CHRONIC – THE EDGE OF DEATH

ChronicDirector: Michel Franco
Original Title: Chronic
Country of Production: Mexico, France

Endurance and persistence are the principal characteristics of Tim Roth’s chronically depressed character. He is stuck in a motion of caring for those close to death supposedly in order to feel closer to life himself. He breathes their air and consumes it for his own good. It is the paradox of life and death and good lord do we stroke them both.

If there are two more things deeply haunting about this film, it’s the first and last image. An opening sequence precedes the films title card ‘Chronic’, after which appears the skeletal structure of an anorexic lady being washed under the shower by Roth. The shot lingers, frozen to its framing, as is the method of Franco’s use of the camera, and we soon feel the strength of every droplet of water as it carries a piece of life away with it. This will not be the first time that we witness the waking of death; instead every image throughout the film will be stained with its remnants. Ironically, the last image appears as a flash, the paradoxical metaphor is complete and the unexpected becomes a reflection of the expected. In other words, a twist occurs in the way that it should: as a surprise routed in thematic significance.

Chronic_death

 

Trying to articulate an order in which to explain one’s experience viewing this film is difficult to come by. The spectator may experience boredom, anxiety, hunger, anger, weakness, sickness, sadness, and even hopefulness, the latter not being an adjective of focus for Franco yet nevertheless still given its moments. It is a case of going so far in one direction that it becomes impossible not to taste a little of the opposite. As humans we feel great sadness, but the cliché here is that we know we must feel alive to experience such feelings, and because of this sadness we are psychologically able to experience great happiness. It is the sprinkles of salt and pepper mixed into the overwhelming curry.

Roth’s character moves from patient to patient and becomes more and more dependent on those who he cares for, while they equally and more necessarily return the favour. From mental health 101 to old age and cancer, there is no escaping the demise that carries this film and fuels its unbearable nature. This is all attributed to the performances that uncover certain mysteries surrounding death and seek to hide nothing by way of concealment. The true evidence is that which Franco’s camera penetrates: the observation of human emotion, fragility and expiry. The method of filmmaking is restricted, no close-ups, no music that doesn’t appear within the world of the picture (diegetic), no cutting ahead of time, no wild camera tracks, the picture appears quite simply as is. It is a remarkable way to tell stories and makes me wonder why we ever felt the need to tell them differently.

5/5

International sales by Wild Bunch. UK Premiere TBA.

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KOZA – SLOVAKIAN TREASURE

kozaDirector: Ivan Ostrochovský
Original Title: Koza
Country of Production: Slovakia, Czech Republic

Boxing films are often about victory, motivation and grandeur, but Koza rather takes us on a prosaic journey of life’s miseries, challenges and defeats. This far more realistic approach allows for something very special to be captured by Ivan Ostrochovský’s first narrative feature film. Koza must face the reality of his situation: his wife is pregnant with their second child, he is a retired boxer deformed of vitality and stripped of cash, and he must go on a journey and battle for money the only way he knows how: in the ring. He will not raise his arms like Rocky or let his energy run mad like Jake LaMotta, rather he will remain reserved and focused on accepting the truth of his laden circumstances.

There are bizarre moments, including swallowing roar eggs (an undeniably efficient source of protein), anxious moments, excelled by the static camera and long takes, and downright sad ones in which all hope seems rather hopeless. These feelings are topped off with shrewdly arresting imagery of dark, cold and isolated landscapes shot during an unforgiving Slovakian winter. Concussions, vomiting and silenced thought are the main forms of action for Koza who pertains a matter-of-fact reflection on his uncomfortable circumstances. A non-professional actor, Peter Baláž, who accordingly plays to his own life and supposedly his very own attributes, enhances such minimalistic and pragmatic storytelling. It all occurs at the level of life.

Ostrochovský allows his audience time to think and reflect on the reality of our experience. Long takes are chief to this technique, but the context of their use is entirely novel in this picture. Koza is detached from his previous achievements, he looks and feels lost and shows little emotion upon defeat. What is magical about this film is the defeat; they get worse and worse and there will never be a pay off. It is clear from the opening shot of the film that this will be a struggle. Long takes on the road, shaped by tunnels of light and pending rain clouds signify a journey with no ending. Even such details as the dew on the windscreen drip like the blood of Koza’s final defeat. The next and final shot of the film reflecting the first hint of sunlight crossing between the clouds and significantly a last bite of hope.

“He’s a King”, says Koza’s coach to a colleague. Koza may not appear as a King, but he acts as our King and we keep our distance to him as we would any King. The King is detached and we will never know the underlying reasons for his actions and ultimate demise. He will not let us inside his mind, but we are certainly drawn into wanting to find out more. I will finish by contradicting my beginnings: this is not a film about boxing.

4/5

The film’s UK Premiere will be at Edinburgh Film Festival 2015. See the programme here.

Sales representation by Pluto Film. You can also visit the film’s website.

 

WE MONSTERS

wemonstersThe conclusion of this film leaves us with the deadly intention that the family is the MONSTER. By way of lies, love and human nature, a family is forced into a series of events with little way out other than the formation of trust.

The film boils with tension from the get go and releases the toxins of human antagonism to remarkable depths. Actions are fully realised with almighty blows and moral conflicts that turn the filmic landscape into a minefield of operations. Signed off with a touch from the heart, topnotch acting and the all-encompassing imagery, Sebastian Ko’s debut feature film is nothing short of first-class cinema and entertainment.

Upon deeper reflection, it is surprising how wicked the actions of these believable characters become. The spice of this is Ko’s ability to make us empathise on all levels and become wholly caught up in the conflict. The perspective that haunts each moment is constantly shifting and leading us deeper into the journey of these characters. These troubles aren’t without their laughs either. Mind games are full to the brim and hilarious in their own peculiar way. The human idiosyncrasy that is revealed in times of desperation is a key stance exploited by Ko and one that certainly calls for the occasional smirk and releasing of oomph from a tightly wound audience.

Pluto Film represents We Monsters – they do a fantastic job of treating new talent with high regard and providing a sales platform for bold and new crossover dramas – I was fortunate enough to attend their market screening in Cannes. The worldwide premiere for the film will be held at Shanghai International Film Festival taking place between 13th to the 21st June. UK Premiere to be announced shortly after.

5/5