appears to have been to engage the viewer as a seer, the visuals are
    counter productive, acting as a barrier to rather than a gateway for the eye to
    enter. The film is composed using shots of long duration, but that’s not unusual
    these days, so the film looks like everything else, when in fact it certainly
    intends not to be like everything else.

    I think if DF continue to produce films, built about the nodal points of their socio-philosophical interests, they will have to attend to the business of film makers in making their productions visual filmic quality relate to the content. KB and Le Fils share a certain mirror symmetry from the point of view of the male and female relationship with the bad child. Both titles imply that the subject of the films is a child. In fact in both films, the male children are devices that infiltrate the adult psyche. The adults are the subjects. The children in this sense are not so much actual; rather they are archetypes. They are archetypes that play complex functions in the inner life and movement of the two adults. The incorporation of the bad child or rejected child into the psychic life, implies a process of development completion and healing of the wounded soul. These ideas complete the cycle of this piece of writing which began commenting on the spectacle of Western culture’s sexual abuse of children, whether real or imagined. In their films DF point to the deep resonance of the bad child archetype within the adult soul, as potential healing force. This function is clearer in Le Fils than in KB, but is the underpinning strength of their recent work.

    adrin neatrour

  • Once upon a time in Anatolia Nuri Ceylan (2011 Turkey)

    Once upon a time in Anatolia Nuri Ceylan (2011 Turkey) Muhammet Uzunur; Yilmaz Erdogan; Taner Birsel; Firat Tanis

    Viewed Tyneside Cinema 27 March 2012 Ticket: £6.95

    The Lady with the Lamp

    In the opening lengthy post title shot (there is a pre-title twilight shot that I didn’t understand) we see, in long shot, three cars snaking through the night along the winding roads across the hilly mountainous Anatolian terrain. Outlined in the thin beams of their headlights, the small cars move slowly forward. This shot is the first of the night sequences of the film and it is this long opening nocturnal section that defines NC’s intention in realising his script.

    This part of the film is a long endless spiralling into and through night as space and night as time. The men, the public prosecutor, the policeman and forensic doctor accompany two suspected murderers who have said they will reveal the whereabouts of the body of the man they have killed. The immense darkness of the storm blasted country swallows everything. The blind lead the blind in a quest of futility. They are lost in the space. They are lost in time. The men, characterised by an everyday physical awkwardness are all claimed by forces from other places other times. Unending internal dialogues. A parallel metaphysical journey lays claim to their psyches, engendering states of mind that abstract them from the present. There is darkness in the soul.

    This is a culture where, outside of the very large cities, women are absent from the public domain. And each of the significant male officials in the car, is accompanied by an absent woman. A female shadow being whose absence haunts and overwhelms. The film is characterised by what is not present to the senses. This metaphysical proposition is made real, given body in the pivotal sequence of NC’s film. During the visit to a village where the party is dined by the mayor there is a power cut. The mayor orders his youngest daughter to bring an oil lamp and serve tea. As the girl stands before the men and hands to each their glass of tea, they look up into her face which appears like a revelation of a Platonic form: the actualisation of the feminine. The appearance of her visage is a psychic force that transforms. (Like the image of Florence Nightingale with her lamp in the wards of Soutari – was this NC’s starting point?) After the scene with the lady with the lamp the psychic darkness momentarily disperses. Night becomes day. The body is found. But the fleeting apparition cannot heal the mental wounds of phantom women moving through the disturbed consciousness of the men. They continue trapped in double lives in which outer symbolism of gesture and inner thought process become ever more detached. No one is ever where they seem to be. The men are all some place else.

    Nuri Ceylan’s (NC) Once upon a time in Anatolia (OTA) called to mind the recent output of films from Romania, in particular Porumboui’s movies. The characteristic feature that OTA shares with Cristiu Porumboiu’s Police, Adjective is a clear sense of purpose and a sure grasp of the filmic means employed to achieve intended goals. And their intended goals are not embedded in simple narrative deployment; but are metaphysical journeys into and through cultural darkness. Both NC and Porumboiu foster states of mind in which fleetingly intense moments of clarity are attained. Porumboiu is politically attuned (though the scenes of the cop with his wife have an intense symbolic personal resonance); NC in OTA attunes to social and personal dimensions of his characters. An awareness of the defining features of Turkish social life, as the country in its crazy unplanned way lurches towards Westernisation as a subjectivity.

    NC’s title points up the irony he sees within modern story telling. In traditional fairy tales giants beasts and fabulous creatures roamed the land as externalised phantasms that enabled man to gauge his own measure. Today monsters and the fears they engender, are internalised taking on their forms within our minds. Once in residence they become states of being forces that slowly inexorably consume us from within.

    States of mind may be the concern of OTA but the base upon which NC interweaves the actions and thoughts of his protagonists, is a slate of dark black humour. The dark humour is the medium that links the internalised reverberating internal dialogues of the men to the external business of driving through the Anatolian night, digging the earth, exhuming and dissecting corpses. It is a humour of that insinuates itself into the gap between the actual and the mental, the logical consequence of disassociation of mind and body.

    The other linking between current Romanian films and NC is the way in which are actors are used. Contemporary Iranian films also share this quality of acting. The outwardly exaggerated expressive use of face and body to create a gestural syntax of emotion using mouth teeth eyes and eyebrows, characterises most Western films. Most of the acting is done to fill out roles, and it is if the actors trapped in their roles are required to indulge in a sort of desperate signage of appropriate approved response. In OTA there is a trusting of the actors, and by extension, a trusting by NC of the audience, that through the direction, through the scenario, through the dialogue everything that needs to be stated about their characters will become evident. The powerful emotions are the more powerful for being understated, with the control of feelings being expressively more powerful than their exhibition. In the West with the circuitry of amplification that drives feedback loops between expressive modes in soap opera drama and real life, the outcome is that expression is cheapened, subject to fabrication and manipulation. To this extent NC and the other film makers from this region are giving their Western audience a chance to understand and reclaim dignity of feeling. adrin neatrour

    Lo! in that house of misery A lady with a lamp I see Pass through the glimmering gloom, And flit from room to room.

    Henry Longfellow