Sunday, October 27, 2013
Notes on a 70mm-screening of 2001: A Space Odyssey in a very special film theatre called Grand Film Palast in Essen, Germany.
This cinema hall was easy to reach. Once you arrived at Essen main station, you cross the street and enter a shopping street. Walk straight and after ca 10 minutes turn left. You recognize the Grand Palast easily. You see the backside of the mighty big screen, an arched wall.
This film theatre is turned long time ago, I think that must have been the end of the 1980s, into a Varieté theatre. The Grand Film Palast was a relict from the last try of cinema to fight television. In Essen, the neighbor city of my hometown Bochum had even two big cinema halls with the capacity of projecting 70mm. The other one, "Europa! which is as well closed since a long time has even a bigger screen than Grand Palast, but my dreams about cinema halls with big screens belong rather to this Grand Palast, not only it had the clearer sound.
Unforgettable was , I think it was May 1978, the screening of Stanley Kubrick´s 2001: A Space Odyssey in 70 mm. It was a re-release of this film which started like a commercial disaster and ended up as the greatest achievement the science fiction film ever had – until today.
I remember that even the advertising and trailers which took only a part of the big screen seemed to me already monumental.
Then the lights was dimmed, the heavy curtain slides open endless slow until the full screen size and we hear the “overture” of Kubrick´s film, György Ligeti, „Atmospheres“. After that the light went completely out and the film began, in a projection I never saw before and since, including the closing screening of this film at the Berlin Film festival 2001 which was also in 70 mm but projected on a screen much too small for this film.
I also have to say that the big inwards arched screen of the Grand Palast had a three dimensional effect on me, I never experienced again. The less spectacular scenes of this film, I could enjoy for the first time.
I have seen this film nearly 20 times, but it will always be connected with the two times I saw it in this special film theatre.
Well my passion for this film cooled off quite a bit in the last 30 years, but this film experience remained one of the greatest I ever had, because this film was projected in exactly the way it should be. Just a few years later, film theatres preferred projecting the cheaper 35mm versions of films originally recorded on 65mm matter and especially the prints of this film from the 1980s were horrible.
I have not visited this film theatre too often, what I regret today very much. Dounglas Trumbulls The Brainstorm Project (70 mm), The Right Stuff by Philip Kaufman (70mm) and also David Lynch´s Dune in 35mm Cinema scope and a few others. I can not believe I have missed Lawrence of Arabia which was screened there around 1984.
It is remarkable that a lot of these film theatres with big screens and with the ability of projecting 70mm have been closed, turned into something else or are even demolished like the other film theatre in Essen, Europe or two of three of the most beautiful film theatres in Berlin, Kosmos, Gloria (just a few year after its modernisation) and the Royal which had with its 400 square metres screen the biggest arched screen in the world.
What can be more symbolic that the re-release of 2001 in May 1978 was just a few months before the german release of the first Star Wars film. A film like star wars you can even see on your laptop and you can be sure there is no detail you miss, even its Cinema scope format is decoration, nothing more.
Of course the idea of the industry in using 70 mm on big screens was a cinema of overwhelming. The high costs of shooting and finally projecting in 70 mm made this format never to a real Standard in the industry. Even worse, a lot of films shot in 70 mm were hardly projected in this format – especially films with a lot of artistic ambitions like Masaki Kobayashi´s Kaidan, Akira Kurosawa´s Dersu Uzala, Jacques Tait´s Playtime, Terrence Malick´s Days of Heaven, Luchino Visconti´s Il Gattopardo and a lot more. 70 mm-film projection is now something for the film museums or special film festivals.
What was so special in that very evening in May 1978 was how the whole architecture and the technical advanced equipment of the cinema hall and Kubrick´s masterpiece came together.
