Sunday, June 17, 2018

Söndagsbarn / Sunday's Children (2014 restoration)


Söndagsbarn / Sunday's Children. Henrik Linnros as Little Pu (Ingmar Bergman) and Thommy Berggren as his father (Erik Bergman). The bicycle accident after the rainfall in the finale.

Director: Daniel Bergman
Country: Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, France
Year: 1992
Duration: [1.58 wrong data]
Languages: sv
    NB. The original distribution version was 121 min.
    DCP of the 2014 restoration of the director's cut at 107 min with English subtitles by DKV Thelin
    Viewed at Cinema Lapinsuu, Midnight Sun Film Festival (MSFF), Sodankylä, 17 June 2018.

MSFF: "The film Sunday’s Children is, among Fanny and Alexander (1982) and The Best Intentions (1992), one of Ingmar Bergman’s most personal films. Bergman wrote the script, which in the hands of his son Daniel Bergman became an emotional and revealing film. This might have been a wise and strategic decision since the demon director would have found himself in the director´s chair of an autobiographical film otherwise."

"This Bergman chapter takes place during a sunny summer in the 1920’s. The film depicts the experiences of the Bergman family’s young son (Henrik Linnros) during his summer holiday. Sunday’s Children travels through beautiful as well as ugly family memories, evoking both joy and sorrow in the viewer without unnecessary moralistic leanings. At the heart of this film lies the son’s difficult relationship with his father; a motive, which is engaging even forty years later. Bergman’s other pivotal themes can also be seen through these passing summer days. Watching this film brings out the feeling of looking at an intricate painting that makes you think about both ostensible harmony and the details the artist is revealing about himself through his art."

"This chronicle of the Bergman family flows harmoniously with a manifold of personal and empathetic moments. The Swedish actors do a brilliant job in the metamorphosis of the characters, where great respect for the Bergmans can be seen. Sunday’s Children is an honest memoir that builds a new foundation to stand on while watching and interpreting the classical films of Ingmar Bergman." (TET)

AA: Daniel Bergman debuted as a feature film director in Sunday's Children. Both Ingmar Bergman and his father Erik Bergman were Sunday's children, as was August Strindberg.

Sunday's Children was an original screenplay by Ingmar Bergman. The year after the film premiere he published the story also as a novel. The novels and films The Best Intentions, Sunday's Children and Private Confessions form a trilogy on Erik and Karin Bergman.

What's more, Sunday's Children is a coming of age story of Ingmar as a child. Daniel Bergman's filmed account of childhood is richer and more sensitive than Ingmar's (including in Fanny and Alexander). Henrik Linnros gives a natural and unaffected performance in the difficult leading role.

During the night before the voyage to Grånäs Ingmar hears an infernal quarrel between Karin and Erik. Erik takes a night walk to an observation bench on a hill with a sublime view of the nature in the white night. Soon little Ingmar joins him. (I wish I had access to a still of this scene).

This is a July story. In the summer dacha in Dalarna the landscape is blooming, the nights are white, the air is vibrating with warmth, and miracles of nature open to the child. Including slaughtering cattle. The central action, the ride to the church of Grånäs for the service on the Feast of the Transfiguration, includes stretches with the bicycle, the train, and a ferry operated by the passengers themselves. The landscapes are beautiful, and after an oppressing heat there is the release in a thunderstorm. The account of the period (the year is 1926) is rich in detail.

The film evokes another account of "the end of childhood": Anton Chekhov's The Steppe.

The narrative proceeds on several levels. We also meet father and son in 1968. Mother Karin has recently died. Father will die in two years. Erik is agonized. Ingmar helps him and listens to him but refuses to be emotionally involved. He has not forgotten the random hate and violence the family had to endure from Erik in Ingmar's childhood.

There is also a fantastic level, a nightmare dimension. Ingmar hears the horror story of the local clockmaker who had hanged himself. In his madness he had started to believe that a grandfather clock was menacing him. He found a little beautiful woman inside, but when the menace continued, he destroyed the clock, killed the woman and hanged himself. Ingmar is fascinated by death, the macabre. And also the images of German naturist women in his big brother Dag's book.
In the sequence at the wonderful church in Grånäs we see what a magnetic performer and director Erik Bergman is as a priest. Little Ingmar sees a vision of himself as Jesus. But to the son of the vicar of Grånäs he confesses that he does not believe in God. "Taking into account what he has done".

Thommy Berggren portrays Erik Bergman as a more tender character than might have been expected. His explosions of violence are more terrifying because nothing has prepared us to them.

Lena Endre had played a role in The Best Intentions but not as the Karin figure. Here she creates a radiating and complex character of Karin Bergman. There is more in her than is possible to know in this movie about father and son.

In 2014 Daniel Bergman released this director's cut of his film, cutting about 15 minutes of its original length. Some critics of the original release version commented of occasional longueurs. No need for that here. There is an intensive natural rhythm in the movie as it now stands. The digital transfer has been conducted with loving care, and one can still feel the photochemical sense of nature in this restoration.

BEYOND THE JUMP BREAK: SYNOPSIS FROM SVENSK FILMDATABAS:

Viulisti / The Violin Player


Viulisti / The Violin Player. Matleena Kuusniemi as Karin.

Director: Paavo Westerberg
Country: Finland
Year: 2018
Duration: 2.05
Languages: fi, en
    In the presence of Matleena Kuusniemi, Olavi Uusivirta, Paavo Westerberg, and Emmi Pesonen hosted by Timo Malmi.
    Viewed at the Big Top, Midnight Sun Film Festival (MSFF), Sodankylä, 17 June 2018.

MSFF: "Paavo Westerberg, one of the most remarkable Finnish screenwriters of the new millennium, takes on his first directing challenge with a composed, almost Bergmanesque relationship drama. The Violin Player is a movie about the pain of giving up, obsessive dedication, and art. The controlled personal study is served well by the chillingly honest dialogue, written by Westerberg and co-writer Emmi Pesonen."

"Matleena Kuusniemi is Karin, a passionate violin player unable to play due to an accident. She starts giving music lessons, and soon her love for violin manifests a love towards a promising young violinist Antti (Olavi Uusivirta). This leads to moral questions and critical choices. The film moves ahead by following the characters and giving them room to portray strong roles. Visually memorable, the drama includes thematic echos of modern classics of the European film, such as Michael Haneke’s La Pianiste, which The Violin Player seems to be a deliberate response to." (TET)

AA: The Violin Player directed by Paavo Westerberg and written by him and Emmi Pesonen is the story of a great crisis. Karin (Matleena Kuusniemi) has devoted all her energy to cultivate her talent as a violin virtuoso of the Stradivarius elite.

When her arm is broken in a car accident everything is lost. Karin experiences a severe depression, perhaps even a nervous breakdown.

But she starts to build her professional life again, first as a teacher at the Sibelius Academy. But she really wants to become a conductor.

Her husband Jaakko (Samuli Edelmann) is devoted to help and support in every way, but Karin feels like a stranger at home. Perhaps she has been away too much during her international career. Now she is like a bird whose wing is broken.

At the Academy she is especially impressed by a devoted student of hers called Antti (Olavi Uusivirta). Their close relationship turns intimate on Karin's initiative. Karin is a woman of the world, Antti is not used to the menages of older people. Antti is not able to lead a double life, and his revelation threatens to destroy Karin's family.

There is a feeling of frustration in Karin's family circumstances. Jaakko is, if possible, over-eager to help. At the same time there is an atmosphere of passive aggression and repressive tolerance. There is something oppressive in Jaakko's demeanour, down to the tones of his voice and details of his gestures. There is a feeling of a barely contained threat in everything he says and does. Perhaps that is his patriarchal nature. Or perhaps Karin's international career has been too taxing for the family. Both Karin and Jaakko are committed to the family, although there is hardly any feeling of love between them.

The Antti affair is a mistake of Karin's. Ever since Plato's Academy teaching has been connected with love, even in physical terms. But for Antti it's all or nothing. Karin obviously wants to transfer her artistic ambitions to the young, but in Antti's case her action puts everything in danger privately and professionally.

In the finale Antti also experiences a crisis. He needs to break out from the influence of Karin and the conductor (Kim Bodnia). He rebels, and he finds his own force field upon which he must build. He also abandons his own previous ambition to "become the best in the world". Great art cannot be based on the external. There must be an inner urge.

Olavi Uusivirta has usually a laid back presence, projecting inner strength and a sense of inner calm. In this role he is highly strung, "like a string of a violin", as some viewers put it.

Fine performances carry the psychologically complex tale. Karin's character is especially demanding. Twice she is about to lose everything, but in Matleena Kuusniemi's performance we can feel her sensitivity and vulnerability as well as her inner force to overcome even overwhelming obstacles.

BEYOND THE JUMP BREAK: MATERIAL FROM THE PRESS KIT AND THE SOUNDTRACK LISTING:

Midnight Sun Film Festival: Movie Jury


Jean-Luc Godard: Charlotte et son Jules. En hommage à Jean Cocteau. Inspired by La Voix humaine, a monologue for two starring Anne Colette and Jean-Paul Belmondo.

