Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Tribe

Someone explain to me the point of this movie. If it was to confuse me, like to say, “Hey, this is what life is like for deaf people on a daily basis, they don’t get the conversations going on around them,” then okay, I tip my hat. Other than that, I don’t get the aesthetic. And do you really need 132 minutes to accomplish that?

I love minimalist filmmaking, ask anyone I know. I could watch a woman bake a potato a dozen times in a Bela Tarr flick. I think Wendy and Lucy is one of the best American films of the decade. Don’t even get me started on my defense of The Brown Bunny. But there’s a line. There’s a scene in the film where a character applies for a visa. She fills out the multi-page document in real time, only to discover she’s made a mistake and must start all over.

And why should we care about any of the characters? We don’t understand their motivations, the film doesn’t explore the psychology of any of them. Is the lack of spoken word supposed to camouflage the fact that its story of humanity and equality is tired, that it wallows in sex and violence? American critics are going to eat this movie up. They’ll call it sophisticated and edgy. They’ll probably employ a still of two characters engaged in the sexual practice of 69ing to prove their point. But don’t be fooled.

Here’s the story, at least what I was able to ascertain. Someone who understands sign language may be able to explain it better. By the way, is sign language universal? Would American signers get the movie or would they have to be from Ukraine? A deaf teenager, the credits call him Sergey, although there’s nothing in the film to let you know that’s his name, registers at a boarding school for deaf children. After a period of hazing, he is accepted into a gang. Incidentally, he is forced to take on three students in a fight as a form of initiation. Rather than delivering a raw and harrowing wake up call, the brawl evokes the ludicrous acts of The Three Stooges. Sergey is soon looting trains and pimping out female students. We see the same two female students turning tricks at the same truck stop at least five times in the movie. And there’s zero consequence to anything the kids do. A student literally gets killed during one of their outings. There’s no remorse on the part of his friends. There’s no interference from a law enforcement agency. The woodshop teacher who drives them to these various crime scenes is never called into question.

I’d be remiss to say there weren’t spectacular scenes in the movie. Nothing can prepare you, for instance for the stripped-down reality of a young girl getting a back alley abortion. The scene is completely devoid of compassion and the actress causes us to forget we’re watching a movie. Subsequently, this is one of the few times we actually hear one of the actors’ voices. But that wasn’t enough to make me like it. As an experiment, it was interesting for a while, but its authenticity was reduced to gimmickry by the end. I was over it within thirty minutes.

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