70 mm was as the expectation of Kubrick´s investors first of all commercial interests. Kubrick used this investments in the most subversive kind one can imagine and like one critic wrote it is the „most expensive avantegarde film ever made“. The 70 mm projection of this film reveals the physical illusion of a space travel, the most – at least on the surface – attractive element of the film. At the same time Kubrick and all the possibilities of the technical apparatus, the high expensive 70mm format included reveals as well a disillusioned effect of space travels to come. A travel from earth to moon can be as boring as along distant flight (which were around 1968 by far not as much frequented like today). A 70 mm-projection of this film reveals both: the attraction of a space travel but as well its uncomfortable part, this confusion of the senses which conditioned for gravity and the awareness that a few kilometres above the earth men are lost without a lot of technical devices. Just to use a toilet in a space ship means you have to study a very long manual, one of the details you can really only realize on a big screen. Is there a more depressing moment in Cinema when one of the astronauts tries to repair an antenna, depending on his space suit? His breathing is one of the most disturbing sound effects ever used in this genre. And even though Kubrick had exactly 6 sound tracks, he sometimes works with moments of total silence.
I remember the famous star gate sequence which is as fascinating (in all its 70 mm glory) but as well very disturbing. It is relative uninteresting for me that 2001 is for a good reason praised as one of the finest technical achievements in the history of cinema and it does not matter much for me that until today the standards of special effects was set by this film. More interesting is how he has used the whole technical apparatus – including the awareness that this film will also be projected on screens between 200 and 400 square metres. He brings two elements together in Cinema which are often called to be opponents: the overwhelming and the reflective element.
In 1978 2001 was far away from being that iconic masterpiece as what it is known today. Just 10 years after its premiere t was still much more controversial discussed than today. The Grand Palast was well packed, considering that it was already a 10 years old film, a re release which would be impossible today, not to mention a re release in 70 mm.
What brought this film theatre back in my mind – and especially a screening of a film which was my favorite film until my early Twenties, which I still respect a lot but with much less passion than I used to feel for it?
Today most of contemporary and old films which mean a lot to me I see on festivals, in retrospectives – and the films which are available for me only on DVD or Blue ray like the films by Aparna Sen, Hou hsiao Hsien etc.The last three films by Terrence Malick which I saw in cinemas right at the time when they were released are exceptions. I had to hurry to see To The Wonder several times in a theatre, because it disappeared very soon. Even though my horizon changed a lot since the 1970s especially since the crush I had for 2001 and Barry Lyndon.
But there is the difference. I was not only lucky to see these films on the big screen, I had also no other choice. Video was not yet a mass medium. When I saw films like from one of my favorite contemporary filmmaker Aparna Sen which I probably will never see on a big screen as a theatrical release in my country I always try to imagine how this film would appear in a real film theatre.The same goes for Hou Hsiao Hsien, Dang Nhat Minh, Anjan Dutt, Yoji Yamada - and a lot more. Today I try to imagine these films in some of the film theatres which are only existing in my dreams now.
I do not want to complain on DVD or Blue ray I saw a lot of films in a better (often restored) version than in some film theatres and even more – I have access to much more films than before.
And I am sure in a not too far future one can build up his own home cinema in high quality in sound and image. But it will never be the same.
This screening of 2001, 1978 in one of the most beautiful film theatres I ever saw in my life was both , an amazing personal experience but I witnessed as well a part of film history. The film itself which turned from a very controversy discussed film into a cult film exactly in this 10 years after its premiere and the practice of 70 mm projections which was already disappearing in the 1970s in theatrical releases. The architecture of the Grand Palast which must be from the late 1950s to the early 1960s is as well disappearing. It was probably the first epoch in the history of film theatres when the industry set up high standards for sound and image technique, but strangely these kind of cinema halls died earlier than some theatres which already existed longer.
This very screening 2001 was at the right time and at the right place. In my memory 2001: A Space Odyssey and the Grand Palast in Essen was a happy marriage of a masterpiece of a film and a masterpiece of architecture.
