Monthly Archives: May 2016

  • Mustang Deniz Gamze Erguven ( 2015; Tur, Fr)

    Mustang Deniz Gamze
    Erguven ( 2015; Tur, Fr) Gunes Sensoy, Doga Doguslu; Tugba Sunguroglu,
    Elit Iscan, Ilayda Akdogan

    Tyneside Cinema 17 May 2016; ticket £9.75

    Princesses in a tower

    More extravagantly, but in some ways similar to Lucretius Martel’s La Santa Nina, Deniz Erguvan’s Mustang takes place in the sensual milieu of adolescent sisters. The screen is filled with the aqueous flowing hair and skin that defines the presence of the five girls and characterises the un-self conscious natures of their emotional closeness. Erguvan’s hand held camera moving over faces, limbs locks and bodies captures the physicality of relationship defined by intimacy not by sexuality. As the sisters flow into and over one another their individualities merge and they transform as if into one organic primordial form, temporarily occupying an undifferentiated psychic state of being. A primal state of physico-consciousness that absorbs the world into itself.

    Of course this is hallucination, a realm of enchantment that cannot last. And Erguvan’s Mustang is a fairy tale. The tellers of such tales know that states of Arcadian joy in life cannot endure; a fall from grace must come. Awakenings incursions invasions and other forces in play in the social and psychic domains will rip apart the frail threads of preconscious existence.

    And so it is in Mustang. The sisters primordial unity is broken up as one by one the sisters are detached from the multiplicity of their organic body, and caste into a heightened world of sexual imperatives, a world desaturated of intimacy where the physical relationship given prime consideration is the intactness of the hymeneal membrane.

    Mustang works because it takes on the form of a fairy tale. Erguven’s film is grounded in myth not in her depicted setting of La Turquie profonde. The setting is fabulous because although some of the visual gestures and accoutrements possess Turkish qualities: bread making, pastry making coffee making, sewing and lots of shrouded bescarfed middle aged women sitting around tut-tutting. These qualitative elements are specious qualities belonging to a scenario that is in fact decontextualized.

    Mustang is decontextualised because it omits the defining elements of social relations that connect its various parts to the whole: religion, work and the past.

    The house into which the sisters are progressively walled up exists in a vacuum of smiles hand wringing and threats. Although the mosque is depicted as close by in the village no call to prayer is heard; there is no attendance at Friday prayers, there is no reference to the Koran in the dialogues with the sisters. Religion in itself is bracketed out. Likewise work relations, the matrices of industry or agriculture that form the basis of the wealth of the lives of the families represented, are completely absent. Work is bracketed out. And the past, the sisters inhabit a cocoon of the present with no apparent ties to their parents. As in the fairy tale we are simply informed that their parents are dead. The sisters are being brought up by relatives who take on the role of foster parents.

    The sisters are represented as being unconcerned with their orphaned status. In classic fairy tale mode they looked after and over by others who are removed form them. With this status, as beings bound not by blood ties but by artificial arrangements, they are free to allow their stories to transmute into the mythic realm.

    Of course the stories as collected by the Brothers Grimm’s often feature multiplicities of siblings: six brothers three sisters. This multiplication of identities allows the individual psyche to play out differentiated responses to testing situations. Typically the older siblings in one way or another fail the tests they are set. Generally it is the youngest of the sibling group who solves the problems, who overcomes the obstacles and gains the prize. The idea being perhaps that success results from multiple failures and that an open soul unburdened by process of age will pass the tests. Lale in Mustang who also acts as narrator, is the youngest of the sisters and is the heroine of the tale.

    The psychic tests set in fairy tales are many, but most seem to embody the idea of completing or advancing onto a higher form of self: a spiritual development to complement the physical; the searching within to connect with complementary powers not assigned by birth gender or sex. Common themes are escape from imprisonment or enchantment, searches for cures, searches for completion.

    Erguven’s Mustang tells of escape from entrapment. As the sisters are progressively walled up and married off, mostly against their will, Lale observes the unfolding horror and makes plans to thwart her fate. Like all successful escapees in the realm of myth she knows that to escape she has to understand her prison intimately, both its physical and its psychic lay out. And she also has to recruit allies to assist her when she needs help. Lale needs to be energetic resourceful and brave if she is to make her jump. She will have to connect with her male energies that have been suppressed by her culture of confinement: the bullying of the men, the blandishments of the women. She will also have to find an ally, a good fox who will appear at the critical moment to give her assistance at the moment of greatest danger.

