Archiv der Kategorie: James Benning

Berlinale 2020: Day 6

By Sascha Krieger

Domangchin yeoja (Competition / Republic of Korea / Director: Hong Sangsoo)

Three conversations with three women. That’s all Hong Sangsoo’s latest film is. The connecting element is a young woman visiting or happening to bump into old friends. For the first time, she’s away from her husband. They had never been apart before, he thinks it’s natural. Three times she tells this, every time is pretty much exactly the same words. Yet all we see is female bonding, sometimes awkward, often quietly understanding. Men are intruders, threats, side notes. As always in Hong’s films, he accentuates cinematic means: Zooming in, turns to the same motif as a connector between scenes, unmotivated soppy music, slightly distorted, as if played via a tape deck or radio. This creates distance and sometimes comic relief, always tinged with seriousness as in the scene a neighbor comes to compain about stray cats being fed – a masterpiece of hyper polite passive aggressiveness in which the woman stands her ground almost apparently timidly and the final say belongs to a rather confident cat. Humour is a weapon where others aren’t accepted. The film highlights the women’s independence as well as their socially demanded dependance on their male „companions“, the first woman visited has given up for good and the second ridicules quite brutally. As they straddle the fine line between emancipation and social expectation, the film keeps emphasizing its artificiality. The reality it’s clean though somewhat impersonally rigid imaged capture is fragile, almost illusory. And yet, it cannot be denied. In the end, the mountain gives way to the sea as a visual leitmotif, endless boundlessness instead of something to be overcome. Another quietly symbol to be missed at your own peril. Just like this entire beautiful film.

Domangchin yeoja (Image: © Jeonwonsa Film Co. Production)

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Berlinale 2018: Day 4

By Sascha Krieger

La prière  (Competition / France / Director: Cédric Kahn)

Thomas is a beaten young man – or boy, which never really becomes clear. Bruised are his face, his body, his soul. He checks into a religious retreat for addicts such as him. Angry at first, he becomes milder as he first falls in love and then  finds God – which v´creates a new conflict. The film indulges in long shots which at their most effective when they document Thomas‘ struggles, especially early on. Anthony Bajon plays him as a blank page, but one previously written on. Close-ups abound, there is a restlessness in the images that corresponds with Thomas‘. The narration is linear yet there remain gaps between the scenes. Which is the film’s main issues. Its unwillingness to explain what happens in-between to Tomas does not open rooms for imagination, it fragments Thomas‘ character and eventually the entire story. None of his developmental steps feel plausible, yet all are quite predictable – not a great combination. The film dwells long on the community’s rituals, the prayers, the testimony, the ritualised apologies. Scenes are repeated with different personnel to showcase Thomas‘ growth. The problem is that a predictable plot the effects and objectives of which are always in plain sight clashes with the film’s refusal to take a stance. It seems to look at its subject with rather little interest. The problem isn’t that the film doesn’t provide answers, it doesn’t seem to care about the questions. So it leaves the viewer with the most clichéd possible endings. And the impression that mechanics beat substance here.

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Genezis (Image: © Genesis Production)

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