Wednesday, October 23, 2013
The picture above is the only visual document I have found. “Atkantis” was one of the typical names for cinema halls, the “Atlantis” from my home town Bochum deserves this name for more than one reason. It exists only in my memory and if my memory does not betray me, it was one of the most beautiful film theatres I aver visited. Built 1957/58 it was the technical most advanced film theatre in this city. That was the time when Cinema fought with Cinema scope, 70 mm and Vista Vision against the competition of Television.
Even though I am grown up in the 1960s where already the first wave of the extinction of Cinema halls took place. Every second Super market was once a film theatre.
I was around 14 when I watched in the “Atlantis” Planet of the Apes, The Time Machine (a film which was already shown on TV but which amazed me in all its glory, vista vision and in colors). The big inwards arched screen gave me the possibility to enjoy first time in my life Cinema scope. Very few film theatres today offer this pleasure of watching a film in Cinema scope or 70 mm. These are formats which are wastes when the big screen is not arched at all. The “Atlantis” was by far the finest cinema hall for these formats. Later I saw films like Papillon and Logan´s Run, Films which are only available on DVD but just the memory to have seen these films in the right cinema hall helps me even today to remember the glory of these films.
The “Atlantis” had once around 800 seats. Later they built in the first floor a movie hall called “Atelier” and after 1976 when the “Atlantis was renovated a small film theatre was as well included, the name unfortunately escaped me.
Just 6 years later and I think Stanley Kubrick´s 2001: A Space Odyssey was one of if not the last film screened there. Soon after the “Atlantis” was closed forever. A Super market replaced it and just the name of a pharmacy beside the former cinema hall called “Atlantis-Apotheke” reminds on the name of a destructed film theatre.
Such things happen all around the world, if in the USA, India or even the most cinephile country in the world France.
Film theatres are no protected cultural monuments which is one of the most dramatic mistake in the culture of the Twentieth Century. When the “Atlantis” was closed down forever, my other favorite film theatre in Bochum “Bali” was also closed but reopened 1985 under a new name “Metropolis”.
I remember the red seats and the entrance of the “Atlantis”which was like a secret path into a hidden paradise. During summer holidays they showed each day at 11 in the morning films for young people for less than one Euro. That were the most beautiful hours I spent in my youth. The triste every day of my working class family, the already beginning worries what to do after school disappeared for 2 hours completely. And when I attended these screenings at the “Atlantis” with my younger sister or my youngest brother, we walked home very slow, trying to safe the film experience as long as we could against the grey every day. Well, as I was far away from knowing all the great films I love today, Ozu, Hou Hsiao Hsien, Terrence Malick etc, I never really got rid of this fascination for a magic which really is a combination of the film I watched there and the architecture, the big screen and the feeling to be in a completely different world.
“The Atlantis” was one of the cinema halls where I learned seeing films. Recently I watch from time to time some films which I saw there at the first time in my life on screen like Schaffner´s Planet of the Apes, Michael Anderson´s or George Pal´s The Time Machine. While the first two films were at that time contemporary films in an aesthetic which almost disappeared at the same time like this wonderful film theatre, Pal´s film was already shown several times on TV and like in most families at that time in black and white and in the wrong aspect ratio. In a way the “Atlantis “screening of The Time Machine
gave me an idea about the fascination the film must have had for the people who watched it around 1960. When I dream about cinema halls, the “Atlantis” which is even more lost than the legendary continent come often back to me. The films which occupy my passion about cinema today like those from Aparna Sen, Terrence Malick or Hou Hsiao Hsien – or even the wonderful films by Vietnamese Dang Nhat Minh which were never released in my country – are screened in this cinema hall and I am sitting on one of the red seats looking at this mighty big screen.
Saturday, October 19, 2013
Manjeet S. Gill called his film openly as a film “inspired by the films by Hou Hsiao Hsien”. Which reminds me in the long obsession I had in the Nineties for his films, especially his trilogy and until his last and very underrated masterpiece Kohi Jikou (Cafe Lumiere).
And especially Kohi Jikou, Hous homage to Yasujiro Ozu is a good key to Gills film.