Leffaraati / Movie Jury. Elina Knihtilä, Paavo Westerberg, Iida Simes, Aleksi Salmenperä. Photo: Midnight Sun Film Festival / Venla Tirkkonen.

The School, Midnight Sun Film Festival (MSFF), Sodankylä, 17 June 2018.

All prints 35 mm from KAVI.
Judge: Ville Virtanen.
Jury: Elina Knihtilä, Paavo Westerberg, Iida Simes, Aleksi Salmenperä.

Films:

1. Паранджа / Parandzha / Huntu / [Paranja] / [Burqa]. SU 1977. PC: Kinostudija nautshno-populjarnyh i dokumentalnyh filmov Uzbekistana. D: Malik Kajumov. - Non-fiction. Women's liberation and the paranja ban in Soviet Uzbekistan, in a film told purely visually.

2. Swinging Nurses / Hellät hoiturit. US 1965. D: Barry Mahon. - A nudie cutie.

3. Charlotte et son Jules / Monologi kahdelle. FR 1960. D: Jean-Luc Godard. - See image above.

4. Rahaa!! / [Money!!]. FI 1957. D: Veikko Itkonen. - Nonfiction. A goofy spoof.

5. Children's Palace / Lasten palatsi. FI 2002. D: Jouni Hokkanen, Simojukka Ruippo. - Shot in the Mangyongdae Schoolchildren's Palace in Pyongyang, official propaganda on "children, the emperors of our land" (Kim Il Sung) turns against itself.

Sodankylä morning discussion: José Luis Guerin



José Luis Guerin in discussion in French with Otto Kylmälä in Finnish, translated by Kaisa Kukkola.
The School, Midnight Sun Film Festival (MSFF), Sodankylä, 17 June 2018.

Midnight Sun Film Festival:

This year’s final morning discussion was with Spanish director José Luis Guerín, who is fluent in French. The interview was conducted by Otto Kylmälä.

The first film Guerín saw was the Disney classic Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs (1937). Guerín explained how the first film one sees is always an important experience, but also a traumatic one. The only remedy is to watch more films. He told that he has been a cinephile from early on in his life and never takes a break from watching films, only from making them. Thus Guerín describes himself more as a film watcher rather than a filmmaker.

Guerín never attended film school, since there were none in Spain during Franco’s dictatorship. The director said that his film school was the film archive. Guerín characterized the early stage of his film career as lonely, since he did not have many contacts among Spanish filmmakers. He mentioned Victor Erice as an important contact and idol.

The line between documentary and fiction is central to Guerín’s film art. According to him, all film characters are developed by choosing and limiting. Paintings are an important source of inspiration for Guerín. He said that classic paintings always consist of a well directed and carefully built scene. Paintings are the original art of mise-en-scène, so there is a strong tradition of painting in cinema.

Guerín mentioned that in order to make a living as a filmmaker, you also have to either teach or make commercials. He does not want to make commercials, so he teaches. In his teaching Guerín prefers workshops to lecturing and sees film education primarily as a dialogue with other filmmakers.

The final question about his desert island film made Guerín ponder for a while. He ended up picking Danish director Carl Theodor Dreyer’s Ordet (1955), since we are in the North right now.


Midnight Sun Film Festival

Sodankylä morning discussion: Kristiina Halkola & Eero Melasniemi


Eero Melasniemi and Kristiina Halkola in the Sodankylä morning discussion hosted by Timo Malmi. Photo: Midnight Sun Film Festival / Roxana Sadvokassova.

Eero Melasniemi and Kristiina Halkola in discussion with Timo Malmi.
The School, Midnight Sun Film Festival (MSFF), Sodankylä, 17 June 2018.

Midnight Sun Film Festival:

Sunnuntaina nähtiin ensi kertaa festivaalin historian aikana aamukeskustelun parrasvaloissa aviopari, kun Kristiina Halkola ja Eero Melasniemi asettuivat Timo Malmin haastateltaviksi.

Kuusankoskella lapsuutensa asuneen Halkolan ensimmäinen elokuvakokemus oli todennäköisesti Disneyn piirretty Lumikki ja seitsemän kääpiötä (1937). Melasniemi puolestaan kertoi yrittäneensä mennä  lapsena luvatta katsomaan jotakin John Wayne -elokuvaa Helsingin sittemmin puretussa Kinopalatsissa. Elokuvat ja musiikki olivat Halkolalle kasvuiässä iso osa elämää. Melasniemi kasvoi kertomansa mukaan eräänlaisessa kulttuurikodissa, sillä vieraina kävi usein taiteilijoita.

Melasniemen näyttelijänura alkoi jo lukioiässä ja jatkui myöhemmin Teatterikorkeakoulussa ja Ylioppilasteatterissa. Halkola puolestaan ei vielä lukiossa näytellyt, sillä häntä ei rohkaistu siihen ollenkaan. Tästä huolimatta Halkola pääsi ensi yrittämällä Teatterikorkeakouluun, jossa ensimmäisenä opiskelusyksynään kohtasi aiemman vuosikurssin opiskelijan Melasniemen.

Halkola kertoi rakastuneensa kameran edessä työskentelyyn tehdessään ensimmäistä elokuvaansa Tunteita (1965). Näyttelijäpariskunnan tähdittämää Mikko Niskasen klassikkoa Käpy selän alla (1966) kuvattaessa oli Melasniemen mukaan selvää, että oli uuden ilmaisun aika. Kamera tuli lähelle ja tallensi kasvoilta tunteet ja ajatukset ilman suuria eleitä. Molemmat kehuivat Niskasta ja tältä saamaansa oppia. Halkola kertoi Niskasen kanssa työskentelyn opettaneen olemaan tarkka ja aito.

Halkola kertoi pitäneensä 1960-luvun seksisymboliasemaansa ensin vitsinä, mutta myöhemmin otsaan löytynä leimana, josta ei päässyt eroon. Aikansa suurimpina suomalaisina elokuvatähtinä Halkola ja Melasniemi saivat tottua mediahuomioon, jolla on Halkolan mukaan hyvät ja huonot puolensa.

Aution saaren elokuvaa kysyttäessä Melasniemi päätyi valitsemaan jonkin Henry Fondan tähdittämän elokuvan, sillä hänen mukaansa Fondan kävelyä suurempaa elokuvataidetta ei ole. Halkolan valinta oli Rio Bravo (1959).


Midnight Sun Film Festival

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Yellow Submarine sing-along (2018 analogue restoration transferred to 4K)



Director: George Dunning
Country: United Kingdom, U.S.A.
Year: 1968
Production companies: Apple Films / King Features Production / TVC London
Music: The Beatles
Music producer: George Martin
Duration: 1.30
Languages: en
    50th anniversary, 2018 analogue restoration transferred in 4K.
    Sing-along with Olavi Uusivirta, Iida Simes et al.
    DCP from Apple Corps with sing-along subtitles viewed at the Big Top, Midnight Sun Film Festival (MSFF), Sodankylä, 16 June 2018.

"Yellow Submarine"
"Eleanor Rigby"
"All Together Now"
"When I'm Sixty-Four"
"Only a Northern Song" (Harrison)
"Nowhere Man"
"Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds"
"Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band"
"All You Need Is Love"
"Hey Bulldog"
"It's All Too Much"

MSFF: "Surely The Beatles alone did not invent psychedelia or the hippie movement, but through its strong culturohistorical phase the band brought the movement into the mainstream. As The Beatles had reached their popularity, being a hippie was a must. The turning point in their career was the album Revolver (1966) and Sgt. Pepper (1967) finalized the saga."

"This breaking point in western culture was captured in film form by Canadian George Dunning (1920–1979), who had polished his skills as an animator with a pioneer of the field, Norman McLaren. Released in 1968, Yellow Submarine combines the best surrealist traditions of the field, the absurdity of children’s books and the psychedelia of the American west coast. Its abundant, nearly thickening world of colors is a part of fine arts’ history. The Beatles perform as animated characters but their authentic voices are heard only in the final scene."

"Yellow Submarine plummeted towards the end of the 60’s: it was impossible to be more colorful or delirious than this. Someone already heard the words “End of story”. This dialectic abolishment of the hippie movement was later carried out by Sergei Jutkevitsh and Anatoli Karanovitsh in the animation episodes of Mayakovski Laughs (Soviet Union, 1973) – but that’s a whole different story. If the magic of fairy tales ever lingered in the air it did so in Yellow Submarine." (VMH)

AA: I had not seen in 49 years Yellow Submarine, the Beatles animated fairytale for children. It was released theatrically in Finland in 1969 at Bio Bio and that's when I caught it for the first time. The Beatles had a strong visual presence. Besides album cover art there were five feature length movies, of which this was the fourth. There were also ten promotional films made in 1966-1969, works that would later be called music videos. Psychedelia was a main inspiration, also including the Magical Mystery Tour and Strawberry Fields Forever film projects.

At the time I found much of the Yellow Submarine a bit boring or just plain silly, but the music was great. Seen today the story still seems quite silly, but now I appreciate more the achievement in animation. Feature-length animations were very rare. Back then only Disney produced them regularly. Yellow Submarine was completely different, an irreverent and experimental project that, however, was family-friendly and suitable for children. "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" of course is a celebration of LSD, but only if you already know about it. The fundamental message is "All You Need Is Love".

