Film FestivalFilm Festival Reviews: London ’02

46th London Film Festival: reviews are listed alphabetically
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Back to the SHADOWS FILM FEST page • FESTIVAL SHORTSlast update 14.Nov.02

back to the top OCTAVIA
dir-scr Basilio Martin Patino
with Miguel Angel Sola, Margarita Lozano, Antonia San Juan, Blanca Oteyza, Menh Wai Trinh, Jaime Losada, Monica Cervera, Javier Batanero, Paul Naschy, Aurora Bautista, Berta Riaza, Javier Rioyo
release UK Nov.02 lff • 02/Spain 2h08 2½ out of 5 stars
Posey as Greta This dense and thoughtful Spanish epic focuses finely on an old world family in Salamanca. Back home after 40 years as a mysterious spy, prodigal son Rodrigo (Sola) is trying to make sense of history and his own life, reconnecting with the family matriarch (Lozano) and other members of his family. Including his illegitimate daughter Manuela (San Juan), whom he never acknowledged, and her daughter Octavia (Oteyza), fathered by a Colombian guerrilla while Manuela was working as a nun ... and trying to follow her father. But no one knows how Manuela and Octavia are connected to the family, and this lack of truthfulness will cause all sorts of tragedy before the film ends.
The irony is strong: a man obsessed with history who simply cannot face his own past; he spent his life undermining governments and systems and yet is completely bound by the class system he was born into; his privilege gives him a power over his past that Manuela and Octavia can never hope to have. Director Patino crafts a film that's absolutely beautiful to look at--rich and lush and yet realistic and rough around the edges. His script, on the other hand, simply doesn't know when to shut up. It's so wordy that it nearly does our heads in, flipping from conversation to narrative and back again in a split second. It's impossible to take it all in! And the film is divided into six chapters with extremely pretentious titles. Honestly, cinema is a blending of sight and sound, not a bombardment of both at the same time! Yes, it's fascinating and layered, dealing brilliantly with some very tricky issues, but there's just too much in here. And by the end, our loyalties have shifted so much that we find it hard to even care. [themes, language, some nudity] 12.Nov.02 lff
back to the top OPEN HEARTS [Elsker dig for Evigt]
dir Susanne Bier; scr Anders Thomas Jensen
with Sonja Richter, Mads Mikkelsen, Paprika Steen, Nikolaj Lie Kaas, Stine Bjerregaard, Birthe Neumann, Niels Olsen, Ronnie Hiort Lorenzen, Pelle Bang Sorensen, Ulf Pilgaard, Anders Nyborg, Ida Dwinger
release US 21.Feb.03; UK 4.Apr.03 • Zentropa 02/Denmark 1h54 4 out of 5 stars
Mikkelsen and Richter Here's yet another brilliant film from the home of the Dogme 95 Manifesto, a strong story about love strained to the breaking point. Cecile and Joachim (Richter and Kaas) are madly in love, planning to get married when a shocking event changes all their plans and leaves them reeling and struggling to even communicate. This also interlocks their lives with Niels and Marie (Mikkelsen and Steen), who are married with three kids. Marie encourages Niels to help Cecile cope with what has happened, and soon the two are involved in an affair. But how these four characters react to the situation is completely unpredictable--to them and to us.