How to live in the world of images of a director one admirers? Hous Ozu-Hommage has nothing to do with just quotations of images, it was a love declaration of a director to another despite all differences and from an own personal perspective. If Hou as a Taiwanese or Manjeet S. Gill as a british with Indian roots, both films have an own unique way od revealing their admiration for Ozu and respectively Hou.
There is also another more recent film which comes to my mind, the Edward Hopper-Homage , Shirley-Visions of reality by Austrian Gustav Deutsch whose films is divided in 13 scenes all based on a certain painting by Hopper. Manjeet S. Gills long takes are not based on easy recognizable moments from the films by Hou Hsiao Hsien but his it also does not stop at pure admiration and transforms influences into an explicit personal and vital cinematic kind.
At the first sight, very few happens in the long sequences, the film is built of. But very soon the film reveals itself as a very tight meditation of both, fragments of human lives and cinematic images.
The prologue which looks like an audition shows two of the main characters Kim and Rod introducing themselves. Even though the film is fictive I have to think what German Rudolf Thome once said about his films as “documentaries where we watch actors working”.
The story is rather a situation which unfolds itself from scene to scene. Rod, a man of Indian origins quits his job and studies photography while his wife earns now alone their living. During classes he meets a younger German students whose enthusiasm seems to be an inspiration for him who tries to escape his triste every day life as an adult and his obligations in family traditions and expectations others have in him.
Rod and Kim work together on their photos and meet more and more often for dinners and drinks. The film is not only structured in long and almost entirely static sequences but as well in single situations which keep its own independence from the plot – which is probably another affinity to the films by Hou and last but not least by Ozu.This sequences, very often separated from each other by long fade outs and black leader. The more we find orientation in these composition of sequences the more we are enabled to connect and re-edit the film in our imagination.
One of the layers of the film is reflected near the end: The films is among many other things as well about making images, collect and select them and bring it in order like Kim and Rod do for their exhibition.
Like Ozu and Hou, the connection between the sequences – even though a result of the director´s decision – seems to happen by itself. It is a bit like André Bazin once wrote about a film by Jean Renoir, that “we feel for moments a fleeting and temporary privilege to see the reality of the things.
That life is not one story but a whole universe of them we could see in Ozu´s most beautiful film Bakushu, and idea which stayed with me since a long time. The single little stories the sequences of Coffee in Winter are telling remain in my memory. One of these moments is a seeming banal sequence . Hema and Rod are sitting on the couch, side by side. The spectator´s point of view is strange. We see them in front of us, but they are sitting and we are standing like guests who are not yet allowed to take a seat. Another moment is as subtle as intense. One night, Rod comes home late at night. His wife is already sleeping. He sits on the bed and looks at his sleeping wife – for a very long time. As cinema can not reveal what a person thinks we at least get an idea that he is reflecting about something which moved him without being able to put the finger on that. A strange and touching moment.
When he talks with Kim, they exchange experiences, family stories, attitudes and decisions made or not made by cultural conditions. Sometimes it seems to me Rod moves between his home and his excursions with Kim like a spectator between his every day life and the longing and promises evoked by a film. These two poles seem to me also two very elementary poles in Cinema at all.
As soon as one gets adapted to the slow pace of the film and the long sequences, the film seem to be filled with fleeting moments of beauty, traces of happiness. A lot of farewells between Kim and Rod take place at bus stations or tram stations. A tram departs and people are again separated. Each of them has to return to their own lives.
That remembers me in Ozu´s wonderful swan song Samma no aji where the little escapes of a lonely widows ends always again in his house and his every day life.
Finally, when Rod and Kim watch their photos and select them for the exhibition, we see finally the images they made in a frame, hanging on a wall. They seem to be very engrossed and even more fleeting moments now conserved. When they look at them, they look at fragments of a lost world.
The last shot we see them from behind, drinking coffee and watching at a big building like watching at a big screen.
