The Forgiveness of Blood
The Silver Bear winner for best script at the 2011 Berlin Film Festival, The Forgiveness Of Blood delves into violence and vengeance between Albanian families. Unpacking the consequences of a squabble that is as much about making a living as it is about access to a patch of land, Joshua Marston’s sophomore feature (with only a segment of New York, I Love You representing his big screen work since his acclaimed debut Maria Full Of Grace) immerses the viewer in the specifics of another culture – one predicated upon a strict system of punishment for transgressions, and one overpowered by the shadow of revenge and retaliation for crimes committed against respect and honour. At the centre sits Nik (first-timer Tristan Halilaj) and his sister Rudina (the similarly inexperienced Sindi Lacej), the eldest children of wheat farmer Mark (Refet Abazi, Vengeance). Stuck in the middle of an ancient rivalry that demands blood for blood, the teenagers represent the widening chasm between generations of Europe’s second poorest nation, with their modern dreams of technology and freedom at odds with the traditional customs that are thrust upon them. As the severity of the situation increases, forcing the clan into hiding for fear of retaliation, the frustration caused by the juxtaposition of the old and new only continues. An engaging and absorbing exploration of duty and sacrifice, the resulting film weaves both a universal and specific story that reverberates with intelligence and emotion.
In a meticulous examination of the events of daily life, a metaphorical pondering of humanity, and a serious starting point for further contemplation of meaning and motivation, Hungarian director Béla Tarr and his frequent collaborator László Krasznahorkai re-team for the magnificently allegorical The Turin Horse. Following six days in the life of an elderly hansom cab driver (János Derzsi, The Man From London), his dutiful daughter (Erika Bók, Sátántangó) and their equine animal (possibly after an altercation with Friedrich Nietzsche in the titular Italian city, or possibly unrelated to the enigmatic opening narration), the profound feature champions patience as a virtue as it asks the audience to passively observe the routine tasks that comprise their mundane existence. Over the course of 146 minutes, the stark black and white imagery depicts simple intricacies, from dressing and undressing the old man to cooking and eating potatoes, and feeding and stabling their charge to conserving and carting water, all to the tune of a rhythmically repetitive refrain punctuated by foreboding bursts of silence. With dialogue sparse, except for a nihilistic monologue from a visitor (Mihály Kormos, Death Rode Out Of Persia) on the second day and the incursion of gypsies on their barren land the following afternoon, Tarr allows the haunting, hypnotic imagery to speak for itself, with his message of increasing hopelessness existing in inferences made in response to the taciturn occurrences and aesthetics.
Academy Award-winning filmmaker James Marsh (Man On Wire) returns to his favoured 1970s period setting in Project Nim, his first screen project since his involvement in The Red Riding Trilogy. Tracing the life span of Nim, a chimpanzee plucked from his own kind and raised by humans, the film unravels the many events that shaped the course of the animal’s eclectic and intriguing as well as touching and tragic life. Selected as a primate specimen for a Columbia University linguistics experiment centred on the capacity of other species to learn human forms of communication, Nim spent his early days in Manhattan studying sign language under the care of a growing family. As his prowess increased along with his size and strength, his carers, teachers and habitat evolved, with all that came into contact with the furry ball of energy forever changed as a result of the experience. Yet the toll of teaching an animal human ways has a serious and sombre side, as illustrated when Nim’s advancing years see the project come to an end. From celebrated subject to a forgotten remnant, the informative and infuriating, heartfelt and harrowing Project Nim combines archival footage, re-enactments and interviews to chart his journey from scientific novelty to overlooked peculiarity, relating an extraordinary story of an extraordinary animal.
The fifth feature from About Elly writer / director Asghar Farhadi, and the first Iranian film to win the Golden Bear for best film at the Berlin Film Festival (as well as earning best actor and actress awards for the excellent ensemble cast at the same event), A Separation tells a personal tale rampant with politics. Exploring the intricacies of the legal system and its pervasive impact upon a couple on the precipice of divorce, the intimate effort reunites the lauded director with frequent cast members Peyman Moaadi and Shahab Hosseini, as well as marking the first collaboration with Leila Hatami (daughter of the late legendary director Ali Hatami) and initial on-screen appearance of Sareh Bayat. Whilst the marital breakdown of Nader (Moaadi, Mourning) and Simin (Hatami, Verdict) provides the framework for conflict, at the film’s core is an indictment of the incessant and interminable complexities of the culture, sparked by an incident involving pregnant housekeeper Razieh (newcomer Bayat) that draws the ire of her unemployed husband Hodjat (Hosseini, Superstar). In an appropriate thematic companion to fellow 2011 Sydney Film Festival feature The Forgiveness Of Blood, the affecting effort paints a powerful portrait of the restrictive nature of Iranian society and the mindset of retribution that is inherent throughout, resonating with the ethical and moral tension that accompanies competing agendas.
Although international hit Run Lola Run represented the third film in German writer / director Tom Tykwer’s career, it still remains the work for which he is best known. After making The Princess And The Warrior, Heaven, Perfume: The Story Of A Murderer and The International in the intervening thirteen years, his latest feature Three is unlikely to change that perception, with the Berlin-set comedy / drama a lesser effort on his otherwise impressive resume. Placed at the intersection of a long-term relationship faltering through familiarity, the film follows the exploits of journalist Hanna (Sophie Rois, The Architect) and engineer Simon (Sebastian Schipper, Nightsongs) as they each embark upon an affair outside of their relationship. That they share the same object of adulterous affection – medical researcher Adam (Devid Striesow, The Counterfeiters) – is unbeknown to all parties, as a web of deception and distrust delicately encapsulating their romance until it reaches breaking point. Whilst filled with enough humorous moments to inspire a few laughs and raise a few eyebrows, the majority of the predictable feature dwells at the contrived rather than quirky end of the spectrum. A middle of the road ménage-à-trois offering, Three is a falls short of the complete cinematic package.