Young Cinema At Karlovy Vary

in 50th Karlovy Vary International Film Festival

by Swapan Ghosh

The 50th edition of the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival looked quite significant when I went through its competition lineup. To me, after a few years, KVIFF has tried to be different in choosing competitive entries. Selectors wanted to inject new blood into the body of the festival. This has resulted in a competition of very young directors, with an average age of thirty-eight – cinema made by the young for the young.

Some films are brilliantly successful in their search for eternal cinema. Some films made it a point to bring a surface reality which finally culminates in the shape of a round story of dialogues and images. Some films made intense research to portray emotional complexities and to bring cinema into reality.  An example of an eternal cinema is Box. Romanian filmmaker, Florian Serban, has opted for a journey with two characters with their own secrets. One is a boxer. For him, a session in the ring is everything. The other is a theater actress and mother who finds herself in a critical moment in her life. She wanted to be a successful actress. Both the characters with their attitudes make an effort to create a silent drama that penetrates to the core of viewers. The acclaimed director of If I Want to Whistle, I Whistle (Berlinale 2010) has developed his style of treatment to venture to a post-modern concept.

Another Romanian film in competition, The Magic Mountain (La montagne magique) also made a mark for its artistic technique involving animated collage of period materials. Director Anca Damian potrays the adventure of a mountain climber. Damian incorporated materials about mountain climber and photographer Adam J. Winkler who fought in Afghanistan with the Mujaheedin who fought against the Soviets in 1980. On the one side there is the political relevance in the life of a mountain climber and on the other side the climber’s journey employs a highly original interpretation to make this film beyond reality. This film should not have been placed with fictional films. It should have had a different place in the competition.

Apart from these two outstanding films, this year’s competition could be underlined with some films that are perfectly made to explore surface reality. For example, there was Bob and the Trees by independant American filmmaker, Diego Ongaro. He has enlarged his short fiction into feature length in vérité style to capture the silence of the landscape, both majestic and hollow. Massachusetts logger, Bob, a hard worker speaks with his trees. His silent dialogues with the trees creates a private world in the surroundings of a no-man’s land. The story develops into this reality of surface, where a study of an individual goes along with content and treatment.

The same can be said for Babai (The Father) by Kosovan filmmaker Visar Morina. The treatment of this film is far from vérité style, closer to a routine narrative. But the film has tackled  the realistic ground concerning a road between two countries, two characters, a search through complex emotions of a young child. The story involves a father and son and reaches a destination of surprise. Babai is a film competently made which focuses on issues of borders, and issues of father-son relations in a very positive manner.

The life of distinguished Italian poet, Antonia Pozzi (1912 – 38) is made into a biographical film called Antonia by Ferdinando Filomarino, a story of a young woman at odds with her desire to live. The poetry of Antonia reveals an escape from reality and her own complex soul. The film builds the story line showing  the details, ambience and characterization in a perfect manner that achieves cinematic quality, as well as narrative mood.

The Ukrainian film, Song of Songs (Pesn Pesny) by Eva Neymann reminded me of the Palm d’Or winner Michael Haneke’s White Ribbon. Both films are very close to making a simple love story into eternal poetry. The film portrays a stylized vision of the lost world of the Jewish shtetl of the 20thcentury. Poetic scenes are created using truly magical images of childhood love, while the film’s imaginative form is imbued with nostalgia.

Austrian entry Those Who Fall Have Wings (Jedar der fällt hat Flugel) explores the myth in the face of death. Time seems to stop for those who are left behind. What can they do to start the ticking again?

To wrap up my observations, I must mention the Czech film Home Care (Domaci pece) by Slavek Horak which analyses the issue of homecare by portraying a dedicated nurse and her realization of life’s actual limits, putting her in a situation to understand human existence in a troubled society.

Edited by Pamela Cohn