time in darkness

Filmfest feels odd for a number of reasons this year, I still haven’t adjusted to the fact the festival is shorter than it used to be. This year it seems to have started a week earlier, which means that Monday is not a public holiday. This could be troublesome for my pacing as it means the long weekend of screenings is at the end, when my tiredness is higher, my ability to endure lower. Nevermind that it feels strange not to commence with the long weekend.

Having successfully negotiated the rail alternatives, including a successful bolt for the rail replacement bus, I made it to the first session on time. The day started with La Danse: The Paris Opera Ballet, a doco that goes behind the scenes of the Paris Opera Ballet. In that, at least, it was successful. At 2 hours and 40 minutes in length, geez it felt long! It seemed to go on and on, observing repeated minutae of rehearsals, eventually live performances of some of the rehearsed bits. An observational piece but lacking engagement. I enjoy long movies but this one dragged.

From there we moved on to Cairo Times, which meandered along ok but felt stilted and awkward. The story of an anglo woman stuck in Cairo while her diplomat husband is stuck in Gaza where he runs a refugee camp. I s’pose there was a sense of the tourist about the movie, I felt distant from it as much as the woman felt distant from her environment. It sort of glanced at the politics and culture but didn’t really get there for me.

Both these films were ok but neither excited me. Thankfully things picked up with the evening movies, starting with The Tree, a french/oz co-production. This was about grief and dealing a little with those times post death. Importantly, there was little guide to time passing or the stretch of time the movie covered other than to suggest a nebulous sort of “a few months”. It picked up that I s’pose sense of ignoring the world outside, or being buffeted by events outside your bubble. The lack of control you have and how easily small things become big things. Things that matter, things that don’t. The tree in question was a typical, large Moreton Bay Fig and was the sort of tree that fitted the story – it’s a tree you can lose yourself in. I enjoyed The Tree though it didn’t necessarily blow me away.

The final film of the day was from another director I’m fond of, Jan Hrebejk, who directed Divided We Fall and Cozy Dens, returns with Kawasaki’s Rose. It looks at the line between resistance and collaboration in the Czech past. The problem of such is that it’s rarely a black and white division between those who resisted and those who collaborated. How does a country repair itself when there is still so much of that history still around, continuing to live? Does collaboration automatically make you bad? This film deals, with empathy, in that middle sort of ground. Many years have passed since those days, 1972 being explicitly referred to, and folk are ageing. 30 odd years have passed and the events remain a blight upon the collective memory. This was a story told with love for its characters and was trying to find some way of navigating through emotions that may have mellowed yet remain open and raw. So too, it explores the decisions made and how events conspired (whether accidentally or deliberately) to push people in particular directions. Nor are the events in isolation as the film is dealing with the now, and the continuing ramifications as the next generation deals with the past of their parents. A subtle, delicate film by a man who clearly loves his country and tries to bring its complexity to the screen.

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