The status of Yellow Submarine keeps growing as a wonderful achievement in surreal animation. It has affinities with Harry Smith, Jan Lenica, Walerian Borowczyk, Len Lye, Norman McLaren and Terry Gilliam's work for Monty Python. Limited animation with explosive effects and a wide range of styles and techniques. The final brief live action moment with The Beatles is moving.

The photochemical frame-by-frame restoration has been conducted with loving care. The result is beautiful.

The spirits were high in the sing-along screening in Finland's biggest circus tent. A perfect setting for Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. People were dancing in front of the screen. A happy celebration and revival of the summers of love 50 years ago.

DATA FROM WIKIPEDIA:

Le vénérable W. / The Venerable W.



Director: Barbet Schroeder
Country: France, Switzerland
Year: 2017
Production companies: Les Films du Losange / Bande à Part Films
Producers: Lionel Baier, Margaret Ménégoz
Cinematography: Victoria Clay-Mendoza.
Music: Jorge Arriagada
Sound: Florian Eidenbenz, Georges Prat
Editing: Nelly Quettier.
Featuring: Ashin Wirathu, U. Zanitar, Kyaw Zayar Htun, U. Kaylar Sa, Matthew Smith, Abdul Rasheed, Carlos Sardiña-Galache
Narrators: Bulle Ogier, Maria de Medeiros, Barbet Schroeder.
Duration: 1.40
Languages: en, fr, es, my
    In the presence of Barbet Schroeder hosted by Olaf Möller.
    DCP of an English version viewed at the School, Midnight Sun Film Festival (MSFF), Sodankylä, 16 June 2018.

MSFF: "Barbet Schroeder’s latest film, The Venerable W., ends the director’s ”Trilogy of Evil” 43 years after a similarly-toned portrait of Idi Amin (1974). The massive time gap between the films shows that the director has had an eye for important and thrilling topics as well as obnoxious main characters throughout his long career."

"Schroeder’s documentary points its gaze at Myanmar and the conflict between Buddhist majority and Muslim minority there – an issue that has received far too little attention in the West. In this case, the film also takes a conscious step toward breaking stereotypical ideas about pacifist Buddhists and warmongering Muslims."

"The people of Myanmar are manipulated with ruthless propaganda that has confluences throughout world history. In fact, much of the film’s effect comes from its ability to display an ethnic hostility that should already be extinct in our modern day. The purpose of the propaganda in Myanmar is to turn the people against the Muslims of the country. The primary antagonist in this persecution is Buddhist monk and demagogue Ashin Wirathu through whom the documentary shows the shocking escalation of hate speech and racism. The film dismisses expectations, gives shivers, and ultimately leaves the viewer extremely upset. This is why the film is an important one and everyone should see it." (TET)

AA: An exceptional documentary film on the persecution of Muslims in Myanmar, focusing on the topical Rohingya persecution that started to escalate in 2016. The international community has called it "ethnic cleansing" and even "genocide".

Barbet Schroeder's film meets high standards of research and investigative journalism, with the topical accent of accessing a massive contemporary visual documentation available on the internet. 90% of the people of Myanmar are in Facebook. The social media presence there has exploded in three years.

The distinction of the film is that Schroeder has been able to conduct in extenso interviews with the mastermind of the current persecution, Ashin Wirathu. This is comparable to a situation where a Western liberal journalist would have have been permitted to conduct candid interviews with Hitler.

Schroeder's personal commitment to the tragedy stems from his lifelong study of Buddhism. Buddha and Spinoza for him are key philosophers against hate. Ashin Wirathu in his hate speeches represents the diametric opposite of this. The documentary records of Ashin Wirathu as a mass demagogue are as creepy as Triumph des Willens. Schroeder's mother was a German who left Germany in the 1930s and never spoke German again.

The scope and ethos of this film is epic. It is about the Rohingya persecution and equally it is about the perilous situation of the world in general. Hate speech, fake news and the internet are an inflammatory and potentially catastrophic combination.

Based on sober and balanced observations, Le vénérable W. grows into a shattering wake-up call. Good judgement has been used in presenting gruesome footage.

In the footage shot by the team for this film the technical quality of the new digital mini cameras and sound recorders is high. The compilation quality of much of the film is in the nature of things.

BEYOND THE JUMP BREAK: DATA FROM THE DOSSIER DE PRESSE:

Sodankylä panel of Finnish actors


Kari Väänänen, Laura Birn, Liselott Forsman, Eero Melasniemi, Kristiina Halkola, Tommi Korpela, Timo Torikka, Matleena Kuusniemi. Photo: Midnight Sun Film Festival / Oona Koivuranta

Tommi Korpela, Timo Torikka, Matleena Kuusniemi, Ville Virtanen. Photo: Midnight Sun Film Festival / Oona Koivuranta

Milka Ahlroth, Olavi Uusivirta, Laura Birn. Photo: Midnight Sun Film Festival / Oona Koivuranta

Midnight Sun Film Festival Bulletin:

Lauantaina kotimaisten tekijävieraiden keskustelu veti filmifestivaalien Pienen teltan ääriään myöten täyteen. Liselott Forsmanin haastateltavana olikin pitkä liuta eturivin näyttelijöitä ja teatterin tekijöitä: Kristiina Halkola, Eero Melasniemi, Matleena Kuusniemi, Laura Birn, Tommi Korpela, Ville Virtanen, Milka Ahlroth, Olavi Uusivirta, Kari Väänänen ja Timo Torikka.

Keskustelun aluksi näyttelijät muistelivat oman uransa vaikuttavimpia rooleja.

“Nuuskamuikkusen äänirooli”, vasta Timo Torikka hetkeäkään epäröimättä ja ansaitsi ensimmäiset spontaanit aplodit yleisöltä.

Matleena Kuusniemen mieleen on erityisesti jäänyt rooli Levottomat-elokuvan Ilonana.

“Edelleen törmään tähän tematiikkaan jatkuvasti ja koko ajan näkökulma muuttuu, mikä on todella mielenkiintoista.”

Kristiina Halkola muisteli kesällä 1968 kuvattua elokuvaa Punahilkka, jossa hän sai antaa kasvot kaltoinkohdellulle koulukotitytölle. Tommi Korpela puolestaan kertoi, että Miehen työ -elokuvan rooli miesprostituoituna poiki paljon uusia töitä, mutta myös tukun kutsuja eri ohjelmiin keskustelemaan “asiantuntijana” seksistä.

“Yhtäkkiä kaikki oli seksiä. Näyttelijäkö muka tietäisi jostain jotain?” Korpela lohkaisi.

Eero Melasniemi mainitsi elokuvaroolien sijaan työnsä Suomen Teatterikoulun johdossa, aikana jolloin oppilaitoksen arvo nousi korkeakouluksi.

Tunnelma teltassa vakavoitui, kun keskustelu siirtyi elokuva-alaa ravistelevaan #metoo-kampanjaan. Ville Virtanen puhui painokkaasti sen puolesta, että liike on “kaikkien etu”.

“Käynnissä on valtava rakennemuutos. Työkulttuuri on muuttunut kauttaaltaan tasa-arvoisemmaksi ja avoimemmaksi, #metoo on osa tätä kehitystä.”

Virtanen muisteli uransa alkuaikoja, jolloin näyttelijän osa oli usein totella mukisematta ohjaajan käskyjä, eikä näyttelijän mielipiteitä juuri kyselty. Halkola muistutti, että toisenlaisiakin esimerkkejä on, ja nosti esiin työnsä edesmenneen ohjaajalegenda Mikko Niskasen kanssa. Kuvaustilanteet olivat Niskasen elokuvissa intiimejä ja yhdessä rakennettuja, toisin kuin monissa nykypäivän suurtuotannoissa.

Korpela suitsutti uuden polven ohjaajista Ikitien AJ Annilaa, jonka otteissa korostui luottamus ja rauha.

“Esimerkiksi kuvaaja Rauno Ronkainen sanoi, että Ikitie on ensimmäinen duuni, jossa hän on saanut täysin tehdä oman kuvasuunnittelun. AJ malttoi olla puuttumatta asioihin, joissa koki, että muut tietää paremmin. Se ei poista sitä, etteikö hän olisi ohjannut tarkasti ja tehnyt valtavasti ennakkotyötä.”

Milka Ahlroth arvioi, että näyttelijän ammatissa on myös paineita siihen, että ei saisi olla liian herkkänahkainen. Siksi häirintää on yhä edelleen vaikea nostaa esille.

Kuusniemen mukaan tuotannoissa onneksi kuulee yhä useammin kysymyksen: “Miten sulla menee?”

Forsman myös uteli, mistä aiheista vieraat haluaisivat tehdä elokuvia. Kari Väänänen mainitsi historian “pimeät kohdat”, esimerkiksi saamelaisten pakkokäännyttämisen kristityiksi. Kuusniemi kaipasi yksinkertaisesti lisää naisten kautta kerrottuja tarinoita.

