"The Art of Crying": The World Seen Through the Eyes of its Fearless Future By Ioanna Papageorgiou

in 8th Lecce Festival of European Cinema

by Ioanna Papageorgiou

You go to the big, famous festivals around the world, full of expectations and hopes, ready to discover dozens and dozens of films. And after 10 or 11 days of completely disconnecting yourself from your everyday life and submerging it in the universe of the moving pictures, you return to the real world neither disappointed, nor satisfied. Instead you come away with a lukewarm feeling, as you realize that you can carry with you only a handful of really good, fulfilling films – especially if, in the end, you could only find the time or were professionally obligated to watch almost nothing else than the features screened in the official competition program (which, unfortunately, is usually the case).

Then, you go to the “tiny”, relatively unknown Festival del Cinema Europeo (now in its eighth year), in the beautiful town of Lecce and its 100,000 people, in southern Italy, having to acquaint yourself with just about 30-50 films. And… you never want to leave. Not only because of the famously unorganized, but at the same time sincerely polite and openhearted friendly Italian hospitality, or the pleasantly nonchalant rhythm of the festival, or even the exciting, sightseeing walks in the historical center of the city. But also because, when it is time to depart and state your impressions of the festival and the 10 films in its competition program, you find it rather difficult to single-out one as your favorite.

Although most of them had already left their mark at earlier, bigger festivals around the world (Cristian Wagner’s Warchild at Montreal, Teresa Villaverde’s Trance (Transe) at Cannes’ Directors Fortnight, Marco Simon Puccioni’s Shelter (Riparo) at Berlin’s Panorama, Joachim Trier’s Reprise at Toronto), it is here, among a few others, carefully selected films, without the pressure of official, glamorous screenings, the international Press, or various public-relations events, that they can really shine. And, perhaps, none more than The Art of Crying (Kunsten at graede I kor) – Danish director’s Peter Schonau Fog’s debut feature film. Thought-provokingly tragic like an ancient Greek tragedy, intriguingly comic like a post-modern American soap-opera (TV’s Nip/Tuck, Desperate Housewives and Six Feet Under come to mind), it tells not the story of a currently burning social issue, but of an ordinarily dysfunctional family: the birth place of all the world’s future, rarely model or socially conscientious citizens. A family living in a small, Danish town in the early 70s, which shows absolutely no traces of its… age: on the contrary, each of its members behaves in such a way, creating love and hate, power and subordination, relations with all the others, that if not notified for the above mentioned place and time you would most definitely think that this was, in many ways, so similar to your own family lives somewhere in the western part of the planet right now!

Fog adopts the innocent and thus painfully reveling gaze of the youngest, 11 year old, son Allan – a wide-eyed boy who for a long time you don’t know if you want to reprimand and slap or hold tightly protectively in your arms, cradling it and kissing it, as he attends to every outrageous need of his cunningly abusive father in a desperate attempt to keep the family together.

With a silence heavily pregnant with emotion, an ironic, fearlessly truthful humor, a purely cinematic, eloquent use of the editing, and a series of static, unaffected frames, Fog narrates his story by what is seen or not seen (but nevertheless, unmistakably lurks) in his pictures, the unavoidably sincere expressions and gestures of his brilliant actors (especially the enlightened Jannik Lorenzen in the role of Allan), a brave open end, as well as reserving no judgment whatsoever for his heroes and heroines. Thus he provokes each member of the audience to wonder about and draw its own, personal conclusions regarding the ethical and unwritten family laws we still grow up with and, in particular, human nature in general.