This review also appears over at Memorable TV.
An ethereally beautiful picture, Silent Souls (or Ovsyanki in the original Russian) is a triumphant cry for human love, life and dignity. It is also an amazing insight into a culture few of us will have had any real experience of. Working as a kind of visual treatise on the whims, inconsistencies and eccentricities of what it is to be human, it is a remarkable film and one that stays in the mind long after the final credits.
Centred on the physical and emotional geography of the Meryan people, a Finno-Ugric tribe based in North-Western Russia, the film primarily concerns Miron and Aist, two middle aged friends coming to terms with the sudden death of Miron’s young wife Tanya. As is customary in their culture, they embark on a journey of hundreds of miles in order to deliver her body to a sacred lake. Along the way, they take part in ‘toasting’, an ancient custom deriving from the need to commemorate the dead by regaling the listener with deeply personal details of their sex lives.
So far, so graphic. But Silent Souls is a deeply sensitive work, showing the need for interaction of all kinds and how we stay close in order to stay sane. An unforgettable film, beautifully realised.
My review of this sci-fi curiosity (originally called ‘Womb’) is also over at Memorable TV…
Taking the all too real issue of moral and ethical problems with genetic engineering as its core, Clone is a compelling mixed bag of tricks. Crossing future-shock fiction with doomed romance, the film spins an intriguing spell and is all the better for keeping a hold of some of the mystery obviously present in its original spark.
Hungarian writer and director Benedek Fliegauf’s inspired use of the stunning landscape of the Frisian Islands as the film’s backdrop creates a magical, dreamlike quality in the story, which sadly the script never quite manages to match. That said, there are two extremely good performances on show from the ever intriguing Eva Green (Casino Royale, Dark Shadows) and the current Doctor Who, Matt Smith, putting in a bit of extra sci-fi work away from the Tardis.
The story, as is often the case with this type of speculative fiction, plays second fiddle to the unsettling mood and dramatically shot landscapes. The story, such as it is, concerns Rebecca and Thomas’s childhood romance and Rebecca’s subsequent departure with her family to Japan. When she returns 12 years later, their relationship is quickly renewed in an adult context. Tragedy strikes soon after with the upshot being that Rebecca decides to carry the cloned baby of Smith’s DNA…
From that enticing concept Clone follows the obsessive love and asks ‘how far would you go?’ Well, probably not that far, as the film leaves us in little doubt that it would turn out to be a nightmare. Haunting performances create a surreal climate of beautiful dread and while the plot does not much move far beyond the central concept, the mood is pitched so well that it doesn’t completely matter.
In one of the most powerful and effective scenes a young girl is encountered who is the source of all sorts of gossip and legend. Clones are derogatorily known as ‘copies’ and ‘smell like window cleaner’. It is an example of the powerful way that Fliegauf attempts to imagine just how cloning would (will?) become part of the local culture.
Also featuring a brief but commanding appearance from Mike Leigh favourite Lesley Manville (Another Year, Secrets & Lies) Clone (originally titled Womb) is a well realised curiosity with plenty to recommend it. If it occasionally falters through unclear plotting or misjudged conclusions it is redeemed by the powerful dream logic that pervades all.
From the classy intro of storm clouds, ghost stories, whispered Spanish and a cat called ‘Meow’, it is clear we are in the realm of the continental horror. Juan Carlos Fresnadillo’s (best known for directing duties on 2007’s fantastic 28 Weeks Later) Intruders has a neat narrative format in that the events take place both in Spain and in London, the action shifting from country to country as required.
As much a psychological thriller as a traditional horror, the film benefits from solid performances from Clive Owen and Carice van Houten, as the concerned parents of Mia (Ella Purnell) a 14 year old who is targeted by vengeful figure Hollowface.
Better than many have suggested, the film, while unlikely to produce nightmares, is a reasonable attempt to capture some of the foreboding power of The Orphanage and the like.
This review also appears in the latest issue of Clash Magazine
Pink Floyd’s 1975 study of lost friendship and corrupt business practises is given respectful treatment in this absorbing and well made documentary.
Syd Barrett, the troubled genius and former band mate that the title song is about, haunts the film as he does the album, appearing phantom like in one deeply sad anecdote to watch the band recording the epic Shine on You Crazy Diamond, a powerfully honest track that addresses his wayward talent.
The extras include extended interviews and prove that Roger Waters in particular has lost none of his ire…
This review also appears in the latest edition of Clash Magazine
My review of the Stockholm Syndrome psychological thriller ‘In Your Hands’ is over at Memorable TV…
Kristin Scott Thomas is great but you’re left with a rather unpleasant taste in the mouth at the end…