A Mirror of Time By Maria Kornatowska

in 24th Haifa International Film Festival

by Maria Kornatowska

The 24th edition of the Haifa International Film Festival was an unconventional, unique event. A multi-cultural and multi-layered experience in a multi-cultural and multi-ethnic city. There was a well thought-out selection and choice of films with several interesting sections such as East of the West, The Boston — Haifa Film Connection, The Golden Age of the Directors — Hollywood in the 70s — and retrospectives, among others, of popular Israeli filmmaker, Eitan Green. There are also concerts, debates and meetings. The movies shown in the competitions were ambitious and artistic in general, sometimes formally and intellectually challenging. I especially praise The Art of Negative Thinking (Kunsten a tenke negativt) by Norwegian director Bard Breien in the FIPRESCI competition. Convincingly acted and intelligently written, it was daring and provocative, undermining conventional cliches of the politically correct attitude towards disabled people. The large close-ups are very important for the meaning and message of Breien’s film.

We notice a comeback to close-ups of characters in low budget artistic movies. The actor’s face becomes a landscape of emotions and thoughts, reflecting hidden characteristics and an ambiguous inner life. You could see it in the interesting psychological social drama by Christophe Van Rompaey, Moscow, Belgium (Aanrijding in Moscou) evidently influenced by the Dardenne brothers. In many films, like the FIPRESCI prize winner The Desert Within (Desierto adentro) by Mexican director Rodrigo Plá or Delta by Hungarian filmmaker Kornél Mundruczó, faces in close-ups are connected in a certain way to nature, to the real landscape. This narrative solution gives the films a new dimension, sometimes clearly psychological, sometimes even metaphysical.

The cinema is almost always a mirror of time. The main theme of many of the films in Haifa was loneliness, a new kind of loneliness in the family, a gap between parents and children, between husbands and wives, between friends and lovers. The theme of desperate loneliness is clear in Mermaid (Rusalka) by Anna Melikian (FIPRESCI Prize in Berlin 2008, review). On the other hand her film is a bitter and critical image of present-day Russia.

Jewish identity and the Jewish destiny linked often with the memory of the Holocaust was among the most important and strong subjects in Haifa. The Israeli-Polish co-production Spring 1941 by Uri Barbash and Amos Gitai’s film with Jeanne Moreau, One Day You’ll Understand (Plus tard) revealed a different perspective on these issues.