Day Seven - 21 February
My director’s name is Philip, and he’s making actors say stuff like “How can something perish, that has a right to existence?”; “What is time?” These are indeed the first lines of dialogue in My Brother’s Name Is Robert, and He’s an Idiot. At this point, not two minutes into the movie, the guy behind he muttered: “Oh f--k.”
Can you imagine a better place to prepare for your school leaving exams (Abitur/A levels/le bac/...) “in Philosophy” than the shadowless meadows behind a gas station? Where the ants crawl over your limbs, the August sun burns hot on your head – yours and your brother’s, who’s getting drunk on beer that you’re forced to pay him because for some lost bet, and with whom you have an incestuous relationship? You read aloud so very meaningful phrases, your comments are hardly less meaningful, then you go to the bathroom, or torture a cricket.
Take all your prejudices about 1970s/80s art house cinema - hand camera, filters for “abstract” images, endless dialogue about the meaning of life, time, everything, it all, dude, it all; it’s deep, man, so meaningful, y’know...; and you get Philip Gröning’s My Brother Rob... I want to thank Mr Gröning for one thing, though: Thanks to this film, I know now, an overdose of pretentiousness can cause actual bodily pain. Facial cramps set in, as the levels of awkwardness reached levels that should have forever remained hidden from mankind. And thus it happened, I walked out of a film at Berlinale, not because there would be four hours of it (My bro is “only” three hours long), but because it was so bad. The actress’ voice is so annoying, I not even wanted to wait for her getting naked – she certainly would, we already got Robert’s cock in the opening scene, before the meadows even.
It’s definitely Unsane to fill your brain with that sh—e. That, conveniently, is the title of the latest Steven Soderbergh movie. Competition-Out-Of-Competition, the non-category regularly serves as a promotion platform for some legit Hollywood output at Berlinale.
The psychological horror thriller starts like one more remake of a classic, in this case Miloš Forman’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. No chief, no Jack Nicholson here, but a tough woman working in finance. We notice, there’s something not quite right with her, and nevertheless it seems exaggerated to keep her against her will in the psychiatric clinic she's only visited for a check-up. Shouldn’t have treated the documents like the TOS of some app. The whole film, btw, was shot on an iPhone, resulting in very particular, and at times willingly unprofessional, images. On a side note, the clinic's director shares the same work ethics as our main protagonist. Again, you need to add some spice to the classics: The insurance scam - US health system: you’re, and only then, healed when your insurance stops paying for treatment – fully turns to horror trip when a psychopath who’s been “stalking” her for years turns up working in the same clinic, against all logic, and utterly inexplicable (unless he can foresee the future) having taken the identity of a new employee he’s unceremoniously deposed before that woman ever thought of seeking counsel.
Soderbergh not only read Ken Kesey, and watched that movie, but also likes John Carpenter’s The Ward, which is cheap trash but very effective for that. Is it all in her mind? Don’t worry, you’ll learn the truth soon enough, this is not a film to overstress your mental capacities (it’s not Shutter Island). The best part is a three minute cameo of Matt Damon in a flashback, teaching how to live in perpetual angst (no, not existentialistically spoken). That’s America: Everything is huge.
If statistics “prove”, how more and more people are affected by a phenomenon, there might be a growing problem. Or there might be something wrong with the statistics, e.g. a definition. (And maybe there’s a business opportunity somewhere.) Everything can become a trend, a fashion, even “being stalked”. As everywhere: Don’t trust the hype. But this David guy certainly has major issues. And a “cabin in the woods” (another film quote?), as he’s quick to tell.
Lesson for today: You’re not stalked, because some guy you’ve met looks through your Facebook posts, or sends you one more e-mail after you said “no” once. If he’s locking you into a padded cell, or hunting you with a hammer, though... that’s different. Never exaggerate, the middle way is it. Always. (Those medieval troubadours were the prototypical stalkers, yet rather harmless. Trust me on this one.)
Prediction: Out of Competition.
Berlinale, 15-25 February 2018
World of Arts Magazine - Contemporary Art Criticism