Saturday, July 4, 2015

Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy's new film "The Tribe" at Northwest Film Forum: Jul 10 - 16

Another major film from the year's international festival circuit lands at Northwest Film Forum this month! To call Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy's "Deaf-School Drama, Shocking, Violent and Unique" as Peter Bradshaw's review for the Guardian states, is something of an understatement. From it's outset, "The Tribe" establishes that there is to be no spoken dialog in the film, nor are there to be any subtitles to translate the exchanges between the characters, which takes place entirely in Ukrainian sign language. This may read as something of a daring gambit, or even bold gimmick, but Slaboshpytskiy's meticulously distanced camerawork and determinedly opaque dramaturgy is so explicit, and fully integrated ethical choice, that the viewer is immediately infected with a vicarious, voyeuristic curiosity. It becomes something of a sinister game to parse out the remorseless methodology and indoctrination of the young protagonist into the world of the film's crumbling state boarding school for deaf adolescents. One needn't be able to sign to be able to comprehend the film's setting and it's own complex hierarchy exerting it's influence through numerous demonstrations of humiliation and power, these are crystal-clear.

Beginning with the first day as a new student is inducted into a secret world of teenage gangs, predatory violence and crime. Within minutes it's established that the dominant boys in the squalid institutional dorms are running rackets behind the facade of the officially state-sanctioned sales of trinkets on trains. Left to their own in the decrepitude of urban Kiev, this is the most innocent of the ritualized practices they engage in. Their daily lives something of a real-world contemporary to Anthony Burgess' "A Clockwork Orange" in that it shares a post-adolescent world nearly devoid of any adult presence, where the youth at the lowest tiers of society's set of rungs are left to make their own way, to deign what the world is as they see fit. Sharing the austerity and rigor of Europe's great quiet confrontationist, Michael Haneke, the squalor of poverty amidst the erosion of the European economic community's social structures seen in the films of Ulrich Seidl, and the ghostly traces left behind of the late-Soviet era's influence throughout Cristian Mungiu's films, Slaboshpytskiy has crafted a work deserving of it's widespread critical acclaim. Rightly hailed in The BFI's 20 Best Films of 2014 and Jonathan Romney's Film of the Week reviews for both Sight & Sound and Film Comment, where it was celebrated as the most intrepid, surprising, inventive and disturbing film seen in Cannes Critics Week last year.