Archiv der Kategorie: Agnieszka Holland

Berlinale 2019: Day 4

By Sascha Krieger

Mr. Jones (Competition / Poland, United Kingdom, Ukraine / Director: Agnieszka Holland)

Agnieszka Holland’s new film tells the real-life story of Gareth Jones, the Welsh journalist who made the famine in the Ukraine in then early 1930s public. Set first in sepia-tinted timber browns and later in the forbidding whiteness of the Ukrainian winter, the 140 minutes rush through the events like the train Jones travels to Ukraine in. The initially slow pace of the set-up transforms into a hectic rush with the final chapters added on as if time was running out and the script wasn’t finished. The viewer learns little of the man Jones, he remains as flat as all other characters, from the plain Asa Brooks (Vanessa Kirby) whose role Holland minimises to the boring villain that is Peter Sarsgaard’s Pulitzer Award winning Walter Duranty. While Jones appears as the hero persecuted and ridiculed by all sides, James Norton has little to do other than either to look shocked or passionately arguing his case. The film’s rhythm is off at all times, the plot patched together like an amateurish quilt. Holland makes up for it with fast-paced and hectic images shot with an hand-held camera, breathing down Norton’s neck when he encounters the deadly crisis and throws in double exposures and parallel images for dramatic effect. Adding an additional story frame of George Orwell writing Animal Farm, a work Jones‘ reports are said to have inspired, doesn’t help either. The result is a thriller that doesn’t thrill and a statement film that doesn’t make statements. In the end, this is a good old her story that forgot about adding a hero or a story.

Mid90s (Image: © 2018 Jayhawker Holdings)


Berlinale 2017: Day 4

By Sascha Krieger

Ceux qui font les révolutions à moitié n’ont fait que se creuser un tombeau (Generation 14plus / Canada / Director: Mathieu Denis, Simon Lavoie)

A three-hour film, formally and narratively challenging, featuring a 5-minute black screen opening and an „interlude“ almost as long: placing this into the Berlinale’s Generation section is a fairly bold move. No doubt: this film challenges the attention level not only of younger audiences. On one hand, a highly theoretical essay on the necessity and futility of revolutions, it centers on a small revolutionary, one might also say: terrorist cell in modern-day Montréal with objectives somewhere between the anti-capitalist and the nationalist. The film has the feeling of a collage: realism follows symbolism, news footage is combined with music-only sequences, there are multi-layered narrative overlaps, theoretical soundbites and text boards, more confusing than structuring title cards scattered throughout the film, time is fluid, no change ever explained. At the centre is the group’s „headquarters“, a darkened, nocturnal, clattered cave-like house, that’s living quarters, art space and lab all at once. Changing but always somewhat encapsulating frame formats heighten the sense of claustrophobia and of people losing any touch with reality – when they are forced into contact, the resulting scenes are the film’s rather bland and clichéd weak spots. For most of the time, this is a challenging, multi-faceted exploration of youthful rebellion, an examination of a society in paralysis, observed through the eyes of not very objective outsiders, a journey underground to society’s underbelly of lost ideals and the despair of a failing desire to change the world. A music-driven elegy, distant and close, a painting, human beings between isolation and a bond that supports and holds back. In long scenes the camera follows the characters around on their paths. Lonely, dark, uncertain. They lead nowhere, so at the very end when the everlasting barrage of theory and appeals stops, when light comes in, this spells a glimmer of hope. Hope for another way. For this has ended in a dead end.

Ceux qui font les révolutions à moitié n'ont fait que se creuser un tombeau (Image: © Eva-Maude T-Champoux)

Ceux qui font les révolutions à moitié n’ont fait que se creuser un tombeau (Image: © Eva-Maude T-Champoux)