Three Formal Triumphs at the Montreal World Film Festival

in 32nd Montreal World Film Festival

by Daniel Schenker Wajnberg

The films in the competition of the 33rd edition of the Montreal Film Festival reveal a certain thematic consistency within a familiar narrative framework. Three of them deserve special consideration because of their expressive cinematography: ”Redland” by Asiel Norton; ”I’m Glad My Mother is Alive” (Je suis heureux que ma mère soit vivante) by Nathan Miller; and ”Villon’s Wife” (Viyon no tsuma) by Kichitaro Negishi.

”Redland” shows the deterioration of a family living in isolation in a mountainous region, a process seen by the viewer as if through slits. More and more the camera becomes a physical presence as the film continues (the credit goes to Zoran Popovic’s photography): the colour contrast increases between the exterior shots (marked by cold blue tones and by that approach being black and white) and the interiors (the feeling of claustrophobia inside the house is accentuated by a blasted red). At several moments, the images are blurred on the screen and are hard for the viewer to make out, but it’s precisely here that the director shows that he is particularly accurate in this inaccuracy and therefore he avoids the risk of empty stylistics, a common trap for many contemporary productions.

Halfway through a scene showing ruined relationships, the public film depicts a change of roles in which the daughter gradually takes over the function of the mother in a story that overflows the film’s time frame, extending beyond the end of the narrative.  Asiel Norton underscores the primitive nature of his subject through the use of nearly tactile work and the prominence of natural sound. Generally speaking, the theme in ”Redland” is the bond between human beings and nature – a theme reminiscent of Terrence Malick’s films.

In ”I’m Glad My Mother Is Alive”, Claude and Nathan Miller focus on the passionate relationship between mother and son – in this case, between Thomas and his biological mother, who abandoned him, still a child, in an orphanage. When meeting her as a teenager, Thomas encounters an indifference which he cannot overcome, even when he tries to impose himself onto her life by trying to assume the role of his brother’s father and his mother’s husband. The directors interweave past and present, and achieve at least one powerful sequence in which everyday, commonplace noises build a tension that culminates when Tom stabs his mother.

Finally, in ”Villon’s Wife”, Kichitaro Negishi tells a simple story set at the end of the Second World War and centred on Sachi’s effort to reorganize the family when the husband, Otani, takes to drinking and steals money from a couple of merchants. The director’s firm conduct, not only in the delicate insertion of the sound track (from Takashi Yoshimatsu), but also in the smooth contemplative movement of the camera, has qualities that distinguish the final result from a correction of the classical, conventional treatment.

Edited by Birgit Beumers