Lost Souls in Competition

in 22nd Ljubljana International Film Festival

by Nathalie Kester

Looking at the 2011 selection for the Perspectives competition category, it becomes clear that in many of these movies there’s another theme involved. This may or may not have to do with the fact that we’re dealing here with relatively young filmmakers who are still looking for their direction and style. So it’s hardly surprising that a number of the competitors are dealing with young people searching for their place in this confusing universe.          

Even the guy who blows himself up, together with his rucksack of explosives, in a shopping centre in the Belgian film 22nd of May (22 mei) is a loner, mad at the world, because his mother died and he doesn’t want her to go alone. And also the two ghosts in Finisterrae are, after their deaths, trying to find a way of coming to terms with their new status.    

Of course, the ‘lone wolf’ is a character in films that we have known since the beginning of movie-history, especially in westerns and crime films. What discerns most characters by these young directors from many of their older colleagues or filmmakers in the past is that – not reckoning the guy who blows himself up – most of their protagonists are not driven by wrath, but by insecurity. All the people in the movies mentioned here – and you could reckon some eight out of the ten films in competition to belong to this category – are lonely in one way or another and many of them have secrets.            

There are the coming-of-age stories as part of Attenberg and A Trip (Izlet). The 23 year old girl Marina in the Greek contribution Attenberg tries in her isolation, while her beloved father is dying, to discover something about her sexuality, if any, because she finds every form of it disgusting for the time being. Like in many of the movies it’s friendship, in different forms and sometimes even love, that keeps these lonely people from getting completely lost. This is also clearly and beautifully shown in the Slovenian The Trip. While the main theme here, of course, is friendship, it’s also a movie in which the three twenty-something protagonists are trying to come to terms with themselves, the world around them and their place in it. They’re desperately trying to find a way to deal with their individual selves, each other and their problems and mutual secrets after years of being cynical and hanging on the ‘lost generation’ attitude.            

Which brings us to the Mexican contribution, Alicia, Go Yonder (Vete más lejos, Alicia), in which the 19-year-old girl of the title goes to the end of the world to find out who she really is and what her place in the universe could be.                

At a much younger age, but also very much into the theme of finding an identity, we see in the French puberty drama Tomboy how the lonely boyish ten-year-old girl Laure pretends to be a boy, Mikael, to escape her loneliness and to be accepted by the neighbourhood children. Although at an even younger age, again we deal with young lonely people in search of their identity and direction.          

And although in the Austrian film The Fatherless (Die Vaterlosen) the main characters are mainly looking back, it was in the past that Hans, father of four children by different mothers, in the hippie community that he headed, created maybe too much freedom for them all, so that after his death everything has to be uncovered and re-evaluated. Because this freedom also had a price and the question is if it didn’t exclude commitment here and there. So it left many of the family in distress and still looking for clues and a perspective in life.                      

At last, this looking for ‘something’ is superbly shown in the winner of the Perspectives competition, Found Memories (Historias que so existem quando lembradas) by Brazilian director Julia Murat. The beautiful conclusion here is that via the ‘camera obscura’ of young photographer Rita, herself a lonely soul, a bunch of old people in a deserted town, living their lives as if in an earlier century, discover new happiness, even if it’s only for their short time left. In the end everything seems in balance, whether it is the young girl, who gives the old lady something back of her youth before she died and to some of the other old people, who suddenly enjoy life more than they have done in a long time.          

Which brings us to the conclusion – many individuals are probably looking for their identity and their purpose in life for the whole period of their existence. And the young directors of these movies will hopefully go on for many years to come, filming the struggles of their characters  in a way that at least shows that they themselves have found their own individual signatures and their direction in, at least, their work.          

Edited by Steven Yates