The Time of Remakes

in 50th Taormina Film Fest

by Andrei Plakhov

How many original and unforgettable plots have existed and been developed in cinema culture – from Griffith to Tarantino? The 50th Taormina Film Festival once again raised this question. It is enough to look at the structures of films shown here and you begin to understand that it is something rather familiar.

A competent psycho-thriller, “Blinded”, by a British newcomer Eleanor Yule, is loosely inspired by Emile Zola’s “Therese Raquin”. Another British entry “Blind Flight” about two hostages of Islamic fundamentalists in Lebanon reminds one of the immortal subject of Leo Tolstoy’s “Prisoner of Caucasus”, already used and modernized a few years ago in the context of the Chechenian war by Sergei Bodrov in his “Prisoner of the Mountains”.

“Die Andere Frau” (“The Other Woman”) by Margarethe von Trotta evokes the notorious Stasi operation “Fucking for the Fatherland” in the former DDR. But on a personal level this political film by a famous German director deals with a classical situation when the wife discovers that her loving husband has for decades had “another life, another woman”.

The Danish “Villa Paranoia”, which was awarded the FIPRESCI prize in Taormina, also looks like a remake of a typical Dogme film – not because of its style but because of its plot. We have seen similar nice stories about lonely and alienated people, old or handicapped, physically or mentally, in films such as “Mifune” and “Italian for Beginners”. Moreover, if you imagine Robert De Niro and Julia Roberts as the main characters it would turn out to be a routine Hollywood comedy-drama. Luckily, not so well known Danish performers make these old patterns look fresh. It is also worth mentioning that the plot of “Villa Paranoia” is a slight reflection of Moliere’s comedies.

Probably the most popular theme in Taormina could be found in “Hurensohn” (“The Whore’s Son”), an Austrian film directed by a debutant Michael Sturminger. As a child, Ozren considered his mother a beautiful queen but, at the age of 16, he discovers that she is a whore, and this discovery leads to a tragedy. The French “Ma Mere” (“My Mother”), a second film by Christophe Honoré, a free screen adaptation of Georges Bataille’s novel, is even more tragic. Helene, the main whore of Mediteranian, makes her 17-year-old son participate in an orgy and debauchery. The real subject of the film is incest, and the director tries, more or less successfully, to reach the scale of an ancient Greek myth.

None of these films are masterpieces, but many of them give a good chance for actors and especially actresses — Isabelle Huppert (“Ma Mere”), Barbara Sukova (“The Other Woman”), Chulpan Khamatova (“The Whore’s Son”). The time of remakes is not the time of director’s discoveries, it’s the time of extraordinary performances. Like in the theatre, where the same plays have filled the stage for centuries, and Romeo and Juliet, Treplev and Nina Zarechnaia are played by new generations of actors.