- Midnight Sun Film Festival, 2018

Sånt händer inte här / This Can't Happen Here (2017 restoration SFI)



High Tension [English title on print]
Director: Ingmar Bergman
Country: Sweden
Year: 1950
Duration: 1.24
Languages: sv
    DCP with English subtitles. Restored by Svenska Filminstitutet (2017).
    Viewed at Cinema Lapinsuu, Midnight Sun Film Festival (MSFF), Sodankylä, 16 June 2018.

MSFF: "Sånt händer inte här (This Can’t Happen Here) is one of Ingmar Bergman’s rarest movies; a mystery that not even many cinephiles have had a chance to see. The director aimed to hide the movie from the world, unintentionally making it a kind of a Holy Grail for those who want to know the entire production of the Swedish maestro. A long-awaited chance to see the movie is on offer in Sodankylä’s summer."

"For the director the movie was a unique experiment, that differs both by it’s genre and story from the rest of his production. It is a spy film discussing the politics of the Cold War, full of inspiration from American entertainment movies of the time. Appropriately, the lead actors Signe Hasso and Alf Kjellin are better known for their Hollywood careers than their Swedish production. Although the states depicted in the film are presented as fictional, the movie displays temporality unusual for Bergman’s production by depicting a refugee crisis faced by Europe, desperate people escaping the totalitarian East to the hopeful West. The main characters are people troubled by their problems who, because of a conflict of ideologies and international spying, end up in dangerous situations. For a historian the movie unfolds not only as an interesting piece of Bergman’s production, but also as Sweden’s clear attempt to connect itself to the political West." (TET)

AA: The first screening in Finland of Sånt händer inte här, the most rarely seen film directed by Ingmar Bergman.

It is interesting to speculate why Ingmar Bergman himself inflicted a ban on the film, lifted only this year by Daniel Bergman for special events.

My first hypothesis would be that Bergman was acutely aware of the terrible situation in the Baltic countries, and it became personal when he met and married Käbi Laretei, the daughter of a distinguished Estonian diplomat and the mother of Daniel. Ingmar may then have felt embarrassed by his entertainment approach to the Baltic tragedy.

A second hypothesis might be that this was Bergman's single attempt to make an action movie and a spy thriller. It is curious to see how Bergman stages car chases and fistfights. All professionally made but the film lacks the sense of urgency and conviction of his major work.

A third hypothesis could be the Hitchcock comparison. I am re-reading presently the book Conversation avec Bergman by Olivier Assayas and Stig Björkman, and there Bergman confesses his admiration of Hitchcock and makes interesting remarks on the Hitchcock / Truffaut book. Maybe Bergman recognized that in Sånt händer inte här he was in Hitchcock territory and that it was not his territory.

That said, Sånt händer inte här has much to offer.

The film has a serious fundament. The sense of terror and fear in the Baltic countries occupied by the Stalinist machine is deeply felt. The Baltic double agents infiltrating into Sweden are themselves victims, and the thing they fear the worst is being sent back home. In their agonized comments we get a résumé of the tormented recent history of the Baltic countries, their being reduced to battlegrounds and victims of occupations of various dictatorships. Atkä Natas (Ulf Palme) has even participated in the Holocaust as a camp commander, and he is guilty of the execution of thousands.

The film takes seriously the reality it deals with, but it does not take itself seriously. The opening disclaimer about any connections with reality being fictitious is a joke. There is a joking approach to names of persons and countries (Liquidazia). The Baltic refugees' meeting is held in a backroom of a cinema where a Walt Disney cartoon is playing. During the fistfight of Atkä and Inspector Björn Almkvist (Alf Kjellin) the radio is turned on, and the summer hymn "Den blomstertid nu kommer" starts to play.

Finland was a busy place of espionage during the Cold War, and it is surprising that no film has yet dealt with it. But then most of the key topics of Finnish history have never been discussed in films.

Of contemporary Stockholm Bergman gives an exciting account with documentary value. He had displayed documentary passion for Stockholm also in films like Fängelse / Prison, but here he goes further. The sense of the incongruous is well understood. Vera Irmelin (Signe Hasso) is kidnapped by the Soviet spies, and when their tyre breaks and Vera tries to signal that she is in danger, the crowd of onlookers remains clueless.

There is even a sense of the absurd in a sequence around the Monument to Charles XII* pointing towards Russia. (Schoolchildren are given a history lesson around the monument). Charles XII's finger points towards a Soviet ship from where our policemen heroes thanks to a tracker dog rescue Vera hidden classically in the bottom of a lifeboat. Like Hitchcock in Saboteur, Bergman takes a tormented spy to a public landmark and a high place, here it is the Katarinahissen. From there the spy jumps to his death in order to avoid being sent back home.

A Bergmanian accent in this spy story is of course the theme of the marriage inferno. Early on Bergman was elaborating on this theme familiar from Ibsen and Strindberg plays such as Dödsdansen / The Dance of Death. A dance of death is literally going on in the hate marriage between the Signe Hasso and Ulf Palme characters.

A very well made restoration. Having being used to seeing first generation prints of Bergman's Swedish films I observe that this is a few generations removed from the original.

* Charles XII wanted to conquer Russia, and he progressed as far as the Ottoman Empire with which he wanted to ally against Russia. Peter the Great reacted by building a new capital, St. Petersburg, and a mighty sea fortress, Kronstadt. Finland was devastated by a cruel occupation. The biggest turning-point in the history of Sweden and Finland.

BEYOND THE JUMP BREAK: THE SYNOPSIS FROM SVENSK FILMDATABAS:

Sodankylä morning discussion: Barbet Schroeder


Barbet Schroeder and Olaf Möller at the Sodankylä morning discussion, 16 June 2018. Photo: Sanna Bohm / Midnight Sun Film Festival.

Barbet Schroeder in discussion with Olaf Möller in English.
The School, Midnight Sun Film Festival (MSFF), 16 June 2018.

MSFF: "Veteran director Barbaret Schroeder was the guest at Saturday’s morning discussion at the Kitisenranta school. Schroeder’s films deal with extreme subjects and complex people and he told interviewer Olaf Möller that his relationship with cinema is connected to two traumatic experiences. Disney classic Bambi was the first film Schroeder saw and it caused him such a strong reaction that the young Schroeder had to be dragged screaming out of the screening.

However, Schroeder’s most important film experience in terms of the content of his own films the Iran born director received after moving to Paris. Schroeder’s mother is of German background and she decided to educate her son on the atrocities committed by Nazi Germany after some locals called a friend of the family a “Jew”. The Alain Resnais’s classic Night and Fog (1956) had such a strong impact that it basically gave the then 14 year old Schroeder a new direction for his life. While still young, he managed to join the editorial team of Cahiers du Cinema and spent a lot of time with other cinephiles.

Soon Schroeder took another step forward by becoming longtime friend Éric Rohmer’s producer. He founded the Les Films du Losange production company so that his friends would be able to make small budget films as independently as possible.

Gaining more confidence by working with Rohmer, Schroeder mentioned that becoming a producer at such a young age taught him how to handle setbacks and difficult situations. Schroeder told anecdotes about risk taking producers as well as challenging productions in unfamiliar environments and cultures.

It was from Rohmer that Schroeder learned that there is a seed of documentarism in every film. Rohmer respected the authenticity of a scene even when making fictional films. Möller lead Schroeder to admit that this is characteristic of Schroeder’s films also. La Vallée (1972), for example, is a metafictional commentary on filmmaking that follows a group of youngsters travelling to an indigenous people’s area.

Schroeder has never shied away from switching genres and styles. He said that he is looking for adventure via his films – that makes him feel alive. Somewhat surprisingly, he added that he was also happy making Hollywood films. Despite receiving criticism, he told that he has always been attracted to films aimed outside the arthouse audience. Still, Schroeder’s Hollywood films are genre films mainly because it is easier to get financing for such films rather than convincing producers of one’s own ideas.

Dealing with out-of-the-ordinary themes and phenomena in his films, Schroeder said that he chooses his themes simply based on whether they interest him or not. He familiarizes himself with the subjects of his films extremely well before the filming begins. It was Schroeder’s research on how Baruch de Spinoza and Buddha conceived hate and self-control that led him to make his latest documentary The Venerable W. Schroeder’s ponderings on ways of dealing with personal anger led him to information about Burmese monks who provoke fascism and genocide in their country.

Schroeder thought about what his desert island film would be for a long time, but if he had to pick his favourite film of all time, it would be F. W. Murnau’s Sunrise (1927).
"

AA footnotes:

Olaf Möller: Barbet Schroeder

Expect the unexpected is the name of Barbet Schroeder’s game: Whenever you think you’ve been able to pinpoint his art he’ll come up with something so different from everything he did so far yet so him it hurts. Being a polymath of cinema and a polyglot of genres, he’ll deliver with the same ease: a prime piece of Hollywood genre glory à la Kiss of Death (1995) as he’ll do a formally experimental auteur film like La virgen de los sicarios (2000); an essayistic documentary on a gorilla talking in sign language (Koko, le gorille qui parle, 1978) as well as a drama centred on a women refusing to speak what’s ostensibly her mother tongue (Amnesia, 2015); a casually ironic look at the rites of sadomasochism (Maîtresse, 1975) and the rites of gambling (Tricheurs, 1984); a documentary series and a fiction feature looking at the same subject, as he did with the double The Charles Bukowski Tapes (1985) & Barfly (1987). And as we all know: Nothing confuses the middle brow more than an auteur who doesn’t play by the rule that reads Stick to doing what seems to be your thing, but instead prefers to constantly try out new aesthetic approaches – or, quite the contrary, seems to be happy doing a commercial job by the book and well at that.

