I almost feel apologetic about my film blogging. I suspect I must be driving away most of my regular, knitting readers. But having started, it seems rather cowardly to give up before the Festival finishes. Anyway, blogging helps me to think about the avalanche of ideas and impressions the festival brings.
Finally, I've seen an English language film - even an Australian film. I dithered a lot before finally deciding to go to see Dead Europe, which is director Tony Krawitz's adaptation of the Christos Tsiolkas novel of the same name. I hated the novel. I hated the novel with a passion. It's not that it's badly written, but rather that it deals with such depths of depravity (to use a very judgmental word) that I felt ill while reading it. I think the film is much better. It still has a very bleak and depressing view of a very morally disturbing world, but in the film the central theme was more obvious, and I was less distracted by the moral horror of the detail. The main character, the son of Greek immigrants to Australia, has the kind of unthinking acceptance of ethnic and sexual diversity that it's possible to have if you grow up in modern Australia. His pilgrimage to Europe with its history of opposition, enmity and revenge overwhelms his capacity to understand the complex world he finds himself in. The cinematography is brilliant, with tight close-ups of faces and bodies and superb lighting. I liked this film so much more than I had anticipated. But a warning... it's not a film for the faint-hearted or faint-stomached. There's lots of violent and exploitive sex, nudity, filth, drug-taking - most things you (I?) dread in films. A 4 out of 5.
Clearly, my brief excursion into English was an exception. I've also seen a German film set in the Eastern sector of divided Germany in the sixties or seventies, and a Danish historical drama.
Barbara is the central character of a film of the same name. This is a simple film, though the issues at its centre are complex. Barbara is a doctor, exiled to a provincial hospital for unspecified political indiscretions in highly monitored East Germany. She is plotting an escape to Denmark to meet up with her West German lover. But she is drawn into the plight of patients at the hospital and attracted by the dedication of a fellow doctor. She has to choose between escape and her growing sense of duty. This is not a particularly original story, so the film relies on its honesty and a neatly controlled revelation of the plot complications for its success. 3 out of 5.
A Royal Affair gives you great value for your film-going money. The story is set in the 18th century, at the court of the mentally ill King Christian VII of Denmark, and focuses on the romance between his English-born queen Caroline and the royal physician Struensee. It's a BIG film - long, grand in its historical import, beautifully costumed and bejewelled, and with superbly framed landscapes and interiors. But it's not an empty film. As well as a love-story, the film tells the story of a doomed attempt to bring the ideals and practices of the Enlightenment to still-feudal Denmark. Mads Mikkelsen plays the doctor. I'd probably go to watch a film in which Mads Mikkelsen simply stood on a street-corner, so a film in which for much of the time he's called upon to express emotion through the slightest of glances or merest of gestures is ideal for me. This is not a subtle film, but it's beautifully constructed, filmed and acted and, like other films in the festival, it's transported me to a time and place outside my everyday experience. 4 out of 5.