Cinema's Best Ingredients Make for the Best Films

in 11st Transilvania International Film Festival

by Salome Kikaleishvili

Making the perfect film is like cooking the perfect dish. If you use just the right amount of the best ingredients the result can be legendary, but if you forget even a tiny bit of a key ingredient the outcome will be mediocre at best.

The films presented in the programme “Gods and Men” at the 11th Transilvania International Film Festival reminded me of how important it is to use the proper ingredients in just the right way so as to achieve a masterpiece. And despite the directors’ best efforts to take on difficult and often taboo topics (such as Christianity and Islam, and the relationship between man and God) in both comic and serious tones, they were all missing that key ingredient — that extra pinch of something, or dash of something else, that would make their film unique and memorable.

In The Year of the Tiger (El año del tigre), by Chilean director Sebastian Lelio, the huge earthquake that struck Chile in 2010 means that the prison where Manuel has been serving his sentence falls down. He gets lucky and escapes amid the chaos, but he finds himself alone against more powerful forces. He does not have a home or family anymore. He has to bury his mother by digging her grave with a pot cover. And while he had dreamt of his freedom for so long, this is now all he has, and he is left to find his place in the world from scratch. Despite the director’s efforts to tell a story about man’s freedom in a prosaic way, the film is not very unique or memorable. It is missing that key ingredient, the kernel that would have made Manuel different from other lost heroes.

Dominik Moll’s film The Monk (Le moine), starring Vincent Cassel, reminds us of a story by Faust. The young and strong monk Ambrosio becomes blinded by the devil; he sleeps with his sister and kills his mother. Blood, sex and God — what can be more interesting than that? Moll knows this very well and this seems to be why he made this movie, using primitive and cheap tricks to boost emotions on an already salacious topic. The film features lightning illuminating evil faces at night shaded in blue. We see a monk floating in love under swaying white curtains. The garden hosts poisonous octopuses sprawling around, accompanied by intimidating music and a tempting woman hiding beyond the masked monk. It is all a bit forced, and the details get lost in the show.

The heroes of the French film Donoma by director Djinn Carrenard commit sins too. But each hero deserves their own movie, and it is a big mistake to put them together just because of one word: “love”. The sexual relationship between a teacher and a student; that student’s relationship with his girlfriend whose sister is ill; the relationship between the sisters; the love story of a photographer from Ghana and a stranger who meet in a subway; the girlfriend that the stranger turns out to have and their relationship. Are you confused? The director attempts to go deep into each character’s story, but during the two hours and 13 minutes the result is more chaotic than illuminating. A meal best left out of the recipe book.

There were, however, two delicacies in the group.

First, the winner of the FIPRESCI prize — British director Paddy Considine’s film Tyrannosaur. It tells the story of two lonely people in middle age — aggressive, rude, and merciless Joseph and trustworthy Hannah, who works in a charity shop. Despite quite a bit of violence, this film leaves you with feelings of hope, love, and faith. A convincing environment, wonderful characters, a well-built script, a good director, and, of course, brilliant acting by British actors Peter Mullan, Olivia Colman and Eddie Marsan, mean this film leaves a memorable taste on your palate.

Second, is the film A Confession (Gan-jeung) by Korean director Park Su-min. It is a dark story about a retired police officer who tortured people while he was on the job. It follows his struggle with the past, which haunts him, and the inevitable vengeance that he has coming. A Confession may remind you of Kim Ki-duk and his sharp feelings of pain and regret, as well as Takeshi Kitano with his harshness and mercilessness. All this together with the actor Kwon Hyeok-poong’s “simplicity” makes the film an outstanding menu option.

It was on the last day, after the competition was finished, that we saw the festival’s best film. Carl Theodor Dreyer’s Vampyr, filmed in 1932, was shown in the garden of an old 16th century house. Was this one film not worth everything? It was like a lesson to all filmmakers on how to cook up a good movie.