Friday, 8 July 2016

Freeview film of the day : friday 8th of July

Des Hommes et des dieux/Of Gods And Men (2010 122min.) [BBC2 12.35am saturday]

Directed and written by Xavie Beauvois.

Under threat by fundamentalist terrorists, a group of Trappist monks stationed with an impoverished Algerian community must decide whether to leave or stay.

An utterly compelling story about a group of people under the most intense pressure; the differing ways in which they react to that pressure and the effect that the decisions they make has on their own lives and the group dynamic.

The early scenes set the scene perfectly - we learn all that we need to know about the monks attitude towards their work, their beliefs and their calling in a few beautifully shot and understated non-verbal sequences. We understand completely how they have, over a long period of time, won the respect and trust of the local population, integrated themselves into the society and contribute fully to it. Rather than acting as outsiders supplanted into a strange land we are shown how this small group of men have adapted to and fully adopted their new circumstances.

As the story progresses and the threat to their survival becomes increasingly great their (collective and individual) reaction seems natural and unforced - it's not overplayed for the sense of drama or tension, but seems to represent a real response to the rapidly changing world in which they live.

Lambert Wilson and Michael Lonsdale lead the ensemble cast but each and every part in the film is perfectly cast. Individual identities are established easily and as a consequence of the story; there are no long scenes of exposition where a character's backstory is established. Each of the nine central characters is given significant dialogue to allow us to understand how they feel about the threat to their existence without the need for them to take turns to verbalise it.

Beauvois' direction is fluid yet languid; at times the camera lingers over a long or medium shot in order to emphasise it's point - the integration of the monks into the Algerian countryside is perfectly demonstrated through these shots. When the mood and tone change he's equally comfortable pitching us into the middle of the action - the shocks in the story are all the greater because they spring on us from within the story without elaborate set-up or foreshadowing. The bald, almost documentary, style in which the moments of brutality are shown emphasises the extent to which they differ from the tranquil gentility of the monks' lives.

There is, towards the end of the film, one long near-wordless scene between the brothers which has already became famous for the power that it has to evoke any number of different emotions simply by allowing us to study the faces of the actors in close-up as they go about preparing and eating a simple meal.

A beautiful and affecting film made with skill, care and precision by all of those involved.

Friday, 1 July 2016

Freeview film of the day : friday 1st of July

Red Eye (2005 81min.) [Film4 9.00pm &+1]

Lisa Reisart (Rachel McCadams) makes a random connection with the charming Jackson Rippner (Cillian Murphy) while waiting for her flight back to work after visiting her dad (Brian Cox).

During the flight Rippner's true motives are exposed. Rather than a chance meeting Reisart has been targeted because, using the threat of the murder of her father, she is able to help Rippner's terrorist mercenaries achieve their aim.

Carl Ellsworth's script doesn't bother itself too much with motivation or the psychology of either character but settles instead for moving the story forward at a decent pace.
Wes Craven directs with a lot of extreme close-ups and two shots in order to heighten the sense of McCadams being trapped in Murphy's orbit.

The whole thing is neatly put together; there's a genuine sense of tension, a couple of very strong performances from the two leads and (as you would expect from Craven) taut and lean direction with hardly a shot wasted.

The denoument may be a little fantastic but it's a satisfying end to a film that knows it's limits and doesn't make any attempt to overstep them.