It is not our business anymore if Rod and Kim are lovers or not. As we witnessed fragments from their life for a limited time we have to get back to our own business. The last shot reveals the very special intense of how Hou is leaving his films, this caesura between between a film as images of fragments of life to our own.
Coffee in Winter brings a lot together, a homage to Hou Hsiao Hsien and finally a love declaration for Cinema. But as love is a very personal affair, this film is much more than a homage, a personal reflection incarnated in a strange and beautiful cinematic poem.
More about Manjeet S. Gill and the Black Country Cinema
Monday, October 14, 2013
An Afternoon in Abries with a masterpiece called Thuong Nho Dong Que (Nostalgia for the Countryland) by Dang Nhat Minh
This text is a translation from a review, published in shomingeki No. 4, June 1997 with added comments.
The rice fields are shining greenish golden. Nham, a 17 years old boy works with others in a brickworks. We see how he works, how he sweats and how he moans because of this strain. After the work he lays down on the bricks which are ready to be burnt. The others, exhausted as well are gathering to relax. The money he earned for this hard work he passes to his sister in law. He walks home and the rice field is filling now the whole frame of the image. The film is especially about the planting and harvesting of the rice fields. The kind he picks up a rice spike and how he chews on it is referential. He is looking to the blue sky where a plane is flying.
Nhams father has died in the war. He is living with his mother, his little sister and his sister in law Ngu together. His brother (Ngu´s husband), moved away looking for work to earn his living. Form time to time Ngu receives a letter from him in which he informs her that his return will be postponed, a half hearted promise.
Nham loves poems and works with his family in the rice fields. There is an unspoken love between him and his sister in law. His over voice comments suggest that everything we see is already past. As a sensitive adolescent he resemble Harriet in Jean Renoir´s The River. He experiences in comical and sad episodes the life of this rural community. Seemingly banal episodes interfuse this subjective narration.
A Television antenna is installed of the roof of one of the few houses with a TV. Children are mocking about a fashion parade broadcasted in Television. A pig walks through the kitchen. Villagers are talking about how life might be in the big cities. Seemingly banal events grow on the edges of the film´s story. It seems the point of view of the directors is like an excited child which is so absorbed by all these
neglibilities around Nham´s story.
Nham goes by bike to the station to pick up a niece of his neighbour. This niece has left Vietnam many years before. Sometimes the camera follows him close, another time his drive is observed from the distance. Once the point of view is absorbed by movement, the next time the cinematic space is shallowed and emphasizes the two dimensions of an image.
Quyen the homecoming niece returns to the village of her childhood. She wears sun glasses and differs so much from the people in this village like a foreigner. She tells that she has left the country to escape her husband. Later, she was in a refugee camp in Hong Kongwhere she married for a short time an American for leaving this camp. It is a clear hint to the tragedy of the Vietnamese Boat People who had to leave Vietnam. This village appears sometimes almost like an utopian place where the joys and sufferings of a whole country is gathering, a widow mourning about her husband who dies in the war, the Vietnamese who returned from a foreign country and who is dreaming from her childhood. It is about a return to the earth in a world of technical progress which intervades only in small signs. Quyen, the stranger is rediscovering her home village but at the same times as well her own alienation from her native home.
Last time I saw this film for the 32. time with my friend T. In Abries. I felt that in this nearly two hours I showed a big part of my life. My passion for this films which stayed with me for 16 years includes my love for the films by Ozu Ford and Renoir and – I just discovered it recently – it prepared myself for the wonders in the films by Terrence Malick. The same love for the sensual visible world like Renoir and Malick, the same kind how our point of view is absorbed by the things we see. And yes – long before I even knew the name of Terrence Malick, it was the first film where I sensed the “one big soul” all late masterpieces by Terrence Malick are telling about.
I was strangely moved in the kind how people are touching things or touching their hairs. The technique of the films seems to retrait itself in front of the things it reveals. Sometimes a glance rambles to a river where a boat is driving or where children are swimming. Another time we see plants moved by the wind. Images in European Cinema like that I only knew from another masterpiece by Jean Renoir: Une Partie de Campagne.
