Κυριακή, 29 Μαρτίου 2015

The Broken Circle Breakdown (2012)

Director: Felix van Groeningen
Writers: Johan Heldenbergh (play), Mieke Dobbels (play)
With: Veerle Baetens, Johan Heldenbergh, Nell Cattrysse
Duration: 111'
Production: Belgium, Netherlands

I always find it hard to write down my thoughts when it comes to films I love. "The Broken Circle Breakdown" is one of them. This intense Belgian drama took over my consciousness for many days. For its strong narrative and storyline are breathtaking and every shot vibrates out of real life. 

Nominated at the 2014 Oscars for Best Foreign Language Film for Belgium, this film made an intense impression worldwide because of its inner strength to narrate a magnificent love story between two earthly creatures. 

Didier is a musician, specified in the banjo. He sings and plays for a bluegrass band. Elise is a tattoo artist with her own tattoo shop. They fall in love instantly. Their shared love for American music and culture will bring them even closer. Soon their life together begins and they have a daughter. The girl is diagnosed though, with an aggressive type of cancer and their lives change dramatically. We follow the course of their relationship by reversed narration. Pieces of their life appear in front of our eyes in order to understand the depth of their love and all those incidents leading to the present. 

The characters evolve gradually through the unfolding of their story, making you fall in love with them without even trying. They have a natural coolness, they way they fall in love, the way they live, singing together on stage, raising their daughter as free as possible. They live absorbed by their strong feelings for each other, a love that seems to grow every day. But cancer decomposes little by little that bond. Suddenly what drew them together sets them apart. 

Where once was deep love is now replaced by enormous confusion. Didier, a strong-minded atheist finds it difficult to suppress his opinion about the world and religion, while Elise has found a shelter and comfort through it. Their differences in how they see the world have enlarged through their daughter's illness. Elise, a woman full of temperament has found her soulmate in Didier and he feels exactly the same. But how can you fight life's struggles when the ego stands in front of you building a stiff wall?

"The Broken Circle Breakdown" is an intense elegy on true love between two different people who merged their lives and created a new one, a better and happier one. But their shared life is cracked and smashed from life's cruelty and harshness. The remains of their love are falling apart and they are losing each other along with their own selves. It takes a lot of courage to just go on even when you feel you have lost everything. 

Felix van Groeningen has created, through magnificent storytelling, a heartbreaking love story, presenting the true power of love. He has adapted skillfully the play "The Broken Circle Breakdown Featuring the Cover-Ups of Alabama" by Mieke Dobbels and Johan Heldenbergh, who is playing the role of Didier. 

With an amazing bluegrass soundtrack (performed by the protagonists themselves), inspiring performances and a great story, "The Broken Circle Breakdown" will make you laugh, hope and love, but mostly will make you want to live a full life/ With no regrets, no mistakes. Just a life filled with love. Can you handle it?

Δευτέρα, 2 Μαρτίου 2015

Turist (Force Majeure) (2014)

Direction: Ruben Östlund
Writer: Ruben Östlund
Stars: Johannes Kuhnke, Lisa Loven Kongsli, Clara Wettergren
Duration: 120min
Production: Sweden, France, Norway

Set in the cold and unfriendly environment of the French Alps, a Swedish family will try to find peace at their ski vacation. The work-addict father, the loving mother and their two young children. After facing an avalanche at lunch, their seemingly strong family bonds will be shaken to their core, leaving them all numb and doubtful. 

Tomas and Ebba seem to be very close to each other and their lovely family. They decide to escape in the French Alps to share some quality time with their two children, Harry and Vera. An incident at the ski resort, an unexpected, uncontrolled avalanche, will shake up their relationship. Ebba will remain speechless and terrified while the avalanche crosses them leaving everyone unharmed. But Tomas, at an attempt to survive, will flee the scene, avoiding helping his family and his screaming son, leaving only shreds of doubts behind him. 

"Turist" has an unprecedented tension, but not in the way you expect. It is subtle, hidden, almost invisible tension that changes slowly and gradually the nature of this family's bonds. Disappointment comes with doubt, but mostly with anger when the patriarch of the family denies his own actions, trying to avoid, not only the confrontation with his wife, but also with himself. By facing Ebba's feelings, through the couple's social meetings with friends at the ski resort, Tomas will feel bewildered and falsely accused, trying to bury the incident in an attempt to avoid dealing with his wife, but mostly the truth. 

It is absolutely fascinating how the roles between the couple change. At first and just after the incident, Ebba acts and feels like the victim, abandoned and mocked by the man who is supposed to protect his family no matter what. But then it all changes. She accuses Tomas of being a liar and gradually makes him the victim, the one who acted on the wrong instincts and fled, the one who denies everything, the one who failed. She puts him in the corner and strips him up, trying to make him understand the seriousness of his non-actions. And from strong he becomes weak, from leader he becomes a follower. 

This deep family drama evolves quite unpredictably in the idyllic, but terrifying set of the snowy Alps, with an elaborate script from director Ruben Östlund that manages to elevate the damaged relationship skillfully. Accompanied by small doses of classic music, the tension builds throughout the film and grows unevenly till it breaks into small pieces and get scattered everywhere. The collateral damage of this collision are the kids, who sense their parents' distinct separation and close themselves into their own shelter. 

Ebba and Tomas will collide harsh, talking endlessly with each other, fighting, trying to find a solution for themselves and their family. You may already think how heavy of a drama this might be, but here is the awesome part of it; its comic and witty cocoon in which everything happens is inevitably amazing. The reactions, the words, the scenes, all are dominated by this tragicomic feeling that raises the film into one of my favorites of 2015. Ruben Östlund's direction is magnetic, cool colored, alienated and engaged at the same time, managing to convey this family's emotional roller coaster with wit and mastery. 

The essence that this could happen to anyone and the fragility of human relationships in environments like this kept creeping up with me. How would I react, I think. How would he react, I wonder. And how would we get over such a small fraction which grew only to be a humongous gap between us. I wonder. 

P.S.: you gotta love the redhead bearded friend of Tomas --