And so far we only talked about the director and not the producer and distributor: As the co-founder of Les Films du Losange, Schroeder became one of the most decisive figures in French 60s cinema: Besides always taking care of his own exploits, he saw to it that his life-long friend Éric Rohmer could do whatever he wanted (after the misadventures of his brilliant feature debut Le Signe du Lion, 1959/62) starting with La Boulangère de Monceau (1963); over the course of the decades, he’d back maverick undertakings like Frédéric Mitterrand’s Lettres d’amour en Somalie (1982) with the same gusto as big Euro arthouse productions like Volker Schlöndorff’s Un amour de Swann (1984).

Schroeder was born in Iran in 1941, the son of a Swiss geologist and a German physician. The latter saw to it that after a divorce her son went to school in France. His penchant for the extreme and apart was witnessed by his fiction feature debut: More (1969), arguably the only movie ever that managed to make drugs look really sexy. With his third feature, the documentary Général Idi Amin Dada: Autoportrait (1974), Schroeder upped the ante: he spend a lot of time filming a mass murdering sociopath being merry and doing terrible things; Idi Amin became the first example of evil incarnate Schroeder faced, to be followed by Jacques Vergès, one of the most mysterious figure of international law and underground politics who’d over the course of his career defend some of 20th century’s worst perps in court (L’Avocat de la terreur, 2007), as well as a rather obscure figure like Ashin Wirathu, the face and voice of Buddhist fascism in Burma (Le Vénérable W., 2017). With Barfly followed by Reversal of Fortune (1990), Schroeder set off towards Hollywood and two decades of small gems like Single White Female (1992) or Before and After (1996) that did little to endear him with the arthouse crowd but brought intelligent entertainment to the masses. In between these, he’d shoot some truly off-beat projects, like the above-mentioned La virgen de los sicarios which is half surrealist delirium and half vériste exposé on the Medellin drug cartel, or the extraordinary Inju: la Bête dans l’ombre (2008), a brilliant adaptation of a Japanese crime literature classic that becomes a cautionary tale about Westerners who think they understand some foreign country better than its inhabitants.

Schroeder, a true cosmopolitan, knows that home is nowhere to be found and danger lurks around every corner. Which makes life interesting, of course.

Olaf Möller

Midnight Sun Film Festival 2018

Friday, June 15, 2018

Daratt / Dry Season


Daratt / Dry Season. The old baker and his apprentice who has come to kill him: Ali Bacha Barkei (Atim) and Youssouf Djaoro (Nassara)

Director: Mahamat-Saleh Haroun
Country: Chad, France, Belgium, Austria
Year: 2006
Duration: 1.36
Languages: ar, fr
    35 mm with English subtitles.
    In the presence of Mahamat-Saleh Haroun.
    Viewed at Cinema Lapinsuu, Midnight Sun Film Festival (MSFF), Sodankylä, 15 June 2018.

MSFF: "The original idea for Dry Season, the philosophical story of revenge and atonement set in the days of the prolonged Chadian Civil War that has won awards e.g. at the Venice Film Festival, came from from Mozart’s composition La clemenza di Tito. The grandfather of the 16-year-old Atim (Ali Bacha Barkai) sends him into the capital to kill Nassara (Youssouf Djaoro), the murderer of the boy’s father. The old and surly Nassara, however, unexpectedly takes the youth under his wing and proceeds to teach him how to work in his bakery. Tormented by contradictory feelings, Atim becomes part of the family of Nassara and his pregnant wife (Aziz Hisseine), and along with the new father figure, the original idea of revenge turns questionable."

"Mahamat-Saleh Haroun is one of the most lovable directors one has encountered during these recent years. The tranquil, unstressed narrative style of Dry Season, a film robed in eye-pleasing colours, where emotional turmoil and life’s diversity are presented in a beautiful and pure shape represents cinema in its most pristine form in the same way as, for instance, in many of the works by Roberto Rossellini and Abbas Kiarostami. The almost Pagnolian everyday life of the bakery – being in touch with the basics of human existence, in this case literally “our everyday bread” – is just about a perfect counterforce to the traumas caused by war and violence weighing on the boy’s mind."

"On the level of the dialogue, the director retains an artful sparseness, and the characters’ mutual reticence serves to emphasize the psychological dimensions of this setting even further. The final scene is startling, fierce, and surprising; Haroun’s film in itself pure enjoyment, from the beginning to the end." (Lauri Timonen)

AA: When the 40 year civil war in Chad ends in 2006, amnesty is announced. The blind patriarch of the family is furious and sends his grandson Atim to kill Nassara, the murderer of his father. But Nassara, a master baker, takes Atim as his apprentice. Atim thinks this gives him a brilliant opportunity to carry out his mission. But Nassara is a changed man, himself disturbed by the history of violence, a devout Muslim, and a baker who believes that the most important ingredient in making bread is love. With his wife Aisha he is very much hoping to have a child, but since there is a miscarriage, Nassara and Aisha want to adopt Atim. This is too much for Atim, and angrily he packs his bag and leaves. But since Nassara follows him, they meet the patriarch together, and he orders the revenge to be carried out. Atim shoots in the air, the blind patriarch is satisfied, and Nassara lies on the ground, stripped of his clothes and humiliated, but alive.

Aisha is much younger than Nassara. It is a marriage arranged by her parents. A rapport is immediately established between Aisha and Atim, but Atim is too young to be her man and too old to be her son. Nevertheless, there are The Postman Always Rings Twice moments in the tale.

Nassara is getting older. He, too, is a war victim: his throat has been slashed, and he can only speak via a booster that he applies on his throat. He hurts his finger in a dough machine. He hurts his back lifting a heavy flour sack. Every time there is an opportunity for Atim for retribution. Instead, he helps the old man, and especially when Aisha is in the maternity hospital, Atim helps Nassara in everything and even gives him a back massage. The loss of the baby is crushing for Aisha and Nassara. Atim consoles Aisha tenderly. "God has abandoned me", cries Nassara. "Everybody hates me".

A simple and powerful story told in simple and powerful images, glowing with rare intensity. The colours are bright, pure and forceful in this brilliant 35 mm print which looks like it has been struck from the original negative. There is a consistent sense of the elementary.

Like Une saison en France two days ago, Daratt was an exceptionally moving experience. I cancelled all remaining appointments in my schedule for the rest of the day.

Yesterday Haroun identified himself as wanting to belong to "the Chaplin family of the cinema", including Jarmusch, Kaurismäki, Kiarostami, Rossellini, and De Sica. (Might one add Ozu and Ray). In the intensity of Haroun's images I find an affinity with a film-maker who does not belong to the family, Tarkovsky. There is an elementary and unsettling quality in Daratt. A complexity in simplicity.

Der Felsen / A Map of the Heart


Der Felsen / A Map of the Heart. Antonio Wannek (Malte) and Karoline Eichhorn (Katrin).

Director: Dominik Graf
Country: Germany
Year: 2002
Duration: 2.02
Languages: de, en, fr, sv
    35 mm transferred from DV. In German with e-subtitles in English.
    In the presence of Dominik Graf hosted by Olaf Möller.
    Viewed at the School, Midnight Sun Film Festival (MSFF), Sodankylä, 15 June 2018

MSFF: "During a vacation in Calvi, Jürgen tells his lover Katrin that he’ll leave her to stay with his wife and kids – and vanishes. Katrin, now more alone than ever, drifts through the city’s hot days and hotter nights, enjoying among other things the amorous attention of two soldiers from the Foreign Legion. An encounter with teenage boy Malte (who’s doing time in a detention centre for juvenile delinquents run by the FRG on Corsica) sets her life on a path most unexpected…"

"The second half of the 90s were a tough period for Graf who, a bit like Katrin, felt that he’d lost his way. Experimenting with a new form (cf. Das Wispern im Berg der Dinge) offered one way out, another the use of a new technology: DV. Part of Der Felsen’s wild and unruly genius lies in its mix of pictures so pixely they look as if they’d been painted with sand with a full-blown orchestral score that seems to come from another cinematic universe. But that’s what makes Graf’s work in general so unique: He loves to hybridize what’s normally kept separate, play with expectations, make each film a voyage of (self-)discovery. Cinema, for Graf, is an on-going experiment – and so is life. Which makes Der Felsen almost a manifesto for Graf’s art." (Olaf Möller)

AA:  A crime story, a tragic love story set at Calvi in Corsica, directed by Dominik Graf and written by him with Markus Busch. A sense of landscape is essential: the presence of the sea, the rugged magnificence of the inner mountains. I was thinking about Henri Roussel's L'Île enchantée. The sturdy sea fortresses evoke memories of other Mediterranean stories, from Abel Gance's Napoléon to the Château d'If in The Count of Monte Cristo. Der Felsen, the original name of the film, means "The Rock", also relevant to the stories of Malte and Kai, inmates at a center for German juvenile delinquents.

