Film Reviews by ST

Welcome to ST's film reviews page. ST has written 3 reviews and rated 4 films.

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The Turin Horse

Bleak Vision

(Edit) Updated 06/04/2020

Taking as its starting point the mistreated horse that supposedly sent the philosopher Nietzsche into mental imbalance this uncompromising vision of a film follows the daily routines of life of an isolated farming family comprised of a disabled father and his daughter. We presume that the encounter with Nietszche -- which is never directly referred to -- has somehow brought a species of curse onto these vulnerable but resilient characters who live their subsistence-level lives in the teeth of a relentless steppe wind. As the film unfolds, the 'curse' steadily makes its presence felt -- some aggressive travellers show up, the well runs dry. Tarr's vision politicizes Nietzsche's famous declaration that 'god is dead', and the philosopher's ideas are briefly articulated by a neighbour who visits to buy moonshine, attacking a system that seems relentlessly bent on the destruction of the rural poor. I felt I had to undergo this film, not just watch it -- I'm still thinking through and living its indelible images.

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The Diary of a Country Priest

The Power of Faith

(Edit) 29/03/2020

This subtle but intriguing film eavesdrops on the inner reflective life of a rural curate tending to the awkward and suspicious residents of his isolated parish. Full of doubt and afflicted by a mystery illness, the protagonist is drawn into a tense set of confidences and disavowals within the family of the local squire whose spirited daughter resents her father's philandering ways. Called to the house to tend to the squire's wife, the humble priest undertakes the faith healing of his life as he enables her to confront and overcome her grief at the loss of a child in the face of incredible hostility and resistance. A moving portrayal of the power of faith, the priest's weaknesses and failings are ultimately seen as part of an integrity that recognises and accepts the frailty of the human condition as a precondition of our relationship to God -- a moral courage which requires great responsibility. A film with an important message almost lost in contemporary life.

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Ulysses' Gaze

For the Journey

(Edit) 29/03/2020

This fascinating but flawed film follows the journey of a distinguished Greek film director as he travels through the Balkans in search of three lost reels of film from the first makers of cinema in Greece. Harvey Keitel plays the director who at times shifts into the past and begins to get entangled in the complex overlaying histories of the countries he travels through -- Albania, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Romania, eventually arriving in Sarajevo during the Bosnian war of the 1990s. I found the settings and images of this work utterly compelling, and got drawn into the drama of the unfolding journey -- the spectacle of the titanic fragments of a dismembered statue of Lenin being transported on a river barge are surely some of the most arresting in European cinema -- and yet this trajectory seemed to overwhelm the more individualised aspects of the film. The characters seemed to me like bit-players; tokens or types inserted into the narrative but without agency, depth or colour, limiting the impact of the film's thesis on European history. Keitel himself struck me as incredibly wooden, struggling to wrest meaning and nuance out of lines of lacklustre dialogue, at odds with a non-native English speaking cast throughout. Nevertheless, the film is worthwhile -- not flinching from an incredibly brutal and unexpected denouement which has an impact far beyond the sum of the rest of its parts.

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