Archives for posts with tag: BFI London Film Festival

On the closing day of the festival, I caught this French film (director Stephane Brize) at Screen on the Green. I was drawn to it mainly due to its thematic content, but also by the fact that it featured Vincent Lindon in the lead role, an actor I rate, and who I last saw in the sublime Madomoiselle Chambon, which was also directed by Stephane Brize.

Lindon, as Alain Evrard in Quelques Heures de Printemps, plays a role that he excels at, the dour, melancholic, and often silent, loner. Recently released from prison having served 18 months for smuggling goods while a long-distance truck driver, Evrard finds himself jobless, homeless, and forced to live with his widowed mother. The relationship is fraught, fuelled by the tension of decades of the unsaid. It seems too late for reconciliation between mother and son, too much history exists and now, apart from jibes and shouting, they are unable to communicate with each other.

But then… the plot widens, to that of the widowed mother with a terminal illness, who has booked herself into a clinic in Switzerland for assisted suicide. Inevitably, this leads to a re-involvement with her son, who accompanies her to said clinic. At the end, there is a reconciliation of sorts.

I did like this film, and both mother (Helene Vincent) and son enact beautiful and often understated roles. They are believable, at least initially. The mother’s oncologist is also impressive, honest, empathic and supportive. But the plot felt contrived. Assisted suicide is a very tricky subject, and here it felt like a (tragic) tool to push other agendas forward, most especially that of the unresolved mother, and of her unexpressed feelings for her son. The superb film, The Sea, came to mind, where assisted suicide was the only agenda, and benefitted from this exclusivity.

And other little things irked, like the jigsaw the mother completed in the weeks before her death resembling the view from the Swiss clinic…

I am glad I saw it. It has made me consider the many issues it raised. But the film also suffers from a lack of focus on these issues, none of which were truly addressed.

Yet, perhaps this confusion most accurately reflects that which we call life…

CQ

One of 14 Irish films at the festival, Pat Collins’ piece is mesmerising, and also very difficult to classify. Primarily a documentarist, Collins’ latest film does not fit into the documentary genre. But it also lies beyond the world of fiction, with little in the way of plot, or ‘traditional’ narrative.

The film follows Eoghan, resident in Berlin but originally from a small island, Tory, of northwestern Ireland. Eoghan is seeking silence, and we join him on his quest to capture an experience that excludes man-made or man-related sounds. Inevitably, the endeavour fails, or is perhaps re-directed, as Eoghan moves closer to Tory, which he last visited 15 years previously. In the end, he re-visits the derelict home of his growing up, which is poignantly empty of sound.

As Collins said in the Q&A after the screening, the film is more about sound than about silence. As his journey progresses, Eoghan engages more with others, speaking in his native Irish, and all the time, subconsciously or otherwise, edging closer to ‘home’.

It is tempting, and fraught, to speculate on the meaning behind Silence, and to analyse what it may be trying to achieve. I loved this film. During the screening, and since, I have considered both the concept of home (Brian Dillon’s book In the Dark Room: A Journey in Memory came to mind) and its impossibility, a nowhere and an everywhere, and that of silence. Silence means many things, beyond an absence of sound, which can be welcome, but also deeply threatening, and a profound signifier of loss.

CQ

I just saw this independent debut film by director/screenwriter Scott Graham. A gem, it is beautiful, thought-provoking, and deeply melancholic.

Set in the remote Scottish Highlands, Shell is both contemporary and timeless. The story revolves around a seventeen year old girl, Shell, who lives in a garage with her dad, in the middle of nowhere. At times a week might go by without seeing another person.

Shell’s mother left when she was four, a loss which is central to the narrative. Her relationship with her dad is close, and complex, and ultimately tragic.

The film moves slowly – at times perhaps too ponderously – punctuated by many silences and against a background of empty roads and a magnificant landscape. It is about broken and unfixable cars, and about people who are beyond, or so it appears to themselves, repair.

At times the symbolism jarred and felt overly contrived – the name Shell and its inevitable association with oil, the bloodied deer and blood on the hands, and thunderous and threatening trucks… But this is a minor quibble.

A Q&A followed with the director and the actor Chloe Pirrie (Shell, very impressive debut on the big screen). I mentioned another film with a similar setting, the wonderful Irish film Garage, which, though thematically very different, also uses the iconic garage in the middle of nowhere as a backdrop. Such symbols are now something of the past, perhaps less so in the Highlands, but, as Graham pointed out in his response to my comment, the stories that emanate from what they represent transcend the symbolism, and are not necessarily rooted in a past, or perhaps even a present.

A treat…

 

CQ