Even the identity of Nham the narrator seems to be absorbed in his encounters with the stories of others and especially in his own sensual experiences. In one scene he looks secretly at Quyen who is bathing in the the river. He takes her clothes and begin to smell them. When Quyen sees him, he is scared and disappears in the fields.
Another extraordinary moment in this film. I forgot to mention the most important. The moment Nham takes the shirt of Quyen who swims naked in the river, he closes his eyes. And even his action seems to be caused first by a sexual excitement, the expression in his face has as well something of a silent prayer at the same moment. This is probably one of the most earnest erotic scene in the history of Cinema.
A ritual festival, dedicated to the ancestors with prayers and ritual dances. In the evening a wonderful puppet show will be performed with men who move the puppets from behind a curtain in a pond and who let the puppet dance on the water. We see the fascinated glances of children and adults. In these moments I do not think in the cultural context of this beautiful performance to a culture strange to me. I remember the first puppet show I have seen in my life.
There are two moments which are burnt into my memory, strong moments which remind me that the true meaning of the term eroticism always means the biggest respect in the creation. Ngu, the lonely sister in law hugs Nham in a moment of despair. He answers this hugging. The remain for a while hugging each other. Suddenly Ngu is scared by Nhams ejaculation and takes her arms from his body. We see Nham and how he is surprised feeling the sperm on his fingers.
In another scene Nham and his sister in law discovering on a field a nest with new born birds. Ngu pets them and touches their beaks with her tongue. She smiles and sings an old Vietnamese folk song and is absorbed by this encounter like a child. In Dang Nhat Minh´s film there is always a physical sensation for the caressing of living bodies.
One of the most remarkable aspect in this film is Nham´s gender role. He is grown up almost only among women (men appear only as dead and gone or an uncle who is considered as a failure), small girls, young women, old women. His sexual awakening, one of the central elements of each films in this sub genre “Coming of age-film is connected with this subtle violence who finally puts Nham in his gender role the civilisation dictates him. The military service which follows directly his adolescence is quite a very sharp nobservation for this very gentle film. Finally what distinguishes Nham from his sister in law from his mother and the beautiful Quyen seems to be less biological than a social code.
Drunken truck drivers cause the death of two little girls, among them Nham´s little sister. The death invades with sudden violence into the world of this sensitive boy. From now on the film will be a long and eternal sad farewell. In a vision, Quyen who is waiting at the railway station for her departure, sees a boat where the two dead girls are waving to her. She says goodbye to Nham. A long time he looks after the departing train. Home is for him something concrete a sensual sensation. For Queyen the exile Vietnamese with the sad smile it is nothing more than a lost dream.
Nham gets his draft into military service. Sitting on a truck he writes following sentences on a paper: My name is Nham. I am missing my village. But I will return none day. He throws the paper into the lands ape. In another shot we see the heavy wheels of the truck on a plastered street which separates him and his beloved earth. The paper he wrote, is floating through the air. Nham´s declaration of love to his native village is lost. We see Ngu on a rice field. With the clothes and her dress protected against sun and the sharp edges of the plants she is bent over doing the hard work on which the life of the whole village depends on. Suddenly the image freezes.
Thuong Nho Dong Que is a remarkable film. Except some very few artificial moments and a few shots I almost have forgotten its form. There is so much tenderness and attention to details that every approach of analysis must fail What I have seen and what I almost believed to have touched seems to me like a personal memory for which I have to find a form for myself.
The miracle of this film is that it evokes the longing to rediscover this world with all senses of my body.
And yes, this text is written before this film became an obsession for me. I saw it just a few time when I wrote this text. Even though I saw it 32 times, I am not yet finished with this film and I never will. It came back when I saw The Tree of Life by Terrence Malick. The film came back when I saw Robert Mulligan´s wonderful The Man in the Moon – and this film is a very close relative of Jean Renoir´s masterpiece The River.
