EIGHT AND A HALF FILMS

This year the program “Eight and a Half” celebrates its 20th anniversary. These two decades feel like light years. Who could have thought back in 1999 that the present generation of viewers would watch films on smartphones, download movies from torrents and turn their homes into high-quality movie theatres? One could recall that the very first screening in the program “Eight and a Half” was almost called off because the film containers with Michael Glawogger’s “Megacities” had got stuck at the customs and were howled into the projection booth in the “Udarnik” cinema at the last moment when the house was full and astir with anticipation. But I will stress it once again, the basic constituents of cinema – the plot, the acting, the directing – are essentially the same as in the times of Lumiere or the Coen and Dardenne brothers. The same is true even of the editing! Sometimes the good old over the shoulder shot looks more avant-garde than the piercing non-systematic clip-like flickering. In general, the formal dies faster than the real. Let’s say the once immensely popular video clips of the 80s seem less fresh than the recordings of live concerts of the same years. This does not mean that we are no longer interested in the new ways of comprehending reality. Thus, Cyril Schäublin’s striking debut «Those Who Are Fine» is shot like a security camera recording, which has become an omnipresent phenomenon of the present day. While the consistent post-modernist Peter Strickland intentionally shrouds the present-day life in the vintage mist in his “In Fabric”. Often a film, which is absolutely classical as far as its form is concerned, might look almost avant-garde, as is the case with Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s “Never Look Away” nominated for the Oscar and the Golden Globe. Nowadays few authors can rise to the heights of real instead of soap-opera epic, but that was definitely the case here. By the way, there is another reason why this wonderful movie is of paramount importance to us: it contains serious reflections about art as such, its protagonist is an artist who lived through several epochs in the 20th century. Moreover, a lot of the ideas voiced by the character will resonate with the half-comic kitchen discussions about “the death of the word” under the onslaught of the digital revolution which fill the movie “Non Fiction” by the film intellectual Olivier Assayas. Sometimes, though, new cinema is not born out of adhering to, or turning inside out, the old forms to comply with the modern trends, but appears as a result of the filmmaker’s strong presence. A good example is Ognjen Glavonic’s “The Load”, where the main character remains almost silent throughout the movie but manages to tell us about the madness of war more than many expensive large-scale battle films. A lot is said about the fragility of human relations in the Italian film “Dafne” which in my opinion was the best work screened at the latest Berlinale. Moreover, the utter freshness of perception is found in works which the purists would readily classify as the despised mainstream, but there is nothing one can do when Trine Dyrholm’s performance in “Queen of Hearts” is truly brilliant?

 

Peter Shepotinnik