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Posts tagged ‘detachment’

8
Apr

Vargtimmen


Vargtimmen (1968)
★★ / ★★★★

“Vargtimmen” or “Hour of the Wolf” plays on the idea that between night and dawn, it is the time when most people are born and most people die. It is also the time when we are haunted by our greatest fears whether we are asleep or awake. Written and directed by Ingmar Bergman, while I thought the story was interesting, I can’t quite recommend it because I know Bergman was capable of producing a stronger picture. It just didn’t have the signature tension that most of his movies had. I absolutely loved Liv Ullmann’s scenes because she had a talent for balancing sweetness, anxiety, fear and internal rage. This was highlighted when she talked to the camera such as in the first and last scenes. I wanted to console her and ask her about the finer details of what she thought happened to her increasingly detached husband. While I thought the performances were fine, such as Max von Sydow as Ullmann’s husband who was afraid of the dark, nobody else could match the lead actress’ intensity so I felt like she somewhat carried the film. For a horror film, I didn’t feel scared for a second because it really was more about the fractured mind of von Sydow–how the guilt for something he had done in the past had suddenly become so unbearable; and how one experience he had as a child had changed the way he dealt with irrational fears. As for the people they met in a gothic castle, they were more strange (and amusing) than anything. While they did have their moments, Bergman did not really give the audiences a chance to understand what they really about. For me, they were more like cackling fools in a corner instead of malevolent strangers whose sole intention is to harm. I know a plethora of people who love the cinema that consider “Vargtimmen” a classic. I certainly do not because I don’t feel like it all came together as a strong whole. In the end, I had more questions than answers. While it did incorporate the subject of psychology in its story, it lacked tension. Instead of really being enveloped into the story, I constantly questioned what the point was. For those unfamiliar with Bergman’s work, “Hour of the Wolf” may seem pretty good. But for those who are not, we all know this is not his finest hour (and a half).

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7
Sep

Beau Travail


Beau Travail (1999)
★ / ★★★★

This movie about French soldiers stationed in Djibouti left a big question mark in my head. At first I thought Claire Denis, the director, was trying to establish the characters via showing us the ennui of military life: from ironing clothes, making the perfect creases to the every day physical and mental training the soldiers had to endure. But half-way through the picture, nothing much changed and I felt myself becoming more and more frustrated with it. I wanted to know more about what made the characters tick. Instead, by the end of the picture, I couldn’t tell them apart (especially since they all have the same haircuts but that’s beside the point), I didn’t know anything about their motivations, and I didn’t know anything about their lives outside of the military. In a nutshell, it felt very one-dimensional. That feeling of detachment made me not care and watching the film was like pulling teeth. I’ve read some summaries from other reviews and they somehow found a story that the film tried to tell. Upon reading those reviews, I really felt like I watched a completely different movie because none of those descriptions matched what I saw (which was pretty much half-naked guys runnning around all over the desert). Don’t get me wrong; I enjoy movies that are stripped down with minimal dialogue but they have to have sort of emotional resonance. I didn’t find that in this picture despite my best efforts to look underneath the surface. The only scene that I genuinely enjoyed was the last when Denis Lavant broke into a dance. It felt like a huge sigh of relief because the rest of the movie felt so controlled, cold and tough. If they had more scenes like that, this train-wreck would’ve been saved. Unfortunately, it was too little too late.