    And so it comes to pass, Lale with her sister Nur, escape from their confinement, breaking the spell of the wicked uncle. There can of course be no going back, as the two sisters are transported into a new world, a city of multiple spires and different relations. adrin neatrour

  • The Brand New Testament (le Tout Nouveau Testament) Joco Van Dormael (2015 Bel)

    The Brand New Testament
    (le Tout Nouveau Testament)
    Joco Van Dormael (2015 Bel) Benoit Poelvoorde, Pili Groyne, Catherine

    Viewed Tyneside Cinema 10 May 2016; ticket (matinee screening) £8.25

    Pollyanna Pollyfilla

    I was wondering before checking in to see Van Dormael’s movie whether it would be a black 21st century comedy in the style of Belvaux’ 1992 movie Man Bites Dog? Would Brand New Testament wrap up, implicate me in another dark Belgium vision of European society? Belvaux’ movie was a bleak vision of 20thst century man but justified itself by its truth commitment and unflinching camera that pointed to the consequences for lives colonised by the invasion of the media.

    In the age of Facebook, instagram, twitter what insights would Van Dormael’s film open up to probe our interconnected narcissistic culture? Questions!

    Questions largely unasked so thereby unanswered by the Brand New Testament.

    The movie starts with a dystopian premise. Van Dormael invents his own version of ‘God’ in the form of a blue collar slob who controls the world through his computer. God works out of a virtual subprime apartment located far from anywhere. In his omnipotence God spends ‘time’ torturing humanity by inventing malevolent laws; in his downtime he abuses his wife, the Goddess, and his daughter Ea. Ea finally decides she’s had “enough” and revenges herself on dad (God). She logs onto dad’s computer and texts ‘everyone’ (at least everyone with a smart phone) with the exact hour of their death, including a helpful countdown so they can keep tabs on their progress to hour zero. After disabling the computer she escapes down a worm hole to Earth to get away and to try to rectify some of the bad dad has done. Just like bro JC.

    At this point, rather early in the scenario, the the film breaks down, unable to sustain the weight of its own internal logic or to handle the critical implication of the death countdown for human and social relations. The count down to death is an idea beyond the imaginative scope of Van Dormael’s film to handle. Van Dormael doesn’t have the conceptual resources to represent this idea. His character God is vexed that Ea’s actions in revealing to people the hour of their death “…has taken them out of his power, cut out the fun.” But the film never seems to take this idea on. Van Dormael’s script opts for his particular subjects to revert to kind of infantilism, death releases the 100 things to do before you die fantasy. Hence the need for Polyanna to appear as the girly amanuensis. Otherwise, outside the little cameos that comprise the movie life mainly goes on as before.

    Van Dormael’s main expressive tools are not conceptual but literal depictions of ideas event situations. So he has recourse to SFX and digital tech to show us actual things rather than to represent concepts filmicaly.

    Abandoning the conceptual situation, the death countdown, it has proposed, the Brand New Testament concentrates on Ea who becomes a Pollyanna figure selecting 6 people she will help out on their way to their appointment with death. She hears their inner music (biased towards the Baroque composers as presumably there was limited budget for expensive copyright clearance), and encourages them to fulfil themselves before they die thereby revealing the movie’s cheap ambition to betray European scepticism and embrace an all American ethos of dream fulfilment: the middle class ambition of overcoming. Things to do before you die, ensure you get Eurimages distribution.

    The Brand New Testament as it progresses loses cohesion and becomes a medley of parallel cut disconnected events and situations.

    There is also another level at which the film betrays a disturbed level of filmic consciousness.

    Although the ‘God’ premise and the ‘death’ premise both call up the idea of a whole (the God idea the death idea affect everyone) Van Dormael fails to connect with any posited whole. The society we see in his scenario is represented only by white people (mostly middle class). Blacks, immigrants, Moslems, Jews are all absent. Completely absent. For a movie that sets out to encompass the whole of society this is a strange omission. It would have been a funny had Van Dormeul’s ‘God’ invention just been a god of white folks. Brand New Testament in this situation could have been a requiem for white man society. But this does not seem to have been the idea. We just have another disconnected film unrelated to European ‘society’ in which we live, because most of the people are simply ignored. Non ‘whites’ written out of the script probably because it was felt to be too complex to include them and simpler to revert to Pollyanna scenario. Whites only.

    As Brand new Testament progresses it resorts to ever increasing use of SFX, the digital filling in for the lamentable lack of actual interest. The film finishes with a sort of soggy biscuit finale where the Goddess (God’s wife) inadvertently stops the death countdown and invents Patterned skies instead of clouds, making everyone feel happy. What patterned skies might do for global warming is a moot point, but what is certain is that Van Dormael ends with a complete cop out to the soft porn of political correctness. Adrin Neatrour