It is one of these films which became a part of life and there is nothing I can do about.
Tuesday, October 8, 2013
At the beginning I didn´t understand what of these two elements, the crisis of a marriage or the vision of an apocalyptic storm is the Mc Guffin.
I saw this film recently in Abriès the second time.
It is a story about a small town community. Everybody knows everyone.
A deceiving idyll.
The worker Curtis is tortured by night mares of an end time apocalypse caused by a storm. Pets and people are turning into dangerous beasts.
Curtis (Michael Shannon) is married with Samantha,(Jessica Chastain). They have a hearing impaired daughter.
Nichols creates at the beginning suspense with the famous “false tracks” of Hitchcock.
The nightmares of Curtis appear abrupt, not interwoven in this film but short harsh invasions of terror.
In their seeming peaceful every day life, the real but more subtle terror drops in, in small portions at the beginning, than gradually stronger.
There is the latent fragility of an American working class existence. House, car, all this symbols of wealth can disappear in a short time when its owner looses his job. Or why is selling Samantha self needled textiles and saves money in a hidden box?
To get the appropriate surgery for their daughter it takes time to persuade the health insurance.
Curtis`mother abandoned him as a child because she suffers under schizophrenia.
The characters live under a thread and it is difficult to say what is the least bad one.
Curtis obsession for building a shelter in his garden against a storm, no one sees and nobody believes in, isolates him first from his friends, finally from his wife and his child. As he finally looses his job it makes the threat for this small family even worse.
The terror of the nightmares of an apocalyptic storm and the more subtle terror of a family which is in danger to go apart offers two explanations but than remains name less. One almost feel a hidden volcano under the neat lawn around the house. The nameless fear is even more impressive written in the faces of such great actors like Michael Shannon and Jessica Chastain. Both are shining as believable every day like characters and they are typical for a film which takes care of small signs of a workers family life.
Take Shelter is a film which grows with every time I watch it. It is a very modern contemporary film but at the same time a very old fashioned embodiment of the believe that Cinema is invented for activating the audience´s imagination. The film is not a transformation from imagination into images, it seems to be a tool where we can found our own visions, our own imagination back, an imagination we are often in danger to loose.
The great films and also the great films from American Cinema are not necessary the ones with forced originality but films which are unique and at the same time deeply rooted in the diversity of nearly 120 years of film history. The most extreme extreme example of this richness and rootedness is probably The Tree of Life by Terrence Malick, director whose work spans 4 decades of film history. It is remarkable that Jeff Nichols, a very young director makes not only unique films (his most recent wonderful Mud included) - his films are rooted in that what I call “pure Cinema” which can replace a lot of lections about film history or film theory.
The end is much more than the solution of Nichols very unique suspense: it is disturbing and heartbreaking, a choreography of glances between Michael Shannon and Jessica Chastain which will remain in my memory.
Everything seems to be solved. The family spends some days at the beach before Curtis will get surgery in a psychiatric hospital. He plays with his daughter on the beach building castles of sand. One disturbed look of the girl, followed by Curtis looking at the beach. A storm is coming. Samantha in her kitchen goes on the porch, sees the same.
She looks at Curtis who is still doubting the things he saw. His look has something like a question. She nods – the film is over.
What an exchange of glances! It reminds me in Ozu, Fei Mu´s masterpiece Xiǎochéng zhī chūn (Spring in a small town, 1948) and Hitchcock at the same time.
How Curtis looks at Samantha waiting for a confirmation from her and the fact that both of them see the same world for the first time in this film had such an impact on me which I can´t describe. Why ignored this moment when I saw the film for the first time in 2012 , I can not say. The seeming psychological drama and the end time vision seem to absorb each other in front of two faces which seems strangely naked, as naked as my emotional reaction.
As I thought I knew everything what the film is about or with what elements he played – I forgot at this last moment everything. I am not even sure why I felt tears in my eyes and the need to hide myself for a moment in my guest room.