The cinematographer is Benedict Neuenfels, and the film was shot on digital video which had become fashionable during the Dogme 1995 movement. It is a format I instinctively abhor. I seldom have headaches, but a theatrical film shot on handheld DV easily gives me one. Der Felsen goes one step beyond: it is a study of a one big headache. Katrin has been expecting Jürgen to get a divorce but when Jürgen's wife gets pregnant he decides to leave Katrin instead.

This leaves Katrin in a deep state of shock, and Der Felsen is a kind of a waking nightmare. The DV quality conveys this haze powerfully. Visually, Der Felsen is an experimental film in Stan Brakhage territory. The mind-altering trauma reverberates forcefully and sensually, most unforgettably in thunderstorm scenes and in the night flight to the mountain paradise.

Der Felsen is a tale of transgressions. Katrin is a technische Zeichnerin by profession: she makes technical drawings, and she demonstrates to Malte her skill at drawing straight lines by freehand. Now Katrin courts danger, first in the company of two Foreign Legionnaires (a happy escapade). Then in the company of juvenile delinquents from a camp called Brave New World. Later Katrin finds out that Malte has murdered his father in a sadistic way. Both Katrin and Malte use each other, yet there is something beyond abuse. Katrin is fearless, she seems to have no self-protection instinct, and maybe she is on a self-destructive mode. At the same time there is a sense of the indomitable in her. An exceptional performance by Karoline Eichhorn.

Details are significant. The film starts with a Senegalese street vendor explaining the story-telling tradition of his country: from two objects you must spin a story. Dominik Graf keeps repeating his fetish objects: a coral ring, a bikini top, a postcard. They evoke mystery and alert us to other objects. Kai is a street thief whose stolen objects tell stories, too. Clues to mysteries, and in this case, tragedy.

Sodankylä morning discussion: Dominik Graf


Dominik Graf and Olaf Möller at the Sodankylä morning discussion, 15 June 2018. Photo: Roxana Sadvokassova / Midnight Sun Film Festival.

Dominik Graf in discussion with Olaf Möller in English.
    The School, Midnight Sun Film Festival (MSFF), Sodankylä, 15 June 2018.

MSFF: "During Friday’s morning discussion Olaf Möller interviewed the German director Dominik Graf. Graf is a relatively unknown director outside German-speaking areas, since he has mostly worked for German television. Only a small part of his work has been made with cinema distribution in mind. Also, he is one of the rare masters of film who were born in the Federal Republic of Germany and worked actively there."

"Graf was raised in an artistic family and cinema was often present in his childhood – both of his parents were actors, although his mother later mostly concentrated on writing. The first film Graf remembers seeing was Dornröschen – Walt Disney’s Sleeping Beauty. Despite his family background, Graf was in his youth more interested in literature and music and started his studies in the field of literature. According to Graf, he even received an overdose of culture during his childhood."

"Despite everything, Graf did end up studying film and television in Munich. At the university he was part of the rebellious generation of the school. One of his close student friends was Wolfgang Büld, with whom Graf has later worked."

"Graf says that he got his early practical education while making minor television series early in his career. It was necessary to precisely know the different stages of the project and the effect that the director’s choices would have on the end-product. Artistic maneuvers were of secondary concern, Graf explains. This practicality was a large step for him early in his career."

"Graf started to get recognition for his work after making the film Der kostbare Gast in the late seventies. Soon came the made-for-television film Treffer and the television series Der Fahnder. His actual breakthrough came with the film Die Katze."

"What is it finally that made Graf so popular? Graf himself proposes that one essential factor was his rapid tempo. German films and series of the eighties were characterized by slow dialogue, but Graf decided against that. He made sure the dialogue tempo was more rapid and wanted the actors to speak faster. Throughout his career, Graf has paid special attention to dialogue – everything in a films centers on it."

"The final question concerning his desert island film made Graf think. Finally he decided on Nicolas Roeg’s psychological thriller Bad Timing."

AA footnotes:

Dominik Graf's father died when he was 13, and he went to a boarding school. In Munich there were many cinemas with exciting programming. There were two film schools in Germany. The Berlin school was political, the Munich school aesthetical. The school had a style. Everybody wanted to be Wenders. We were told not to use actors but Laien (amateurs). The students were interested in classical Hollywood, not nouvelle vague like me. An important influence was Robert Aldrich. He gave a class, we watched 15 films of his. He only talked craftsmanship. No mannerisms, just go straight.

Working in tv series followed, and they were the real school. There I really learned about film-making. Others told: just do shot - countershot. I made them as good as I could. I was faster, and my actors were faster. "First I have to think about the answer" had been the norm before. I became known as the guy whose actors talk fast. I knew that the actors worked at dubbing studios, dubbing rapid repartee in French and Italian. I knew they could make it.

The experience at Neue Constantin was in mercenary film-making. You needed to obey orders. I managed to insert some of my own style. When you know what you don't like and avoid that, it becomes a style. Hill Street Blues influenced Der Fahnder. I introduced corky characters. Doing the opposite to the Autorenfilm. Like Robert Altman we has simultaneous dialogue, like Howard Hawks had done already in the 1930s. In police movies the most fun are the office scenes.

In life the decisive moment is sudden.

A tracking shot could be extended with a zoom. The norm was slow and meaningful. I remembered the Aldrich law: it has to work.

Der Fahnder led to Die Katze. Continuing with other means. Götz George was the star of the decade. Die Sieger was my private Heaven's Gate.

FILM SCREENED: Der Weg den wir nicht zusammen gehen from Deutschland 09 (2009), an outstanding documentary on buildings from after the war about to be demolished in an action of "architectural euthanasia". Graf made remarks on "the other Germany". After years of West German takeover there is no surprise in the success of the protest parties of the vanquished.  Graf shot Morlock: Die Verflechtung there, again with Götz George, whom East Germans hated. Rolf Basedow the screenwriter liked people singing. Since the Wiedervereinigung I have lost some kind of West Germany. The takeover of the East still disgusts me.

It is very important in film-making to have continuity. You grow together. There is a longing for a family in this terrible business. A haven of warmth and safety. The film school was hard for me. I was an outsider. But it gave me teachers I can go against.

After ten years of composing my own music I decided it's too much pressure. I receive 5 cd's a week from unknown composers. In Düsseldorf I found really good composers, friends now since 20 years.

OM: Actors: what are you looking for?
DG: Life.
Awkward it can be.
Bad acting also possible.
But I want it explosive.
New actors: if you discover someone, the fresh period is getting shorter.
In a while they are only mirroring themselves.
Then my work is to lead them back to freshness.
There is always something erotic between director and actor.
I have to trust them immediately.
Most directors don't know what to say to the actor.
A warm and wonderful conflict is needed.

Klaus Wennemann (1940-2000), who acted in the leading role in Der Fahnder, had his cinema breakthrough in Das Boot. He was also the greatest language actor. Always grounded. Knew always what he was doing.

Language in the cinema is getting less important. Impressive images and sounds are sought. I didn't know anything about images. Nothing can substitute good dialogue. Dialogue is the action of the acting. Dialogues are getting worse in German films. German actors are bad in lying. They cannot play politicians. Trump is idiotic but true in lying.

Matthias Brandt took a step from the theatre to television. He became Hanns von Meuffels in the Polizeiruf 110 series. He loved the Derrick raincoat. I really saw him grow. He is undurchsichtig, opaque, quite good in lying, does not put his personality on the table. Boys with great fathers are always in trouble, and they have always something to tell each other.

OM: You are also an arbiter of taste in films. Including in Italian sub-dirt.
DG: Looking at films is a profession and a passion.
When I'm impressed I have to stop the film and return later.
I'm not a good series watcher.
Horizontal storytelling.
Im Angesicht des Verbrechens was based on a tree of stories.
In 2000 US tv storytelling changed. It is not my thing.
Der Fahnder: each episode told a little story.
In Im Angesicht des Verbrechens there was a broad tapestry.
Everything becomes smaller.
Mere storytelling is boring if there is no atmosphere.

Novels: the 1950s cinephilia emphasized that films are not like novels.
When Bondarchuk filmed the greatest novel, War and Peace, it became a tv series in four parts.

I have been offered great film projects that I did not take, even Stalingrad. There was not enough money. I turned it down twice. Joseph Vilsmayer shot a terrific epic street scene, an image that truly conveys it all. Why I turned it down had much to do with my father who was a war invalid of the Eastern front.

For the desert island I'd take Nicolas Roeg: Bad Timing, or maybe Eureka or Don't Look Now, but finally it would have to be Bad Timing.

Olaf Möller: Dominik Graf


Dominik Graf directs Florian Stetter (Friedrich Schiller) in Die geliebten Schwester.

Dominik Graf is one of the mere handful of living movie masters born and very active in the Federal Republic of Germany. If he’s not as well known as he deserves outside the confines of his native land then this is due to his particular career trajectory: Graf works mainly in television – of his more than seventy works, only about one-tenth was made for a cinema release.

