About Beautiful Movies

in 25th Ljubljana International Film Festival

by Miroslav Lanik

The charming International Film Festival in Ljubljana, Slovenia, has this year celebrated a quarter of a century in the best possible way, when it presented to an enthusiastic audience some great movies from world cinematography and devoted ample space not only to domestic filmmakers but also young promising filmmakers from around the world. Ljubljana film festival has never been about movie stars and red carpets but always about beautiful movies, screened for passionate and grateful viewers.

There are 4 awards given at the LIFFe festival: the Kingfisher, the FIPRESCI, Best Short Film and the Audience Dragon Awards. In the official competition section of the festival, entitled ‘Perspectives,’ ten first or second feature films by emerging directors were presented, competing for the main Kingfisher Award and the FIPRESCI Award, given by the international jury of film critics.

The competition section ‘Perspectives’ was well put together and of high quality. It consisted of 10 movies from Europe, the United States and Latin America. All of these films had already been screened at prestigious festivals around the world, including Venice, Toronto, Berlin, Cannes, Locarno, Rotterdam, Pulja, Sydney or Sundance and some of them have been awarded at these festivals. 

Casa Grande, Brazil, 2014, Fullpie Barbosa

Casa Granda is the debut of a talented Brazilian director Fellipe Barbosa, named by Filmmaker magazine as one of the ‘New Faces of the Independent film’. His first full-length feature film represents a precise study of the collapse of a wealthy Brazilian family, as well as a critique of a class society, through an intimate story of the adolescent Jean, who grows up in a prominent family in the elite district of Rio de Janeiro (private schools, private chauffeur and other privileges). Jean has a very friendly relationship with the servants – the driver Severin and the housekeeper Rita. They are, however, made redundant by the financial decline of the family. Jean’s father hides from his son the real reason for the servants’ dismissal. Thus begins Jean’s everyday bus ride to school and his growing up. The film draws on a period of the director’s youth and is partly autobiographical. Casa Grande definitely was among the most successful works the competition section offered.

Blind, Norway, 2014, Eskil Vogt 

An ambitious and creative movie of a Norwegian screenwriter and director, Eski Vogt, Blind is a drama, superbly filmed and played, with a brilliant scenario, to which Eskil Vogt applies the  experience from his collaboration with Joachim Trier. Blind is an impressive study of inner states,  about the ability to perceive the environment and our secret desires, including shameful thoughts we would prefer to conceal and not share. Ingrid, brilliantly portrayed by Ellen Dorrit Petersen, gradually loses her sight, which in turn leads her to develop a new perception of the world. Through her imagination and day-dreaming, she faces her demons and tries to cope with the loneliness and fear that she is a burden for her husband, and that he is unfaithful. Under the clever directorial baton of Eski Vogt, the editing imaginatively blending reality and dream fantasy into an escalating drama, both intelligent and surprising.

Goodnight Mommy /Ich seh, Ich seh/, Austria, 2014, Veronika Franz, Severin Fiala

The film Goodnight, Mommy received the main prize of the 25th Ljubljana Film Festival, the Kingfisher Award, which was awarded by the main festival jury, composed of Klemen Dvornik, Michael Pattison and Alexandra Stelkova. This Austrian thriller, produced by Ulrich Seidl, is about two problematic twins (Lukas and Elias) whose mischief makes their mom miserable especially now, when after her plastic surgery her face is a bit disfigured and in bandages. This Austrian nightmare is intensely and carefully constructed from the initial sophisticated art-house designs to the final horror climax. Violence becomes almost unbearably brutal, and I will not be surprised if some viewers made their way towards the exit before the film ended. Fans of more extreme movies should certainly not miss this one, made by Ulrich Seidl’s wife, Veronika Franz with Co-Director Severin Fiala.

The Canadian Film Guidelines (La Marche and suivre) directed by Jean-Francois Caisse, along with the French film of Jean-Charles Hue, titled Eat Your Bones (Mange tes morts) – both documentaries – form a league of their own in the competition section. Guidelines is a portrait of a generation of Canadian students, mapping their progress from the school-room into adulthood. Eat Your Bones, on the other hand, is a thriller, shot in a semi-documentary style, and focusing on the life of Roma ethnic minority. In both cases, these are very high quality movies.

The competition section has also made room for a typical war genre film, the drama Number 55 (Broj 55) made in Croatia by Kristijan Milic. The story is based on true events from Croatian War of Independence.

The German film A Proletarian Winter’s Tale (Ein proletarisches Wintermärchen) is a symbolic story from director Julian Radlmaier who, in this debut work raises in a surprisingly mature manner pressing issues that our world faces – like class struggle, neoconservatism and the discredit of leftist ideals. By the way, didn’t the French Revolution start because of a piece of cake?

The film of Ukrainian director Miroslav Slabošpicki The Tribe (Plemja) was disappointing for me. The movie was preceded by some very promising rumors but definitely did not meet my expectations. It was too calculating, made just for the sensationalist effect, with deaf Ukrainian teenagers portrayed as a tribe of bullies and prostitutes.

Whiplash /Whiplash/, USA, 2014 Damien Chazelle

A musical drama with a elements of thriller, Whiplash by Damien Chazelle has already made an impression at the Sundance and the Cannes Film Festivals. The film tell the story of young Andrew, who dreams of becoming the best jazz drummer, and is willing to sacrifice everything to make this dream come true. In no time however, his passion for perfection turns into obsession, especially  under the guidance by his heartless and sadistic professor Fletcher, who is constantly pushing Andrew to cross the limits of his ability and sanity. The conflict between Andrew, the student, and Flecther, the autocratic professor and conductor with psychopathic deviations, escalates before our eyes. During rehearsals, the arrogant, infuriated Fletcher yells at the students – members of the orchestra – insulting and even physically attacking them. At times I had the feeling I was watching a military boot camp drama rather than a rehearsal of a jazz orchestra; a story about strenuous sporting drill rather than uplifting film about music, jazz and art.

Buzzard /Buzzard/USA, 2014, Joel Potrykus 

At the 25th Ljubljana International Film Festival the FIPRESCI jury was mostly captivated by an American film Buzzard directed by Joel Potrykus, who has also plays a supporting role in his movie. This eccentric American independent film is a tribute to horror culture with numerous references to horror movies, metal music and, one could also say, to junk-food. The film portrays Marty Jackitansky (Joshua Burge), an amiable slacker who tries to abuse and use the system for his own benefit by conjuring small con games. He believes he is rebelling against the system, but is himself a part of it. Marty is a weirdo who you can’t really like but at the same time you can not despise. The film thus oscillates between generating sympathy and antipathy towards Marty, who goes from bad to worse, moves from one scam to another, and when it seem he is going to be caught, he takes refuge at Derek’s (Joel Potrykus) Party Zone. His downward descent follows a succession of even worse decision. Stunning is a scene where he is in a hotel room lying in bed, watching telly and obscenely eating spaghetti; paradoxically, this is the only scene where you can see Marty happy. This honest black comedy is an original, peculiar film which, thanks to its artistic  attributes and adaptation, is on its way of becoming a cult.

Edited by Christina Stojanova