Thursday, December 05, 2013

Salpa / The Latch

Spärr. FI 2013. Production company: Filmfly Oy. Producer: Mete Sasioglu. Director and screenwriter: Zagros Manuchar. Cinematography: Arttu Peltomaa - shot on 35 mm - colour - 1,78:1 - released on 2K DCP. Color Grading: Marko Terävä. Production Design: Juha-Matti Toppinen. Costume Design: Laura Malinen. Make Up: Karoliina Purala. Sound Design: Antti Onkila - mono. Editing: Oskari Korenius, Zagros Manuchar.
    Gaffer: Kari Niemi. Lighting Technicians: Joonas Niemi, Antti Savolainen, Jeremias Nieminen. 1. Camera Assistant: Jenni Kaunisto, Outi Ylä-Outila. 2. Camera Assistant: Sofia Palillo, Hannu Käki. Costume Designer's Assistant: Maria Rosenqvist. Sound Recording: Antti Onkila, Timo Kari, Tuomas Vauhkonen. Boom Operators: Charlotte Strömberg, Tuomas Onttonen. Making Of: Toni Heiskanen. Production Secretary: Juha Laine. Foley Artist: Toivo Kallio. Still Photography: Noora Lehtovuori. Graphic Design: Pate Pesonius. Visual Effects: Heikki Ulmanen. Horse And Riding Consultants: Julia Nurminen, Mia Majuri. Production Manager: Ilkka Peltola. Production Assistants: Bal Parkash, Eetu-Pekka Heiskanen. Poster: Janne Kuisma. Trailer Editing: Maria Palavamäki. Webpage Layout: Vesa Hänninen. Distribution: Miika J. Norvanto / Black Lion Pictures.
    Cast: Elis Lindfors (Henri), Eero Enqvist (dad), Elena Leeve (hevostenhoitaja / groom).
    107 min. Viewed at Kinopalatsi 4, Helsinki, 5 December 2013, released on 2K DCP by Black Lion Pictures with Swedish subtitles by Janne Nyström.

The official presentation:

Motto: "The distance from the nearest star to Earth is 150 million kilometres. The distance to reach another human being can seem as long."

Official synopsis: "The Latch is a story about the loneliness of a young boy with a speech impediment, the necessity of being loved and the longing to be seen."

"Henri (Elis Lindfors) suffers from severe stuttering and is transferred to homeschooling. He is going through a stage in his life which will decisively define his relation to the world. He looks for warmth and security, but the person closest to him, his father (Eero Enqvist), is not able to respond to his needs. As the situation becomes unbearable, even a frail connection to another person (Elena Leeve) can become significant."

"The dreamlike movie, whose mode of narration resembles that of poetry, sketches a portrait of a young boy groping to get a hold of life. Silence, long takes and a lack of big gestures contribute to a world into which the viewer is invited."

"Already before its Finnish premiere the film, written and directed by the 23-year-old Zagros Manuchar, has been seen at many international festivals, including one in the director's native country, Iraq. It has also been short-listed for the 2013 international competition series at the Entrevues Belfort Film Festival in France."

"The Latch is a timeless, thoughtful and hopeful account of a world in which true human presence is sometimes illusory." (Official translation modified by AA.)

A distinguished debut feature film by the 23-year-old Zagros Manuchar.

I like the gravity and the dignity of this film. I like the intensity of the visual approach and the focus on painting with light. The season is autumn. There are autumn colours but there is also autumn rain and autumn grayness. The quality of the light in the cinematography is often eloquent. There is a culture of light in the imagery.

Henri the teenager is lonely. The family has been broken. The mother is away. The father is true blue reliable and responsible, but emotionally challenged, unable to react to the despair of the boy.

Henri suffers terribly from his stuttering. He does not always stutter, so it must be psychological. The father is not sensitive enough to seek help. He thinks it will pass anyway. There is no easy clue to the psychological roots of Henri's stuttering. It remains a mystery.

Salpa is a story about the difficulty of learning. Henri is emotionally blocked, and somehow this emotional blocking is related to his challenges of learning mathematics. For dad, math is too easy, and he cannot at all understand Henri's learning difficulties.

Nature is central in the vision of the film. The world of the horses, the stables and the paddocks is essential for Henri's connection to life. At the stables Henri also keeps seeing a group of five girls but he never dares to speak to them. Instead, they approach her, and in a funny scene, a matchmaker amongst the girls takes the initiative and informs Henri that one of them is interested in him and volunteers to be the messenger. But Henri is still too distraught for dating.

Instead, Henri still needs a mother figure. He talks with his mother on the phone. When the incomprehension of his father gets too much for him, he approaches the groom of the horse stables (Elena Leeve) who lets him stay for a while and helps him enter a peer support group of stutterers.

Salpa is an account of the anxiety of youth, of Weltschmerz, of solitude, and of marginalization. It is also about not surrendering to fate.

Stuttering is a powerful image and a thought-provoking symbol about the difficulty of communication.

Elis Lindfors's performance is convincing. Elena Leeve is subtle as the alternative mother-figure. Eero Enqvist has the thankless role as the emotionally challenged father.

Salpa is an image-driven film. It might be even more powerful if it were edited to a Bressonian duration (80 minutes or so). Because Salpa is also a study about les chemins de la solitude.

Salpa ends with a close-up of Henri's face. Then there is darkness and silence. No end title, no end credits. Instead, at the door we receive a handsome illustrated brochure with the production information. There is no music in this film which is all about the significance of the sound of spoken communication.

Shot on photochemical 35 mm film, Salpa is released on 2K DCP. No problem with close-ups and interiors, but there is a slightly denatured digital look in the nature footage of this work in which nature is the essential counter-image.

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