Wild World

in 9th Lecce Festival of European Cinema

by Thomas Rothschild

In Pudor, directed by Tristán and David Ulloa, grandmother dies and grandfather is demented. The father has a brain tumor and has another six months to live. The mother pretends she has a lover who in reality doesn’t exist. Father’s ex-lover has her bottom lifted and gets a divorce. The son sees ghosts. The daughter suffers from her body. Add to this a group of Italian language students who are incapable of watching a film without talking to one another or over their mobile phones, then there is catastrophe. Baby, it’s a wild world! 

Women have to cook for their younger sisters who were deserted by their mothers or for their helpless fathers and wipe their bottoms in the German film Vivere by Angelina Maccarone or the mentioned Pudor. Fathers share drugs and whores with their sons (in Magnus by Kadri Kõusaar), art dealers steal paintings out of churches and let cars be blown up in Stanislaw Muchas Hope (Nadzieja), Netherlands rock musicians make German girls pregnant (in Vivere again): It certainly is not a beautiful world we are living in — at least not in cinema.           In I Am from Titov Veles (Jas sum od Titov Veles) by Teona Strugar Mitevska, there are three sisters in Macedonia: one sticks to the needle, the other whores around to get abroad, the third one hasn’t spoken a word since her mother left her at the age of five. Chekhov’s three sisters seem idyllic compared to them.            

After the years of socialist realist “lakirovka” and sentimental Hollywood Happy Endings it seems to be the duty of film directors to show the ugliest and most repulsive sides of life. Of course, they really exist and they can and should be the subject of art, but somehow all the disasters seem a little less so compared to, say, the cruelty we see in The Living and the Dead (Zivi i mrtvi) by Kristijan Milic from Croatia, a true anti-war-picture that doesn’t pretend killing could be a romantic adventure. Even the winner of the FIPRESCI Prize, Hope by Stanislaw Mucha, doesn’t share the hope of its main character suggested by the title that evil could be wiped out without punishment. A mistake puts the police on the trail. Punishment will follow after the end of the film.            

Violence has always been part of cinema. But, while in former years, it had its reasons — war, for example, or revenge for injustice towards the family or friends — what we experience now in cinema is violence for its own sake. Maybe Michael Haneke’s Funny Games marks the turning point. Even in short films, usually works by young students, we meet violence at every step. If the art of cinema is a reflection of general developments in society, the diagnosis is not too optimistic. Baby, it’s a wild world! In cinema anyway.