Public television, for Graf, was always a utopia: The lone sphere of production left in the FRG that functioned somewhat similar to the Hollywood of yore – a place where you could do stuff the Hawks or Selander way and whip out entertainments by the dozen, prêt-à-porter flicks that the smart and curious knew how to use as vessels for subversive ideas; and as Tatort: Der rote Schatten (2017), Graf’s most recent experiment in avant-garde and enlightenment for the tube masses shows: It still works – when he president of the republic voices his displeasure about your cop show’s politics you know you hit a nerve… Cinema became, more by default than design, the space for grand totals: Masterpieces like his heist thriller Die Katze (1988), the melodrama Der Felsen (2002) and the heritage film Die geliebten Schwestern (2014) function as grand scale summaries of ideas and aesthetic approaches he’d experimented with on TV. Which is to say that cinema is the place where things get set into stone – and few directors anywhere in the world can claim to have created works like these three just mentioned: Films that managed to become more vibrant and urgent with the years while at the same time also feeling more and more… definite, for want of a better world. Die Katze, Der Felsen, Die geliebten Schwestern: This is how civilized life is in all its contradictory craziness and beauty.

Graf (* 1952, Munich) was born into cinema, television theatre and literature: His father Robert (whose life and legacy is at the centre of Denk’ ich an Deutschland in der Nacht…: Das Wispern im Berg der Dinge, 1997) was arguably the most charismatic as well as gifted actors of the young FRG; his mother Selma Urfer, started out as an actress but later focused on writing. Listening to Graf talking about his childhood and youth one gets the impression that he was brought up by the best and brightest in Adenauer-Germany’s world of letters and performing arts. Graf originally chose a different road: He became a musician – and only after that turned to cinema. At the HFF in Munich (the same school Mika Kaurismäki attended), Graf belonged to a rebellious generation: They wanted to make popular movies, not the elitist stuff their predecessors like Wim Wenders unleashed upon the undiscriminating middle-brow sucker masses in Cannes and Venice. With the mid-length and deliciously Rohmer’ian Der kostbare Gast (1979), Graf got first recognized; the TV-coming of age film Treffer (1984) and the series Der Fahnder (which started in ‘85) established him as an auteur to watch; his third feature for cinema, Die Katze, became a sensation that established him as one of the nation’s greatest – an estimation that hasn’t changed since, doesn’t matter all the ups and downs where masses of awards go hand in hand with box office disasters and bouts of public outrage for messing around with beloved concepts and figures. Graf is the one who pushes the envelope. Graf provokes. Graf is the gold standard of FRG moving image excellence. Graf is the real thing.

Olaf Möller

Midnight Sun Film Festival, 2018

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Die geliebten Schwestern / Beloved Sisters



Director: Dominik Graf
Country: Germany, Austria, Switzerland
Year: 2014
Duration: 2.51
Languages: de, fr
    In the presence of Dominik Graf, hosted by Olaf Möller.
    DCP with English subtitles viewed at Cinema Lapinsuu, Midnight Sun Film Festival (MSFF), Sodankylä, 14 June 2018.

MSFF: "Weimar and Rudolstadt, the summer of 1788. Friedrich Schiller meets and falls in love with the sisters von Lengefeld, Caroline and Charlotte. When they meet, Caroline is married to Friedrich Baron von Beulwitz, for purely financial reasons – their mother, Charlotte von Kalb, is in need of money after the death of her husband. Social necessities and the defiantly asocial desires of the heart as well as the body shall continue to clash in the decades to come. And yet, for all the hits they take in life, this love of three people for each other never dies – consciously or not, they keep that oh-so-needed last embers of passion glowing, till death shall take its toll…"

"Dominik Graf’s Les deux Anglaises et le continent (1971), just much more daring. Once again, Graf manages to fuse seemingly contradictory elements into a harmonious whole: A somewhat flat visual core scheme inspired by the painting style of the era is enriched with insights and quotes from extremely unusual, mainly local early experiments with the language of heritage cinema, like Klaus Kirschner’s biopic Mozart – Aufzeichnungen einer Jugend (1976), back then a matinee regular but today completely forgotten, or Das Tagebuch des Verführers (1978) by Michael Hild, one of Graf’s older fellow students who’d forfeit directing for producing." (OM)

AA: A love story around Friedrich Schiller during the Weimarer Klassik and the French Revolution, written and directed by Dominik Graf. A triangle that evokes comparisons with Jules et Jim in the cinema, only now here there are two women and one man. In Finland there is an inevitable association with Juhani Aho, one of our greatest writers, who was married to Venny Soldan and had a love affair and a child also with Venny's sister Tilly Soldan.

The special accent in this story is historical: it takes place at the turn of the ages. For aristocracy, all kinds of menages were normal. For the bourgeoisie matters were different. For aristocrats, love and marriage were things apart. Marriage was a practical arrangement, to be conducted according to rules and regulations. Love was important too, but love and passion can be transient. Loves may go but marriage endures.

This love story revolves around Schiller, but the two sisters are the dynamic characters, as the title of the film gives out. The performances of Hannah Herzsprung and Henriette Confurius are complex and passionate. Intelligent, and with flesh and blood. The story is unique, special and memorable.

Schiller is portrayed as a rebel and a professional. Florian Stetter's performance is somewhat laid back. We see Schiller's struggle to get a chair in Jena and his rousing inaugural lecture, an impressive setpiece in the movie. Dominik Graf has also affectionate sequences about the development of the book printing profession. Johann Friedrich Cotta appears as a person in the drama.

Goethe, like Jesus in 1950s Hollywood films, is a constant presence, but we never see him. He is mostly reflected in the agonized longing of Charlotte von Stein (Maja Maranow).

The physical production is wonderful and lavish. This period drama is full of life. The landscapes are breathtaking, the sense for the nature and the seasons is intensive. The period houses, vehicles and costumes feel authentic. There is a love in the detail in the production.

Although this director's cut is almost three hours long, it is never languorous. On the contrary, the edit is very fast, and often I would have preferred to linger longer on images.

The visual look of the DCP is beautiful.

Bye Bye Africa



Director: Mahamat-Saleh Haroun
Country: France, Chad
Year: 1999
Duration: 1.26
Languages: ar, fr
    In the presence of Mahamat-Saleh Haroun hosted by Satu Kyösola.
    A 35 mm print with English subtitles viewed at the School, Midnight Sun Film Festival (MSFF), Sodankylä, 14 June 2018.

MSFF: "Mockumentary or docudrama? In either case, Bye Bye Africa is a documentary fiction of African reality today. The film is centered on a fictionalized version of Mahamat-Saleh Haroun, a Chadian film director living and studying in France, who returns home after the death of his mother with the intention of shooting a film."

"The essayistic work addresses each friend of the seventh art when Haroun reflects on the controversial position of the cinema in Africa, where movie theatres are left to fall into decay. The story is interspersed with topics such as AIDS, motorcycles, afromusic – and humour: The director tries to explain film making to his father, who – unsurprisingly – doesn’t quite get it: When Haroun mentions Sigmund Freud and cites Jean-Luc Godard, the father asks whether these people are friends of his."

"Roy Armes, the widely recognized film critic and acknowledged authority in African cinema describes Bye Bye Africa in the Variety International Film Guide in 2001 as follows: “The very personal, at times almost home movie style is a direct result of Haroun’s innovative combination of digital shooting and editing, transferred to 35 mm film. More poignantly, showing documentary images of the cinemas in the capital N’djamena, all now destroyed by the civil war, it asks the question: how can one make films for a country where the cinema no longer exists?”" (Timo Malmi)

AA: The regular internet sources call Bye Bye Africa, Mahamat-Saleh Haroun's debut feature film, a documentary, but Timo Malmi above nails it by characterizing it as documentary fiction and an essay film. It is also the director's loving memorial to his mother.

The first person essay starts when Haroun, living in France, learns about the death of his mother whom he has not seen in ten years. With financial support his African community he is able to fly to N'djamena, the capital of Chad. Immediately during the taxi drive from the airport we land in the heart of things. Haroun is constantly filming everything with his light video camera. His father tells him frankly that his son's film-making is "blah blah blah" for him. "These films are not made for us. They are for the whites". "If only you would have become a doctor". Yet Haroun's [8 mm?] footage of his mother is proof enough of the importance of film-making. "It is for the memory". The footage is seen in an outdoors screening in temporary cinema circumstances. "In tribute to the one who gave me life".

A central theme is the death of cinema in Africa. The cinema culture in Haroun's youth was vibrant. The beloved cinemas of back then are fondly evoked: Shéhérazade... Now there is only one cinema left in Chad. The civil war 1979-1980 destroyed everything. People see recent films on television via parabolic antennae. We visit the projection room of the single cinema, Le Normandie. The projectors are getting old, the prints are getting worn.

The reactions to Haroun's incessant filming are variable in the extreme. Some men attack Haroun, hit him in the eye and confiscate his camera. "He is stealing our image". Haroun is taken to the hospital because of the bruised eye. Children are fascinated by Haroun and construct toy video cameras. They want to become film-makers.

Isabelle has played a character with AIDS in a film by Haroun. She has suffered enormously because people do not recognize the difference between fiction and reality. There are beautiful images with her. But Isabelle gets furious when Haroun wants to wear a condom. "You, too, think I have AIDS". "Your film killed me. People think I'm ill. Film is stronger than reality. I can't stay here anymore".

