Published September 28, 2009
Every film festival has one semi-pornographic film to generate debate. Last year it was Short Bus, this year it’s Lars von Trier’s Antichrist that gets the job done. Trier seems, like his compatriot Lukas Moodyson, to believe that the filmmaker’s task is to make his audience as uncomfortable as possible. This he succeeds in, admirably. But what is the point? For a while, it seems to be posing an interesting question. Satanists tend to believe that Satan is a metaphor for nature and hence good. But what if nature is, in fact, truly Satanic? Instead of dealing with this question, we get an orgy of genital mutilation which quickly becomes tiresome. Skip the movie, go look at the stills in the Reykjavík Art Museum instead.
At the other end of the spectrum is Patrik 1.5, as much of a feelgood movie as they come. A gay couple adopts a teenage problem child. It is enjoyable to watch, compare and contrast with similar scenes from TV show Six Feet Under.
It used to be that documentaries critiquing capitalism were only shown at underground gatherings where you would look both ways before entering. It says a lot about the changing mood of our times that they have now become a staple at film festivals. Food Inc, which includes Eric Schlosser, the man who gave us Fast Food Nation, is a decent stab at the meat industry. Really, why is a hamburger, which costs a lot to make, cheaper than a bag of carrots? Why do we subsidise junk food but not vegetables?
Another documentary that does a good job of enlightening the viewer on some of the issues of the day is Defamation, about how anti-Semitism is being used in Israel. The scenes of the students travelling to Auschwitz in a closed bus say more than many a news story about the problems in the Middle East. “I want to learn to have that look in my eye, which says ‘Never Forgive,’” says one of the children.
Being a Finnish drunk seems to be a pleasant prospect. Mika Kaurismäki steps out of big brother Aki’s shadow for Three Wise Men. The film takes place among three drunk men at a karaoke bar on Christmas Eve, all sharing their hard luck stories. It doesn’t come to much more than a mildly interesting evening at the bar, but at least you skip the hangover.
One of the festival’s more interesting experiences was the Norwegian art film Dead Snow, which poses the question: “What would happen if a group of teenagers ran into a group of Nazi zombies while hiking?” The film answers this question in considerable detail. Being able to see it in a swimming pool (one of the fest’s gimmicks) was fun, even if the sound was a bit off.
Storm is one of this festival’s pleasant surprises. One just doesn’t see enough of films about European bureaucrats who all speak English with various strange accents. In fact, it is a gripping story about a lawyer who tries to get a Serbian War Criminal convicted in spite of corruption and politics on her side. Perhaps they’ll soon make a similar movie about Eva Joly.
Franceska, however, is one of this year’s disappointments, despite having offended Alexandra Mussolini. A film about Romanian immigrants in Italy is promising. Sadly, they never get there and it is hard to feel sympathetic for people who seem to have no idea what they are doing.
Deadgirl was this year’s Midnight movie. It is an interesting take on the vampire myth, and a juxtaposition of the Twilight series. A group of teenagers find a living dead girl and decide to use her as a sex slave. The film probably says more about the strict caste system in American sexuality than it intends, and is in any case more realistic than Revenge of the Nerds.