Saturday, February 18, 2017

Notes on The Inland Road by Jackie van Beek, New Zealand: 2017, Berlin Filmfestival 2017-Generation14plus

The first long film by actress, comedian and filmmaker Jackie van Beek begins with an accident.
The hitchhiking 16 years old Maori girl Tia is given a lift in a car with two men. A heavy car accident happens. One of the men dies, the other is saved by Tia. This is a film which directs the view inwards and outwards and it tells about physical and mental injuries.
Will, the man has fractures, Tia got a very ugly cut on her cheek and some light facial. The beautiful face is scarred. The other man, the one who has not survived was Will´s brother in law. After being released from the hospital, she goes to the funeral of Will´s brother in law despite her father (Tia´s parents are divorced and she ran way from home after a heavy fight with her mother) suggested her to go back home. At the funeral she meets Will and his pregnant wife Donna. As the film tells about visible and invisible wounds, two other characters are introduced, the widow of the deceased and her little daughter Lilly. The narration and the constellation of the characters arise from an accident who brings them together. Tia will spend some times in the farmhouse with Donna and Will. Donna´s widowed sister and the little girl are often visiting them. Tia, the distressed teenager and the other characters who have to deal with a loss of a family member have to define their way through life anew. Tia´s neck is tattooed with a Maori word, a memory of another wound. She is elliptical and grumpily. How the characters finally hesitantly find a way to relate to each other is revealed in this film with patience.

Here again the mighty Cinema scope format allows both, the presence of the geographical landscape where the farm is embedded but as the human landscape visible on human faces. Especially the young actress Gloria Popata (Tia) leaves a very strong impression. She reminds me in Q´orianka Kilcher´s performance as Pocahontas in Terrence Malick´s The New World and Tillotama nShome´s wonderful elliptical and androgynous performance in Anup Singh´s Qissa.

For now the characters have to go through several conflicts. Donna begins to feel disturbed by Tia´s presence. Tia falls in love with Will who rejects her feelings and Lilly slowly begins to learn piece by piece about the terrible loss of her father.

There were some moments in this film when I had the feeling that The Inland Road does not really know in what direction it shall move. But it was a hasty conclusion of mine. The film tells exactly about people who are struck by sad events and who do not really know on what road they have to continue their journey. Jackie van Beek refuses to be smarter than her characters and she accompanies them on their difficult journey.

There are two embraces, moments the film was heading for all the time. At first it is a moment when the child Lilly finally begins to become aware of her father´s demise. The inaccessibly Tia finally hugs the child with an unexpected tenderness. The second moment is when Tia one night sneaks into the bedroom of the young couple. Donna wakes up and takes her to task. The two women are standing face to face and suddenly Donna realizes the pain of the teenager. Touched by an intuitive sympathy her facial expression softens and she hugs the young girl.

Tia will return home. Her visible and invisible injuries have not healed yet but she leaves the painful stagnation behind. The Inland Road is a very sad but at the same time very encouraging film. Jackie van Beek had the courage to treat a relatively melodramatic subject in a total undramatic but nevertheless very intensive way.

Rüdiger Tomczak

19.02, Cinemaxx 3, 16.30

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