Fate Versus Man (Echo on Man)

After seeing a bunch of films at the 2011 Rotterdam Film Festival I noticed a kind of pattern starting to emerge...most of the films I saw seemed to have this lost quality about them, almost as if each character was a stationary road movie- sitting and waiting for events to happen upon them and taking slight, mundane measures to control their own fate. I think I found this theme especially interesting because I feel as though Gravity sort of fits in with it but, the way our story is told and the attempts at taking ones own future into their own hands was much, much more pronounced and active than the passivity present in the dreamy counterparts that dotted the film program.

Finisterrae (which I just read won a festival award), a Spanish movie that follows two white sheeted ghosts around as they move into their next life, was breathtaking in image. Each shot was a lush, near still picture of contemplation often with natural elements that I have no idea how the director was able to capture (owls regarding ghosts inches away, reindeer trudging through snow). The action was comprised mostly of odd, slightly funny scenes where the ghosts wandered into a situation and navigated where they ended up as best they could but, in the end turning into something else beyond their own decision making process.

Both Julien (a documentary about a late teen/early twenties boy in rural France) and Bad Posture (set in the American southwest and featuring another lost male soul) had protagonists completely at a loss as to what to do with their lives. I don't think I've ever seen a movie made quite like Julien, a documentary with part storyteller narrator, long dance filled sequences of movement, low quality digital video used in an experimental way (slight jumpy pulses of autofocus and trippy trails of fast movement) all followed around this young boy as he tried to figure out where he was headed with his life- school? medieval knighthood role playing? late night Michael Jackson-esque choreographing with friends? A beautiful film that I think really captured the nomadic interior of a young man as the world happens around him. Bad Posture also followed a young man around as he tried to move through the tangled web of coincidence, mildly controlling bits of his life here and there through party flyers, tagging and a smoking habit. This film too featured a long dance sequence, a near religious graffiti sequence set to a holy hymn sounding moment of peace, and some great editing on the part of the director.

I saw a few other films too and, after reading a lot of descriptions of the program, it sems fate vs. man was a big theme this year,  I think a lot of these films coming out of the post-recession climate really feel the need to deal with this idea. Suffering through the economic downturn maybe made a lot of filmakers, especially indie/low budget filmakers, feel as though there are forces far beyond their own personal control at work which has led to a lot of movies dealing with the same. The thing that bothers me though is that film is not real life, even documentaries are controlled by the director behind them. I don't really understand why filmakers wouldn't take the fact that they do have complete control over this one thing, this one thing that can create an alternate reality and shape the fate of people, and create films and characters that are more active than blindly lost. We may not have complete control over our lives but, why limit our art to that? Art lets us move beyond and question the lives we are (possibly) being forced to live- indie film needs to get out of its recession ladened funk and make the statements & revolutions they are capable of making! Not to say the films I saw were bad by any means but I think I am ready for something a bit louder and passionate! So, how much does dynamite cost...? And actor insurance....? Hmmm....



Donna K. is a recent transplant to the Midwest where she can be found exploring culture at large through film programming, writing and her general interest in the world- both on and offline.