“Cinema is a wonderful art form for talking about loneliness,” Norwegian filmmaker Joachim Trier has said, “It can be a collective experience of loneliness.” Trier’s second feature film, Oslo, August 31st, deals with the distinct kind of loneliness that grows in someone who is acutely weighing the options of life or death. It is loosely based on Pierre Drieu La Rochelle’s 1931 novel Le feu follet (which Louis Malle made into a film in 1963) about an alcoholic who visits his friends before committing suicide.* Nevertheless, Trier presents a work all his own: a distilled, quiet, moving character study of someone’s battle against isolation in the span of one day, set against the topographical specificity of Olso and making it one of the film’s crucial characters.
Browsing: World Cinema
For years now French thrillers have been besting Hollywood’s, offering the kind of character drama and tense ferocity studios have consistently failed to produce. Films like District 13, Anything for Her, Crimson Rivers, and The Beat That My Heart Skipped may come as far from perfect, but they all carry an uncompromising intensity the majority of their big-budgeted American cousins have proved that money just can’t buy. Frédéric Jardin’s Sleepless Night not only joins this club, it eclipses each of the aforementioned, finding in the mostly single-setting real-time nature of its premise an almost claustrophobic sense of tension.
When dealing with clichéd material such as the “inspirational teacher” storyline, how do you separate yourself from the pack of Edward James Olmos—”How can I reach these keeeds?”—wannabee’s? Well if you’re Monsieur Lazhar, Canada’s nominated entry for Best Foreign Film at this year’s Oscars, you open your film with a kid on milk duty coming across his homeroom teacher’s body hanging from the rafters right before the morning bell rings for class. While you might think that this is a huge spoiler done for shock value, much like the rest of the film this scene is directed in a matter-of-fact way with no build-up or overshadowing and treated in a realistic way that lets the emotion and gravity of the situation speak for itself.
A tree at dawn, its leafless branches bare against the steel and glass of the apartment building it neighbours. Slowly, a change of focus, and into view comes a bird amidst the boughs, sitting silently and surveying the land around. It is the dead of winter, but even here amongst the signs of decay and mortality exists a hidden life, going on despite its surroundings. In his opening to Elena, which won a Jury Prize at Cannes last year, director Andrei Zvyagintsev grips the audience in an aesthetic embrace, the sheer transfixing majesty of his cinematography drawing us in. His visual sensibility is remarkable, his powerfully beautiful and instantly captivating imagery flooding the film in its very earliest scenes with a clear potential for greatness.
Cobbled together from the television series Dragons and Princesses, Tales of the Night is the first foray into 3D for veteran animator Michel Ocelot, who made his name on his 1998 feature debut Kirikou and the…
Hitting unexpected levels of success with their 2005 TV series adaptation of the Wallander series of novels, Swedish production company Yellow Bird have since produced a string of crime thriller adaptations for television and film—most notably the Millennium series beginning with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo—that have found significant audiences in English-speaking territories, many being remade in the English language. Their latest is a Norwegian adaptation of author Jo Nesbø’s Headhunters, the story of top-level recruitment agent Roger Brown, who uses his interviews with opulent job applicants as opportunities to gauge the worth of their art collections so that he might later steal them to fund his wife’s expensive tastes. When Clas, the former CEO of a leading Swedish firm, arrives in the city to clear out his recently deceased aunt’s apartment, Roger learns of a priceless painting in the family and is determined to secure it.
Of the ten audiences I was a member of during my weekend at JDIFF, none was even remotely close to the level of interaction with their respective film than that of The Raid. In fact, never before in my life have I seen a room more brought to life than in the extraordinary 100 minutes for which this remarkable new movie ran. Thrice in the course of the film the crowd burst into spontaneous applause at the incessant onslaught of ingeniously choreographed martial arts action unfolding onscreen; twice more as the credits rolled and the writer/director Gareth Evans and star Iko Uwais took to the stage. It’s unsurprising, given this incredible reaction, that the film received the festival’s Audience Award, but it also walked off with the JDIFF Best Film Award as voted for by the Dublin Film Critics’ Circle—the first time since the festival’s inception that the top awards have gone to a single recipient.
We enter this world through the eyes of two men, Jacky and Diederik, both part of the criminal underworld of growth hormones. Jacky runs the region’s most prominent cattle farm, and is approached by a shady meat trader to make a mutually beneficial deal of supply and demand. During the meeting, he encounters Diederik, a ghost of sorts from his past. After the meeting, events are set in motion that takes us through past and present as we learn just what makes Jacky tick.
Michael Roskam’s screenplay beautifully weaves past and present together in an intricate but never overly complex manner, slowly peeling away the emotional motivations of each character
With his role as the Jewish forgery expert made to work for the Nazis to overthrow the English economy in the Oscar-winning Austrian film The Counterfeiters, Karl Markovics proved himself a talented actor, his portrait of the morally conflicted Sally Sorowitsch a layered and contemplative performance. That Breathing, his debut as a writer/director, has demonstrated his true talents lie behind the camera, then, is indicative of the sheer immensity of Markovics’ achievement. This is an astonishing work for a first-time filmmaker, a remarkably astute examination of humanity and mortality that heralds the arrival of both a phenomenal new directorial talent and an incredibly gifted young actor. It may seem hyperbolic with 2012 yet in its youngest days, but even so I feel confident in proclaiming Breathing a sure bet for one of the year’s greatest films.