There is Poetry in Stillness

in 10th Reykjavík International Film Festival

by Rolf Rüdiger Hamacher

I am walking around in the city of Reykjavik and suddenly a poster with the face of a German film actor called Tom Schilling catches my eye. “Strange” I am thinking because both films starringhim — Oh Boy, Jan Ole Gerster, 2012) and Woyzeck (Nuran David Calis, 2013) — aren’t even noted in the film catalogue of the festival! I was given the answer to this riddle at the Head Office of the film festival. For the first time Reykjavik is holding aFestival of Europeans Films, which is promoted by the Media Program of European Committee. Sadly the dates overlapped with the anniversary yearof RIFF. This is a truly foolish film act. It is not only frustrating for the audience but also for the film industry. Only 12 films run in competition. This could be the reason for the competition program of RIFF beingso ‘little’, perhapsthey alienated the films from each other? The Italian/German Co-Production White Shadow (Noaz Deshe, 2013) had to be taken out of the program, though it was already printed in the film catalogue. It was replaced by Uberto Pasolini’s Still Life (2013).

It was good luck for our FIPRESCI jury because this ‘replacement’ was the film we awarded. It was the first timein 10 years’ history of RIFF that the film awarded by FIPRESCI also won the Main Award of the Film Festival. Interestingly, both judging panels voted for the same two films for the ‘final’: Alexandros Avranas’ Miss Violence (Greece) and Uberto Pasolini’s Still Life (United Kingdom).The international judges for the competition agreedgiving a ‘Special Motion’ to the film Miss Violence. This film was on ourshort list but at the end it dropped out due toexciting discussions. It broke its artistic neck by showing sexual scenes of abuse to an underage child for curious onlookers. It raised the much more compact film Still Life to the top. It’s Uberto Pasolini second directed work after Machan (2008) and his role as a producer on The Full Monty (1997) and Bel Ami (2012) — funny that he is not credited with his namesake Pier Paolo but Luchino Visconti. He was inspired by a real, existing employee in London’s suburb of Kennington. He organizes funerals for people who have no relatives or are abandoned by them. Through his static, richly coloured pictures Pasolini homages his hero Yasujiro Ozu. Feelings are minimised as with acclaimed Japanese directors; you already know the precise relationship between the only clerk and the daughter of the last case before unemployment and tragedy hits him. The game of perfect production for many famous directors (e.g. Steven Spielberg, Woody Allen, Martin Scorsese, Mike Leigh) can been seen intheir congenial cast list. Eddie Marsan who hardly said more than one sentence still gave touching dignity and deep human humour which still lingers with us: Still Life is a film of stills. It is a film of “the still”, of the ones living forever. John from Still Life is a collector of the beauty of life. He works with the ones dying lonely deaths. Still Life is a line of paintings. The element of visual art, of optic composition, affords the filma literary quality. The verbal literary elements are evident on two levels; the dialogue is sparse and the subtext loaded. Even though the elements come together at the end of the film, and are summarized in the title Still Life there is yet an openness that constitutes poetry. Still Life is a work of poetry.

Edited by Tara Judah