The Windows on Europe Film Festival, set to run in Sydney November 17-23 and Canberra November 24-30, has a diverse and exciting line-up of films this year. In addition to the films reviewed below and along with the winners at Cannes (White God), Berlin (Stations of the Cross) and SXSW (10,000 KM) other highlights include Cathedrals of Culture, Concrete Night, Fair Play and The Great Museum. The full line-up and ticketing can be found at the festival’s official website – http://www.eurofilmfest.com.au/
I have been lucky enough to catch a few of the films screening at this year’s festival, and I can highly recommend Violet and Northwest. Short reviews of both after the jump.
Violet (Dir. Bas Devos)
When his best friend is stabbed in an empty shopping mall – and he is left unharmed or even threatened by the unknown attackers – fifteen year-old Jesse (Cesar De Sutter) must not only deal with his debilitating state of guilt and mourning, but face tough questions from his family and insensitive and judgemental peers, a BMX gang he rides with.
Save for a few beautifully photographed sequences, which are brief but feel irrelevant, almost everything else is an essential cog in Devos’ vision and works in unveiling more of Jesse’s emotional state or developing his challenging situation. It is narratively sparse, with minimal dialogue, but we feel absorbed into Jesse’s personal head space and the breathtaking visuals build a unique language to convey that.
The film is framed by two extraordinary sequences – a transition from intruding CCTV footage of the crime scene to a position of the objective (passive and faultless) observer, and an exquisite 8-minute tracking shot that took my breath away.
The title, I believe, is inspired by a Deafheaven song, which features and encapsulates Jesse’s screaming internal anguish in an amazing concert experience that reveals a little more about the youngster. There are other stunning moments too; Jesse observing the family of his friend under the cover of nightfall from their backyard, and riding through the streets alone gliding his friend’s bike by his side.
Violet is a terrific and exciting début feature from Devos; masterfully photographed by Nicolas Karakatsanis (Bullhead, The Drop), powerfully acted and possessing a confidence in balancing theme and form while also successfully avoiding any conventional methods.
Northwest (Dir. Michael Noer)
Northwest is an authentic feeling, emotionally involving Copenhagen set gangster film that follows a small time burglar whose turn of allegiance – and increased swagger which accompanies greater responsibility and reward – sets off a war between rival criminal enterprises, and places his family in danger as a result.
This is a tidy character study above all and the excellent Gustav Dyekjaer Giese carries the drama with charisma and composure. He earns our sympathy, trapped within a world that doesn’t possess his merciful traits. With his actual younger brother cast in that same role the resulting chemistry, so essential, is very strong.
The open ending a bit of a shame – it could have been resolved in more confident fashion – but this is nevertheless a solid addition to the genre. It covers familiar ideas but in an interesting cultural context.
By Andrew Buckle