Haroun reflects on the dilemma of African cinema. There is no organized distribution of African films. African film-makers cannot reach African audiences.

Bye Bye Africa does not fit into regular categories, but it is a coherent work because of the first person perspective. A vibrant essay on life in Chad and the mission of cinema.

Music is important and beautiful in this movie.

The film is mostly edited from footage shot on video cameras in colour. Haroun himself is shown shooting in black and white. The footage on different formats was transferred to 35 mm.

Sodankylä morning discussion: Mahamat-Saleh Haroun


Mohamat-Saleh Haroun at the Sodankylä morning discussion, 14 June 2018. Photo: Venla Tirkkonen / Midnight Sun Film Festival.

Mahamat-Saleh Haroun (in French) in discussion with Timo Malmi (in Finnish) translated by Kaisa Kukkola.
The School, Midnight Sun Film Festival (MSFF), Sodankylä, 14 June 2018
محمد الصالح هارون, DMG Muḥammad aṣ-Ṣāliḥ Hārūn. Haroun is his patronym.

MSFF: "Thursday’s morning discussion was with Chadian director Mahamat-Saleh Haroun who nowadays works in France. The director was first introduced to cinema as a nine-year-old, when his uncle took him to see a Bollywood film. Mahamat-Saleh says that the only thing he remembers from the film was the very beautiful face of an Indian woman."

"– For a minute I thought that she was looking directly at me. That is how my long love affair with cinema got started, the director told."

"Mahamat-Saleh grew up in a small village and praises his close relatives. He thinks that the idea of sharing is also central to cinema. After his first eye-opening experience of cinema Mahamat-Saleh started sneaking into movies night after night despite the frightening, pitch dark journey back home. Only a few friends were able to accompany him on these trips, which is why Mahamat-Saleh and the other lucky ones made the effort to re-enact the films they had seen to their friends via shadow plays, for example."

"The civil war was present in Mahamat-Saleh’s childhood in the form of random conflicts. However, he says that the violence finally escalated to an unimaginable level of savagery. Mahamat-Saleh himself was also wounded by a stray bullet, after which the family ran away to Cameroon. Their former live was shattered completely. They did not even have identity documents with them. Mahamat-Saleh only had a piece of paper with the address of a Parisian film school in his pocket. It gave him hope for the future."

"The road to Paris took him through Libya and China. At his destination Mahamat-Saleh immediately found his way to the film school at Rue de Delta – to the address that he had carried in his pocket for so many years. At the end Mahamat-Saleh started studying in another film school while financing his studies by working in a hospital. In addition to his film studies, Mahamat-Saleh has studied journalism in Bordeaux and helped establish film education in Chad."

"The civil war he experienced first-hand is present in many of Mahamat-Saleh’s films. Dry Season depicts the cycle of vengeance in a village ravaged by heat and dryness. In the film Screaming Man the director switched to a more watery and urban environment. This year’s Midnight Sun Film Festival opening film, A Season in France, depicts a refugee’s experiences once he has reached his destination country. The director admits that the protagonist’s story is largely identical to his own."

"Mahamat-Saleh feels that along with Roberto Rossellini, Jim Jarmusch and Aki Kaurismäki, he is part of the humanist branch of cinema descending from Chaplin. The directors are connected via their pondering of humanity and search for truth and meaning. As his desert island film Mahamat-Saleh picked Roberto Rossellini’s Rome, Open City."
(MSFF)

AA footnotes:

Mentioned by Haroun, a French film dealing with the wars of Chad: La Captive du désert (1990), directed by Raymond Depardon, with Sandrine Bonnaire starring as Françoise Claustre, a French archaeologist, a captive of the Chadian rebels.

Haroun was born into a family with a line of teachers and an inherited urge to pass things forward. His grandfather fought for France in WWII, including in the liberation of Paris.

The impact of a film was enormous. It was traumatic. Haroun is interested in the art de partage, the art of sharing, a communion. There is an affinity in sharing a film and sharing a meal. In Haroun's childhood it was too expensive to go to the movies. In his circle of friends they could afford only one cinema ticket, and the one who saw the film shared it with the others.

In contemporary films a meal is nowadays dramatized as a battleground. For me, there is a dimension of the holy. Mankind needs moments of holiness.

A civil war is the most horrible thing that can happen. The violence reached the level of the absurd. The civil war of Chad lasted 40 years.

I want to record something of the light of my childhood.

The basic tension is between beauty and poverty.

Water is an element of peace.

War does not deserve to be portrayed.

About refugees in films: the image of the stranger is misleading. Why do we introduce in the image something that we don't want?

My influences started from Indian musicals to Westerns. Then I found a family of film-makers related to Chaplin: Jarmusch, Kaurismäki, Kiarostami. Tout une famille. And of course, Rossellini and De Sica. They are about mankind, humanity, truth, and meaning.

Roma città aperta, où j'ai compris qu'il y a un auteur.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Une saison en France / A Season in France



Director: Mahamat-Saleh Haroun
Country: France
Year: 2017
Duration: 1.40
In French.
    In the presence of Mahamat-Saleh Haroun hosted by Timo Malmi.
    DCP with English subtitles viewed at Cinema Lapinsuu, Midnight Sun Film Festival (MSFF), Sodankylä, 13 June 2018.

MSFF: "There have been many films made about refugees but the director has seldom had personal experience of the issue. Mahamat-Saleh Haroun is an exception. Haroun fled the 1982 civil war in Chad by moving to France. It took over thirty years in his new home country for his first film to see the light of day. A Season in France is a warm but ruthless film about Abbas (Eriq Ebouaney), a French teacher that immigrates to France to escape the horrors of a civil war in a Central African Republic, with his two children and brother, Etienne (Bibi Tanga)."

"Haroun’s Paris is not the romantic tourist city people often associate it with, Haroun shows Paris through the eyes of an undocumented (illegal) political asylum seeker. Abbas’ and Etienne’s dignity is at stake as they struggle through jobs, accommodation and bureaucracy. Abbas sells vegetables at the market, while Etienne, a former philosophy teacher, works as a security guard at a pharmacy. Abbas and Etienne are pushed around by bureaucrats forcing Abbas and his children to relocate constantly, while Etienne is living in a shack. Things get even more complicated when Abbas falls in love with the French woman Caroline (Sandrine Bonnaire). Both men feel the sexual tension with the opposite sex as challenging for their male pride."

"Dreams and nightmares bring an interesting level to Haroun’s eloquent film, in which an emotional episode at Caroline’s birthday party with momentary happiness shows how things could be. Eric Ebouaney does an amazing performance in the role of Abbas and the au naturel Sandrine Bonnaire is unforgettable as Caroline. The story ends abruptly at the coast of Calais with the emotionally moving music score by Senegalese Wasis Diop playing in the background." (Timo Malmi)

AA: Connections emerge between films at festivals. Having just seen A Ghost Story it was rewarding to observe the ghost theme in A Season in France, Mahamat-Saleh Haroun's new work, a film in which he is at his best.

The ghost in this film is that of Madeleine, the deceased wife of Abbas (Eriq Ebouaney) and the mother of his two little children. The forest nightmare sequence that opens the film is genuinely oneiric. Buñuel might have appreciated it. "Do the dead come back?" ask the children. "No, but it's important not to forget them". Abbas plays the children a recording of an African lullaby sung by their mother.

Abbas is physically in the grip of Madeleine's ghost. He has started a relationship with Carole (Sandrine Bonnaire) but cannot yet be as fully involved as Carole would like. "It's time to move on", thinks Carole. But at night Carole finds Abbas in the corridor, speaking with Madeleine's ghost, spastic in his agony.

Abbas and his brother Étienne who have fled a brutal civil war in Central Africa find it impossible to get asylum in France. Étienne gets so exhausted that he sets himself on fire at the court of asylum. Abbas, at the end of his wits, starts to act irrationally. He fails to observe deadlines of appeals. Losing his passport, it is not possible for him to marry Carole. He and his children become fugitives on the run also in France.

A Season in France is based on deeply felt experience. The texture of life is rich. The performances are superb not only in the leading roles but also in bit parts. For instance the sequences at the court of asylum are memorable. Each face in the waiting room tells a tale of pain.

The refugee brothers are intellectuals, articulate people forced to take any menial job they can get. In his farewell letter to Carole Abbas refers to the 1938 Évian conference. There is now a threat of a  disaster to what happened to European Jews who were refused asylum.

There are many memorable sequences in Mahamat-Saleh Haroun's poetic film. Carole's birthday party. Étienne's illegal shack (later burnt by anti-emigrant vigilantes). Étienne's funeral in which a white butterfly rises to the air from the grave. The site of the "Calais refugee jungle", freshly razed by caterpillars.

Wasis Diop's score is rich and outstanding.

The film was so deeply moving that I cancelled my films for the rest of the day. I was not the only one. I heard of at least two others who had done the same thing.

After the film Mahamat-Saleh Haroun was introduced for a Q & A. We met an artist of great dignity and humanity full of concern for the future of mankind. Haroun reminded us that the history of humanity is that of movement. The first human beings are from Chad. We are all migrants. But now "I'm really very scared".