Friday, October 19, 2012

Veden peili / Watermark

Vattenspegel. FI © 2012 Oy Bad Taste Ltd. P+D+SC: Rax Rinnekangas. DP: Tuukka Ylönen - Venice footage: Camera: Canon 5D Mark II (95% of the final Venice footage) and Canon 7D (5% of the final Venice footage), lenses: Zeiss Compact Primes set & Zeiss Distagon lenses set + Canon EF 24-105mm f/4.0 (steadycam), recording: Full HD 1920x1080, 8 bit and Technocolor Cinestyle - colour profile. - Finnish footage: Camera: RED Scarlet-X - Lenses: Zeiss Compact Primes set & Zeiss Distagon lenses set, recording: RED RAW 4K. Post house: James Post. Colour definition: Pasi Mäkelä in a DaVinci Resolve unit. Release format: 2K DCP. Camera ass: Jarkko Virtanen. M: Pascal Gaigne - played by a trio. S: Heikki Innanen. ED: Jari Innanen. C: Hannu-Pekka Björkman (Lauri Harkko), Kalle Holmberg (his father), Seela Sella (his mother), Nacho Angulo (Carlos Hermita). Loc: Venice (Italy) in winter. In Finnish and Spanish. 97 min. Distributed by Pirkanmaan Elokuvakeskus with Swedish subtitles by Jani Kyllönen. 2K DCP viewed at Kinopalatsi 10, Helsinki, 19 Oct 2012.

Synopsis from the production information: "A half-Jewish Nordic photographer arrives at Venice, Italy, in wintertime to seek the beauty of "Other Leningrad" that Joseph Brodsky, a Nobel -prized Russian poet, found there. The photographer takes silent images in Venice and opens his sinful reality to Brodsky, his only mental brother. The photographer carries the weight of his father who worked as an informer of Jewish people to Nazis during II World War in their home country."


"There is a thematic continuation in Watermark to what I started in Journey to Eden (2011) - both are accounts of a man's guilty mind and his atonement."

"The form of Watermark is, however, new. Instead of essayism it is a dramatic movie interpreted by strong actors and growing into a psychological thriller. Hopefully it is also enigmatic from the beginning to the end."

"It is about an inner crisis which takes the form of a confession during a few days of everyday work in Venice of a man who has been stranded in his life - the photographer Lauri Harkko, played by Hannu-Pekka Björkman."

"We often confess our nightmares to someone who is crucial to us while somehow invisible. In Venice Lauri Harkko opens the weight of his soul to his only soulmate, the Nobel laureate Joseph Brodsky (1940-1996) who was deported from the Soviet Union in 1972 and settled in the United States."

"In Venice Brodsky found his 'other Leningrad' which he visited regularly until his death. Lauri's settlement with Brodsky is related to his father, a scholar at Helsinki University (Kalle Holmberg) who had been an informer of Jews to Nazis during the Second World War."

"The borderline between two religions, shame, guilt, and the search for redemption are subjects which have always interested me. In Watermark these grow into central themes besides the startling relationships to father and mother, in the midst of the wintry beauty of Venice."

"A counterweight to Lauri's shattered mental world is the Spanish pianist Carlos Hermita (Nacho Angulo) who has arrived in Venice for reasons of his own. The encounter of the strangers opens unexpected doors to the realities of the men."

"How little we know ourselves. And each other. Watermark is a reflection on these questions. It is also an account of reintegration which in the narrative requires a shocking action to be possible. But who finally is guilty alone? And who is guiltless - in anything in one's life?"

"I would not have made this movie without these extraordinary actors. Nor without this artistic team." Rax Rinnekangas (my translation of the Word from the Director)

It is always a reason to be cheerful when an experimental movie is being released in commercial first-run cinema distribution. Rax Rinnekangas has now made it twice. Watermark is a companion piece to last year's Journey to Eden, which was a cryptic but intriguing pilgrimage story.

Perhaps I was not in the mood, but at first viewing I failed to connect with Watermark the way I did with Journey to Eden. I love what trend-coining critics call slow cinema; it is especially refreshing now that blitz montage is fashionable (although perhaps right now no more as much as in the recent past). Everything is so slow and meditative in Watermark, the tempo, the monologues, the music, that it sometimes borders on monotony.

The subject-matter is strong and heavy. I have a special interest in movies of Jewish relevance, and Watermark certainly belongs to that category. The mother is Jewish, and the father has been an informer of Jews to the Nazis, yet later he has converted to Judaism. But a further dark crime at the bottom of the story is parricide. Lauri has murdered his old father by smothering him with a pillow. I failed to relate with the way these subjects of grand tragedy are handled in Watermark.

Joseph Brodsky is one of the mirror figures of the movie. Another is the composer Galina Sokurova, important for Carlos Hermita. The main mirror is Venice itself, and its waters. There is a Tarkovskyan affinity in the lingering way the water and the walls marked with time are shot. Venice is a mirror of homesickness, as was the Italian experience in Tarkovsky's Nostalghia.

Memorable images: the footage shot in the Venetian Ghetto (Campo del Ghetto Novo is reportedly actually older than the old ghetto), and the Pannelli commemorativi delle vittime veneziane della Shoah; the pale-faced, in real life seriously Eastern Orthodox Christian actor Hannu-Pekka Björkman sporting a yarmulke; the grave of Joseph Brodsky in Venice. A memorable concluding remark: "the relationship of the infinite to the finite cannot be anything else but love".

The visual quality of the presentation was ok regarding that it has been shot on a system camera.

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