Saturday, 6 June 2015

'The Tribe' review

It takes a lot for a film to shock me. In fact, I would usually argue that it couldn't be done. Sure, I recognize bad taste and general repulsiveness: Gaspar Noe's 'Irreversible' was one such film that contained a variety of scenes that disgusted me. I knew they were bad, and felt that atmosphere, but that's not the same as shock. Well, the final scene of Miroslav Slaboshpitsky's unique drama shook me to the core. More after the break....

This film has been getting a lot of press coverage. It seems as though every critic under the sun is proclaiming this feature as some sort of cinematic messiah. Although I would agree that this film is a masterpiece, I would have to disagree with the quote on the poster above. The fact is, this film is NOT for everyone. Not only that, but very few people will ever see it due to the small release, and why is this release so small? This film is excessively violent at multiple points, and is deeply, personally sexual (yet not in an exploitative way).

Also, it's completely in sign language.

With no interpreter.

And no subtitles.

And no music.

The concept on its own would be a bit sketchy. At best it's gimmicky, and at worst, it's just an attempt to be sensationalist and receive good reviews. On top of this, it's really just a silent film, disguised as a modern device - making it not all that original anyway.
But somehow it feels different - whereas silent films always used conventional emotive actions and displayed text to convey a simple story, 'The Tribe' uses alien gestures to convey a gangster epic as complex as 'The Godfather' - it's insane.

'The Tribe' - unbearably violent
We follow a new pupil whose name is not revealed to us into a deaf boarding school whose name is also not revealed to us. Inside it's bleak, featuring prison - like corridors and rooms - one could be forgiven for mistaking this as such. In fact, without the expository scene, I wonder if I would have figured it out. The deaf are caged like animals in many senses, and  Slaboshpitsky wants us to understand their isolation. In this way they are the 'Tribe' of the title. The locations are all drab and ruined (perhaps a comment on the crumbling authority held at the school -  from what we can make out, a mafia - like organisation have taken over from Senior Management and are running a prostitution ring ). Although the director prefers a realist style of film making, I doubt he intends for 'The Tribe' to be taken all to seriously. A deep analysis of his setting would reveal more than a hint of exaggeration.

Masterfully framed depravity.
The film is most definitely a singular experience. Due to the total absence of any non - digetic sound, the whole affair plays in what is a creepy virtual silence. Through desolate landscapes, cramped apartments and deserted theme parks, we follow our protagonists. Every scene is framed to perfection, but it never feels forced - truly masterful. And the basic story is relatively simple to follow as well (although some viewers may get lost due to the unconventional method employed to covey it). To put it short, our main pupil character falls in love with one of the prostitutes, with whom the gang is going to send to Italy to make more money. Thus, he endeavors to save her.

This is one area where the film falls slightly flat - it's hard to convey a story without language. In making the girls wear 'Italia' tees, it felt to me as if the director had to force his point, and as the story becomes more complex, it also becomes exponentially harder to follow. This is where the main criticism comes in: the film turns exploitational and voyeuristic to a degree. I had no problem with the sex (except for one dubious scene which may or may not have been consensual). Although it was rather full on (yet oddly tame with the naked body never being fully exposed), it was loving and rang true. Unlike Noe, the sexualised female is not viewed as an object. However, the violence escalates into a series of fever pitch scenes which are nigh on impossible to watch. Considering the poster advertises an experience for 'everybody', four scenes of this movie could really make you sick. Close up blunt trauma; drowning; a full abortion - the horrors that we, as the audience have to endure. I honestly cannot imagine going to the cinema with another person and watching this movie. It is a film to be watched privately for sure.
'The Tribe' - intimately sexual.

Nevertheless, this doesn't make it a bad film... in fact, I found it to be brilliant and engrossing. You see, apart from the fact that the plot is challenging, and the violence is too much, this film is nigh on perfect. The actual story is superb, and a homage to a style the director clearly admires, and the cinematography is gorgeous (as I've said before). There is a palpable atmosphere of atmospheric strangeness in this isolated world - the deaf school has its own ecosystem, and in it we see a microcosm of society. The whole film is a grand game of decisions in consequences which has one message - love and hatred need no translation. Indeed, a very powerful idea.

To conclude, 'The Tribe' is pure cinema - literally. Featuring no dialogue or explanation, we are swept into an alien world of violence, lust, and betrayal. Although the violence, sex, and challenging plot may overwhelm some viewers, there is much to admire: the locations are well chosen, the acting is superb and the cinematography is among the best I've seen in a long while. So go along and see it, if you're up for it. And one more thing: don't watch with your parents...


'The Tribe' gets 4 stars!


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