20 October 2011
30 August 2011
Agent provocateur, enfant terrible, wind-up merchant…call him what you will, enigmatic auteur Lars von Trier is fond of the big statement. Thankfully, after his embarrassing - and firmly tongue in cheek – comments at Cannes earlier this year, all of his visionary zeal and intellectual bombast has gone on screen for this the follow-up to the controversial, contentious and largely misunderstood Antichrist.
It doesn’t get much bigger than the end of the world and Melancholia deals with this in a fantastically moving and powerful way. The apocalyptic tour de force features an impressive cast, with star turns from Charlotte Gainsbourg, John Hurt, Charlotte Rampling and above all, Kirsten Dunst, who has never been better.
From the incendiary extended opening montage sequence Melancholia looks and feels like little else. From then on the film is clearly divided between the psyches of Dunst’s Justine and Gainsbourg’s Claire, with the first part recalling von Trier’s fellow Dane Thomas Vinterberg’s family tragedy Festen. The second part goes deeper into pseudo science-fiction territory. Von Trier’s strange and beautiful figures dance around a doomed planet asking questions and providing no easy answers. It is without doubt von Trier’s most honest work. It is also his best. It comes from and speaks to the soul.
02 August 2011
15 July 2011
Soaking in blood, sweat and everything else, this hard as a hammer Spanish prison drama is based around a wonderfully inventive concept – a guard trapped in a riot has to pretend to be a convict to avoid being killed. It’s a beautifully simple idea and one that keeps the audience on its toes throughout.
Eager to impress, Juan (Alberto Ammann) leaves his pregnant wife (Marta Etura) at home in order to go to work a day early. Unfortunately for him, all hell is just about to break loose. After an accident knocks him out, Juan wakes up in the cell of the title. He has to think fast. Or die.
Central to the disturbance is Malamadre – literally ‘bad mother’ in English - (Luis Tosar) whose trust Juan must win in order to survive. Their relationship becomes deep, full of complexities and contradictions – as well as more than a little homo-eroticism, particularly when Juan is forced to strip in a humiliating ‘welcome’ to the prison – and one that defines the film.
Cell 211 is an uncompromisingly grim experience and it presents a pretty bleak outlook for the Spanish prison system. However, the prisoners are never presented as anything less than human. There is also the fascinating realisation that without the bars, chains and locks, there is not that much that separates the guards from the prisoners.