Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Elephant, by Gus van Sant

   You've been there. The cruel world of adolescence. And you've also seen this world depicted on movies. Usually melodramatized. But not on Elephant, Gus van Sant's movie inspired by the Columbine shootings.

   The movie presents one "normal" day at school as we follow students through their routine. The camera switches from one student to the other and sometimes comes back to the same encounter through another angle, following someone else.

   There is John, son of an alcoholic. There is a young couple. There are three girls and the throwing up after lunch looking so banal. There is a photographer trying to make sense of the images around him. And there are two young friends, one plays fairly well the piano, the other plays a violent shooting game, and they have big plans for that day.

   We can see it coming slowly. After breakfast the boys receive an automatic weapon from mail and get ready for the shootings. While one of them is taking shower, the other joins him and they kiss.

   John is leaving school and crosses his fellow students in shooting apparel. He understands something is bound to happen and tries to dissuade people from entering the school. Not much can be done at this point, and the two boys will go on with the killing. One of them will kill the other and we are left with the remaining killer choosing between the couple, who's the next victim.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Hidden (Caché) by Michael Haneke

   What are you hiding?

   A hidden camera films the front door of an affluent french couple's house. Videos of this camera's image are sent to the couple played by Daniel Auteuil and Juliette Binoche, wrapped in a childish drawing of a children with a cut neck and lots of blood flowing. A quest to try to understand the origin of these tapes begins the flow of a movie that will surprise you many times as it unfolds.

   Ironically, the American DVD release reads on the cover: "Like Hitchcock, but creepier." I can't really compare this movie with anything from the old master. Here the spectator can't really distinguish himself from the characters, a comfort that Hitchcock allows us.
   Repercussions of colonialism is one of the hidden issues. The character of Juliette Binoche seems to be hiding her meetings. The final meeting of the son's of Daniel Aulteuil and Majid is kind of hidden (how many people really see it?). The young son is clearly not telling the whole truth to his parents. What is the reationship between the two sons?

   And in a sense a reflection on movies. The fact that we hide, spying this people on the flickering screen. And hide ourselves and hide things from ourselves. This movie stands beeing seen again and again. I love the idea that the truth of this story is hidden. We don't have the closure of finding out what really happened.

   Some other movies resonate with Hidden: Coppola's The Conversation, for the idea of spying. Argent, by Robert Bresson, for the detached way of telling the story. Bresson, actually, can be considered a stylistic precursor of Haneke.