Dogme guidelines eliminate any cinematic trickery, but director Bier doesn't need to worry. Her story is simple and very human, and in using this intimate filmmaking style and a natural, expressive cast, she creates an honest, open film that completely blurs the lines between reality and cinema. This feels so real that it takes our breath away--it's moving, profoundly involving and deeply meaningful. As the characters twist and turn through the story, we are right there with them, drawn in by both the open performances and the intimate filmmaking. Eventually it gets almost unbearably tense, while never losing the warmth and humour that make these people accessible. It's skilfully directed and edited, and the script is terrific, although it's strangely anti-male. The women are tough and resilient while the men are, essentially, opportunistic slimeballs. This, as well as a slight tendency to overstate and romanticise things, grates slightly. But it's still a powerfully moving drama that's well worth seeing. [15 adult themes and situations, violence, nudity, language] 6.Nov.02
back to the top SCARS [Glasskår]
dir Lars Berg; scr Lars Berg, Harald Rosenlow Eeg
with Eirik Evjen, Jonas Lauritzsen, Martin Jonny Raaen Eidissen, Eirik Stigar, Kristine Skolt Gjertsen, Joachim Rafaelsen, Janne Kokkin, Lasse Kolsrud, Madeleine Johansen, Robert Skjaerstad, Iben M Akerlie, Bjarte Hjelmeland
release UK Nov.02 lff • 02/Norway 1h26 4 out of 5 stars
evjen as viktor Norwegian director Berg takes an unusual approach in this film about a young teen boy: He makes an honest, artistic film with adult production values that actually speaks to kids. The content may seem a bit grown up, but it's right where these children live! Sometime in the 1980s, Viktor (Evjen), a sharp, perceptive 13-year-old who's afraid he will never be as cool as his big brother OK (Lauritzsen). His pals (Eidissen and Stigar) seem to feel the same, so they form a band just to get the girls' attention, even though none of them can play an instrument. Meanwhile, Viktor knows something's up in his family. His parents (Kokkin and Kolsrud) are not talking to him, while OK tells him secrets he finds hard to believe. Meanwhile, Viktor notices a new girl (Johansen) and gets entangled with the local thug (Rafaelsen) and his girlfriend (Gjertsen). Basically, Viktor knows far more than anyone gives him credit for. And he cooler than all of them put together!
While the filmmaking itself is profoundly un-flashy, Berg captures the story beautifully. This is rich, meaningful cinema--thoroughly entertaining in its use of humour and unexpected adventures to keep us engaged, and then deepening it with a fairly intense examination of family communication (what the film is really about, as opposed to more obvious themes). Why do adults lie and keep the truth from children? Sometimes this is a little heavy-handed, but it's never sentimental at all, and Berg gets terrific, natural, edgy performances from the entire cast. Evjen is especially good, making Viktor a very intriguing character we like instantly and then learn to respect (he becomes a bit too saintly at the end, but never mind). It's rare to find a film about children made with this level of integrity and truthfulness; so keep an eye out for it. [themes, language] 9.Nov.02 lff
back to the top STATE OF THE NATION: Austria in Six Chapters [Zur Lage]
dir-scr Barbara Albert, Michael Glawogger, Ulrich Seidl, Michael Sturminger
release UK Nov.02 lff • 02/Austria 1h28 3½ out of 5 stars
a young couple contemplates the future In this intriguing experiment, four Austrian filmmakers take their cameras to the streets to find out what's going on in their country, most notably why in the last election the country elected a far-right candidate (Jorg Haidler) to the presidency. The film is divided into six documentary segments of varying lengths, capturing the rhythms of life around the country. The most startling thing is seeing how racism and intolerance is woven so deeply into the fabric of everyday life. We begin with a series of drivers talking to filmmaker Glawogger, who hitch-hiked around the countryside. What they say gets increasingly worrying, even as each one is a normal, quite likeable person unaware just how disturbing their opinions are. Other segments look at an obsessive man who has walled himself into his tightly ordered (and hilarious!) life, five single mothers trying to adjust their dreams to their realities, a series of "typical families" interviewed by a smiling TV presenter, and so on.
The reason this is all so entertaining is simple: These people are profoundly deluded, and we laugh at the irony as they talk about how their lives are fine but would be even more perfect if, for example, all the foreigners could just leave them in peace. But even as we laugh, a chill of horror runs up our spine. Not only are these people deeply misguided about the nations that border their country, but they are passing their prejudices to their children. One young boy mimics his father's opinions that putting a mosque in Austria is just wrong ... although he says he has Muslim friends in school, so you can see him struggling with the issue. His older brother is more indoctrinated, saying he could never have a Muslim friend. The frequent references to Hitler and Nazi Germany are especially unsettling, for obvious reasons. And we certainly can't miss the implications of all of this in a world that's swiftly moving to the right with more isolationism and less compassion. [themes, language] 10.Nov.02 lff
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© 2002 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall