10th December 2012 (Day #2)
Today onwards, it is down-to-business at the Dubai International Film Festival. Of the three movies I watched today, a Chinese, a German film and a French film, I had much hope from the German film. But alas, it was the most disappointing of the three movies I watched.
Set in rural mainland China, specifically inner Mongolia, THE LOVE SONGS OF TIEDAN is a light-hearted family drama built around the art of Er Ren Tai, a style of folk-song performance. Over the film’s span of 26-odd years, we first meet Tiedan as a little boy, smitten by his father’s friend. When we rejoin him later as an adult he has learnt singing from his father as an art, farming being is daytime occupation. Over time, we see Tiedan grow up and go through love, heart-break and eventual serenity. All through, Er Ren Tai performances are threaded into the movie’s fabric. Shot almost entirely outdoors, the movie is lovely to watch and an adequate amount of humour keeps it light-hearted and engrossing. While the movie isn't exceptional enough to win accolades, the intriguing mix of Er Ren Tai and cinematic story-telling make for a fascinating viewing.
One of the ways to make a road movie ineffective is to not take its story or characters anywhere. Not just in terms of geographical distance, but in the emotional journey the principal characters take. KILL ME makes that fundamental error. We are introduced to Adele, a forlorn teenage girl who is contemplating suicide, but doesn’t have the courage to go through with it. As luck would have it, an escaped convict finds refuge in her house. Adele agrees to help him escape, if he agrees to push her off a cliff once they are out of danger. Unfortunately, the director fails to capitalize on this juicy setup. We learn little about the two main characters over the course of their journey. In fact, it doesn't lead them anywhere – when the film finishes, the characters are in the same emotional state as well as predicament that they were before they set off. Neither have they come to terms with their selves and their issues, nor have they achieved freedom (or death, in the case of Adele). The drab episodes they encounter during their journey don’t add any significance either. KILL ME would probably have been a lot more interesting if it was about the girl trying to keep the convict hidden in her home-town, waiting to let him escape safely and thus explore the relationship they share.
Director Joachim Lafosse had everything at his disposal in OUR CHILDREN. A fantastic story, award winning actors and the expertise to pull off a stunner. While he manages to bring all the elements together nicely, OUR CHILDREN suffers from being too matter-of-fact. OUR CHILDREN is a tragic family drama about a woman’s entrapment in a life that, due to no fault of anyone in particular, starts suffocating her. Murielle is blessed with four children and a loving husband, but they have to live with the husband’s brother-in-law, an elderly well-to-do doctor who provides them room in his house as well as everyday support, including financial. Indebted to him, the husband tries to bring a balance between the wife, children and the doctor. The film’s focus is on the deteriorating mental state of Murielle. Unfortunately, as good as Émilie Dequenne’s performance is as Murielle, the movie fails to convince that this ordinary woman going through a moderately tense situation could spiral into her eventual mental state. The shifts in her demeanour are neither progressive, nor extreme. In fact, there is little that can explain her final act. Simply put, though the ingredients were all there for the perfect recipe, the chef just messes up this one.
Day 3 features a couple of award-winning movies including the year’s Golden Lion winner. Look out for my report tomorrow as I present my view of whether the movies were deserving of their recognition, or not!