All posts filed under: Film

REVIEW | A Dragon Arrives!

A prison, inside a warship, next to a cemetery, in a desert, on an island… It’s 1965. Special Agent Hafizi is tasked with investigating a mysterious death in the prison. With little help from the apathetic police and superstitious locals, a murder is potentially afoot, and with what little resources they have, the trio begin their search for the truth. Then it gets weird: the film shifts to a modern-day interview with Mani Haghighi, the director of the film, talking about the long-lost audiotapes he found of Hafizi and co, and how they inspired him to make a film about their lives. The very film you’re currently watching. It’s a basic principle of storytelling to “show, not tell”, but A Dragon Arrives! tells its story masterfully, quickly cutting to a talking head interview of someone speculating what might’ve happened to the characters, building tension for the next time you see them for yourself. Haghighi is able to maintain a dreamlike level of reality throughout by constantly being in command of the distance between the audience and …

REVIEW | Mara and the Firebringer

Living in modern-day Munich, Mara Lobeer is a Cool Sad Teen(tm) struggling to cope with the animal-themed bullies at school, her semi-attentive Wiccan mother, and painful visions of viking invasions. After befriending friendly university professor Weissman, they discover that Mara is the Spaukona, a mythical seeress able to communicate with the Norse Gods. Which is handy, because the god Loki’s wife just got kidnapped, and only Mara can find her before Loki destroys the whole world trying. The film is written and directed by Tommy Krappweis, and based on the first book of a young adult trilogy also written by Krappweis, which makes sense, because it simultaneously spends too little and too much time explaining things. For example, a very long early scene consists of Mara and Weissman arguing over a particular character’s hairstyle. Which might be fine if it’s all setup for the rest of the trilogy, but I watched this entire film not knowing a) who the bad guy was, b) why he was bad, and c) how he was defeated. Trying to …

REVIEW | Long Way North

Long Way North is a French-Danish animated period film directed by Rémi Chayé, spoken in French with English subtitles. The story tells of a young French aristocrat named Sacha, who runs away from home after an embarrassing first ball to embark on an adventure to find her grandfather, who disappeared on an expedition to find the North Pole. Along the way she experiences all the hardships and adventures that this kind of journey entails. With its minimal 2D graphic style, rough lines and pastel block colours, Long Way North can almost be mistaken for a painting, if the imagery wasn’t in motion. There are some truly gorgeous shots in Long Way North and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. The film’s charming art style is juxtaposed quite sharply against its intense subject matter towards the end of the film. It does not shy away from exploring the ways people turn on each other. We see desperation that comes from such a dire situation and what men will do to each other. The film also explores themes of dysfunctional …

REVIEW | Notes on Blindness

Apart from closing our eyes and stumbling around like a drunken fool, it is extremely difficult for any sure-sighted individual to know what it is truly like to be blind; myself included. To know what its like to be trapped inside your own head. To know what it’s like to feel useless to your loved ones. To know what it’s like to never be able to see your home again. Notes on Blindness shares the story of John Hull, an Australian theologist and academic, who meticulously documented the loss of his sight via audiocassette. The film that resulted is an insightful synthesis of these audiotapes perfectly laced with visuals of lip-syncing actors. This film was a beautifully emotional piece of cinematography.  To create an image of what it is like to lack sight is not a simple task, but Notes on Blindness managed to do so sensitively and with emotional depth and empathy: it accomplished the unenviable task of inviting the sighted into the moving landscape of the sightless. Despite Hull’s recordings being taken from …

REVIEW | Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World

Every now and then, a documentary comes along and you watch it and you sit there and you think, “God. I’ve made some poor life choices”. Werner Herzog’s Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World is one of them. As the credits rolled, I drifted from the bustling cinema in a kind of haze, my mind lingering on a single question: why hadn’t I looked into this director sooner? Clearly, I need to atone for my sins, and I’m sure Netflix can help with that — but let’s focus on this film for a moment. Lo and Behold is a surprisingly optimistic look at the past, present and future of the Internet, in which Herzog guides his audience through a series of ten “chapters”, each examining a sliver of the online world…and, indeed, its reach into the offline one. Boasting gorgeous cinematography and carried by enormously charming characters, this film is a ride. In the beginning we are dropped into the Internet’s humble birthplace, a single room in the Stanford Research Institute, yet somehow, …

REVIEW | Captain Fantastic

Captain Fantastic is a 2016 film directed by Matt Ross and stars Viggo Mortensen as Ben Cash. The story follows Cash and his six children sequestered away from society, living in the woods. Cash and his wife decided to live separate from society, vigorously training their children to be at their peak of mental and physical ability.