- Dark Love (Italy)
This film started what would be a couple of days travelling to the darkest side of human nature.
This film presents the most unlikely love history, the boy is in jail, the girl is at home, they interchange letters until finally they apparently fall in love.
The crux of the matter is that the boy is in jail for having participated in the gang rape of the girl.
So we are lead to believe that it is plausible that a boy that repents of his sins, would become such a good writer that he would be able to sooth the injured soul of the girl, but not only that, but make her harbor loving feelings for him?
The girl, as it could be expected, is cold and withdrawn, she gets married without much enthusiasm and is just living, but apparently the letters give her a new purpose in life.
The boy, that could not find anything positive to say about anybody, is redeemed by the power of writing, and he gets so good at it that is planning to write a book.
All that would have been OK, barely probable, but hey, it is a film. Where the film pushes the envelope too far is in making the couple fall in love without telling us what the damned letters actually say. Grrr.
Fantastic photography around Naples, where everything happens, the acting is excellent, but the plot demand too much suspension of disbelief.
The director was available for Q&A and he whined that the reception of his film in London had been too cold. Well, duh!
@@@ (for technical merit mostly).
- Womb (Germany-France, spoken in English!)
Very strange film, the highlight of the festival for me this far (note that I have avoided big films this time around).
This is another creepy love history, as all good films do, it unsettles and challenges our preconceptions. Combine this with the terrific choice of locations (mostly deserted landscapes in the Baltic Sea German coast) and the casting of Matt Smith (Dr Who himself) and Eva Green, who I reckon may have a shot at an Oscar for this one, and you have all the basic ingredients for a very good film.
The history begins conventionally enough: boy meets girl on their early teens, they have to separate when she goes far away, then she comes back, they meet again now as grown ups, and take 5 minutes to realize they are soul mates. So far, so Hollywood.
But then tragedy strikes, and the chap is killed in a freak accident, and the girl, on her desperation, decides to clone her lover and raise him as her child.
That bit of Sci-Fi makes what would be ordinary scenes of domestic life horribly ambivalent: is mom behaving as mom or does she hope for something else?
Eventually the boy reaches the same age as his dad (not dad really, his twin) had when he died, and with the girl, now a fetching middle aged woman, they have to confront all her reasons for having taken this unusual path (the lad didn't know anything, all is uncovered only when the mother of his dad-twin pays a visit to them).
I will not spoil the rest, but it all boils down to the typical "will they? won’t they?" which acquires a different meaning given our social taboos (after all, biologically speaking, such a relationship would not be incestuous...)
Truly baffling and aesthetically superb, one not to miss.
- Nothing's All Bad (Denmark)
Oh crikey, if the one above was difficult to explain, this one is at least as complicated.
We have 4 main characters, a man and his son, a woman and her daughter.
The daughter has lost one of her breasts to cancer and has been left traumatized by the experience, no longer a girl (at some point it is said she is 38) she is no longer attractive enough and is depressed and ravaged by low esteem due to her "disability" as she sees it.
The mom has just retired, on the day of her retirement her husband dies. So now she is lonely, her daughter withdrawing due to her depressive state, and herself looking for some human warmth.
The man is a pervert. He exposes himself in public and can't help it. His family leaves him, he is constantly in therapy that does not help, and lives in despair because he can't control himself.
The son is a loose cannon. He is young and good looking, but without any parental guidance and knowing what his father does he is not stable himself, so he lives by the day taking drugs and making money by prostituting himself.
So far, so horrible.
Unknown to their respective family members, they meet each other: the woman , in her 60s, meets the boy and takes him home on his "professional" capacity, she meets the man father of the boy, after bizarre circumstances take them both to a hospital, the man exposes himself to the daughter in a park, and the daughter and boy meet while, er, making a porn film (the situations are more nuanced that that, but hey, this is written in a rush).
There are lots of details that make all these encounters humane, funny, desperate, sad and even fulfilling. The best of human nature rescued literally from the gutters.
Finally in the last sequence the director manages to make the audience laugh their socks off. I was crying of laughter, as did pretty much everybody else.
And everybody lived happily ever after. Really.
- Elisa K: (Catalonia, Spain)
And now the darkest place of them all, if reading about child abuse affects you, please better skip this.
Catalonian cinema is the most important force in Spanish film making (all Spanish films in the LFF are Catalonian), which comes quite handy because I recognize many of the locations used :-) (I recognized La Floresta train station and a patisserie in Saint Cougat, who would have thought I would say this one day).
Black and white film, Nordic aesthetics.
Elisa K is a happy little girl, she is the middle one of 3 siblings, her parents are separated but in amicable terms, and she spends her weekends in Barcelona with dad and her siblings doing the little things in life that make it worth living.
All this changes when one lazy Saturday afternoon one of dad's friends comes to visit to his flat after a copious meal, her older brother is in the terrace goofing around and her dad fall sleeps, then the scumbag friend has his wicked way with the poor little girl.
After this the girl is in such state of shock that almost immediately her defence mechanism is to forget, so just shortly after being raped she can't account for those few horrendous minutes that will dominate the rest of her life.
Life apparently goes on but soon it is evident that something is wrong with Elisa. So half heartedly the mom inquires around and nothing much happens, until she asks the dad to take Elisa to see the "friend" because she keeps repeating that he offered her a silver bracelet when they met, this is the only thing she remembers because that was the enticement the monster offered her to stop her crying after the crime. Unsurprisingly Elisa refuses with all her might to go there, but this barely registers with her dad.
Jump 14 years forward.
Colour film, raw details very clear.
Elisa is a grown up woman, she is leading a conventional and outwardly successful life, which progression was saved by a teacher that hid her bad school results in the months after the attack.
One day a TV program, the same they were watching all those years ago the day she was attacked, triggers a memory, and all the horror of the attack comes flooding to her memory.
Unsurprisingly she trashes her flat in anger and despair, and is saved of self harming, with goodness knows what consequences by the lucky arrival of her flatmate.
Elisa confronts her demons, but the film ends without giving any solutions or happy endings, perhaps there aren't any.
The most novel thing about the film is the unusual use of the voiceover, which read the script saying exactly what will happen next. So at the point that it is said "and Elisa will be raped in 4 minutes" the horrible tension that is created is almost unbearable.
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