Generation conflicts in some competition films at the 39th Moscow International Film Festival
Youngsters have always rebelled against grown-ups, because they are too conservative. But what if children oppose parents who are too liberal?
This happens in Star Boys (Kaiken se kestää) by Finnish director Visa Koiso-Kanttila (born 1970). The film is inspired by his coming-of- age experience in the late 1970s. We meet two 13-year- old boys, Vesa and Kaarlo, in a northern Finnish village. Here conservative Christian ethics seems to underlie the upbringing, especially in sexual matters.
Vesa’s mother tells him not to masturbate in bed but rather say his evening prayers. At the same time he and his friend Kaarlo witness how the love between their parents falls apart. Vesa’s father becomes openly intimate with Kaarlo’s mother at a party. Soon they have sex.
“Whoremonger,” cries Vesa to his father. The father, an architect, behaves like a sexually self-centred guy who goes after his neighbour’s wife. The story ends with the two boys rebelling against their parents who have brought uncertainty into their lives, leading to a divorce in Kaarlo’s family and bringing his father on the brink of suicide.
It is hard to understand that parents can behave as uncaringly as in Star Boys. But this is what the director wants us to discuss.
A parallel rage unfolds in No Bed for Roses by Mostofa Sarwar Farooki from Bangladesh. This film is also inspired by personal experience. After having been married for 27 years, a famous film director falls in love with the beautiful friend of his own daughter. He divorces his wife and gets married to the young beauty.
The film has been banned in Bangladesh because divorce and remarriage is a taboo in a conservative Muslim culture. Now one could expect that Farooki would focus on how a middle-aged man must fight for the right to have a new wife. Instead he highlights the rage of the daughter, Saberi, who feels that her father has failed his wife and two children. When the father understands that his son is being bullied at school because of his behaviour, he asks him to tell his schoolmates that his father is a bad person. Then hopefully the bullying will stop.
What positively comes out of Saberi’s rage is that she encourages her mother to become active in her own life. In a beautiful scene the daughter praises her mother for having achieved this.
Are these films reactionary in their related messages? Well, they can be misused by powers who wish to prohibit divorce and sexual expression. In my opinion this is a misinterpretation. Both directors show us the wounds in the minds of children, because grown-ups—especially alpha males—only think about their own needs.
Finally I want to mention the film The Best of all Worlds (Die Beste aller Welten) by the Austrian director Adrian Goiginger. He tells his own story of growing up with a heroin- addicted mother, Helga. The 7-year old boy Adrian in the film is too young for an active rebellion. Instead he suffers from nightmares about monsters as a reaction to Helga’s world, her boyfriend and their friends who used drugs frequently. Adrian’s fears lead to a climax where Helga realizes that she must change her life and have detox treatment.
This is how I read the three films: children deeply wish that their parents should love and honour each other and create a safe haven against the monsters in life. This means that parents must understand that thoughtless self-realization may harm the young generation.
Edited by Birgit Beumers
© FIPRESCI 2017