Editor’s Notes: The following capsule reviews are part of our coverage of the 2014 Vancouver International Film Festival. For more information on the festival visit viff.org and follow VIFF on Twitter at @viffest.
Dir. Ruben Östlund
In Ruben Östlund’s hilarious take on the family drama, comedy abounds when the epic is juxtaposed with the quotidian. A family vacation is turned sour when a believed threat for their lives forces man and wife to look deeply into each other’s fundamental characteristics. In long conversations, they express deep emotions over seemingly trivial and circumstantial ideals. No one is hurt, and yet the discussion goes on and on and on. A portrayal of seemingly banal insights illustrate how people are always stuck on the little things which, to them, feel like big things. Östlund’s nuanced comparison between magnificent forces of nature and human frivolity is both revealing and humbling, making Force Majeure a significant work not only of comedy but of existential drama.
Dir. Sung Bo Shim
Written and produced by the infamous Bong Joon-Ho, filmmaker of this year’s Snowpeircer, Haemoo is expectedly violent, depicting humans at their most base and inconsequential. After a catastrophe causes many fatalities and leaves a group of people responsible, dark areas of the heart and soul reach the surface. Hidden areas of the psyche are brought out of the fog and into the eyes of a number of now-evil men whose base desires and needs take control of their actions.
Visually impressive, with a strong use of foreground and background, Sung Bo Shim uses smoke and lighting to set a terrifying yet encapsulating mood of being at sea, of being in isolation, and of being stripped of one’s moral integrity. Greater even than its visual prowess, however, is the film’s exceptional sound design. Making full use of Dolby surround, the film often makes one feel as if s/he is actually on a boat surrounded by people and water. Hearing voices from the rear and from the sides of the cinema, a spatial orientation of one’s proximity to others in the boat is realized through the soundtrack.
Due to its ultraviolent illustrations, Haemoo becomes rather showy. Many scenes are shot to emphasize moments rather than to provide subtlety. This, of course, is a stylistic technique, one which works for the film at hand but at the same time may be seen as shallow or tawdry. In spite of this, Haemoo is a rather affective and harrowing film, with much emotion being imparted through its brazen approach to visual dialogue.
In The Name of My Daughter
Dir. André Téchiné
In André Téchiné’s In the Name of my Daughter, a well handled active camera diagnoses each actor with languid precision. There are some beautiful, involved crane and steadicam shots of ocean and landscape, and though the general use of a handheld camera causes spatial disorientation, the film glories in its passion of movement.
Unfortunately, neither the plot nor direction quite reach the level of sophistication as the cinematography. About halfway through the film, the narrative becomes rather scattered. It turns into a failed romance crime story wherein both the characters’ actions and the filmmaker’s direction becomes trite and tiresome, contrived for the sake of making a point.
Based on a true story, the film works as a character study of a shallow man who spreads love amongst too many women. His poor actions, which may have led to murder or suicide, make him the prime suspect of a case which literally continues today. It seems that Téchiné’s dramatic resolve was altered during the making of this film, as his portrayal of Maurice Agnelet shifts quite significantly towards the ending, especially so when the end-of-film titles completely contradict the action theretofore seen on screen.