Slow Film 4
Films you may have missed.
Brief reviews of films that are subtle and thought provoking – in short, food for thought.
All films reviewed are available at the Portsmouth Public Library.
Wings of Desire (1987)
Directed by Wim Wenders
Screen play: Wim Wenders and Peter Handke
Cinematographer: Henri Alekan
Cast: Damiel (Bruno Ganz),
Cassiel (Otto Sander),
Solveig Dommartin (as the trapeze artist),
and Peter Falk (who plays himself)
Angels inhabit the city of Berlin, they watch, contemplate and speculate as the citizens of Berlin carry out their lives. Their role in their service to God is to see.
Damiel (Bruno Ganz) and Cassiel (Otto Sander) are two angels who have spent a millennia watching over the affairs of men and women. No one can see them as they move through the buildings, parks, streets, and subways of modern-day Berlin — except children. One angel, Damiel wonders about what it is like to me human, to feel a warm coffee cup. He falls in love with a trapeze artist and in the turmoil this creates in Damiel the stage is set for his decision. One adult, Peter Faulk (who plays himself), can sense the angels and sensing Damiel, expounds on the wonders of human experience. The angles do not speak to him, they listen. Faulk’s lecture foreshadows the decision of the angel Damiel to forgo eternity and become human. The value of human existence is at the heart of this film: we in watching the film watch the angles who in turn watch the people of Berlin in the brief passage of their lives – the brief passage of human life.
As in many good films the cinematography adds to the mood and sensibility of every frame. What results is a film that is mood driven, reflective and surprisingly entertaining. “Wings of Desire” is a film to contemplate and enjoy, and revisit days later in your mind.
For more about “Wings of Desire” see what these reviewers have to say:
Deep Focus and Roger Ebert
The Fast Runner (2002)
Directed by Zacharias Kunuk
Natar Ungalaaq as Atanarjuat
Pakkak Innukshuk as Amaqjuaq
Sylvia Ivalu as Atuat
Peter-Henry Arnatsiaq as Oki
Written by Paul Apak Angilirq
The Fast Runner is a unique film. It is the first film shot in Inuktitut, the language of the Inuit peoples who live within the Arctic Circle. It was made with an Inuit cast, and a 90-percent Inuit crew. It also presents a ritual clan culture in a successful film which won the won the Camera d’Or for best first feature at the 2001 Cannes International Film Festival.
Its script was compiled from versions of an Inuit legend told by eight elders. The film relates the story of the people of Igloolik who suffer under a shamanic curse that causes bad luck and dissension for years. Atanarjuat (Natar Ungalaaq), a child at the start of the movie, who as a young adult falls in love with Atuat (Sylvia Ivalu), who has been promised to the chief’s son, an arrogant hothead named Oki (Peter-Henry Arnatsiaq). And so the shamanic curse and legacy fall into place. The rivalry between Atanarjuat and Oki is violent and stirring.
It is an outsized passion that consumes everyone, but not in a simple way. The people of the clans and the tribe as a whole depend on each other for survival. So as Atanarjuat and Oki are entwined in a ritual contest to decide who will marry Atuat, the cycle of vengeance consumes them and the tribe, which suffers from conflict that rips at the core of the community. Moments of humor and sensuality make this film a compelling human story driven by passion and ritual.
In Inuktitut with English subtitles.
See what this reviewer has to say about “The Fast Runner”:
The Seventh Seal (1957)
Written and Directed by Ingmar Bergman
Cinematographer: Gunnar Fischer
Max von Sydow,
and Bibi Andersson
The Seventh Seal was the first major film of Ingmar Bergman to gain international attention. According to some it is a masterpiece, others find it overdrawn and obvious. It is obvious only in the sense that it is openly and unashamedly the story of a search for deeper meaning, and it is set in nearly allegorical terms. I hope I haven’t scared you away from this film, because for all its seriousness there is humor in it. The contrast between uncertainty and simple faith is interwoven throughout the film.
The story revolves around a knight, Alexander Block (Max von Sydow), returning to Sweden from “ten pointless years” fighting in the Crusades. He is accompanied by his squire, Jons (Gunnar Bjoernstrand), a cynical wisecracking companion. Along the way they meet a traveling group of actors who journey with the knight and the squire through a harsh medieval landscape encountering along the way the effects of the black plague, a woman about to be burned as a witch, and a fallen priest. All these characters provide contrasts and counterpoints to the knight’s earnest search for meaning. He will even accept seeing the “devil” if the devil can tell him about God.
While he does not see the devil, he does see Death (Bengt Ekerot) — in one of the most famous scenes in film history the knight mistakes Death for a monk who he confesses his doubts about God to. Once Death reveals himself the knight is knows his end is very near. The knight offers to play a game of chess with Death, in the hope that the game will last long enough for him to do something meaningful before he dies.
Two of the actors who travel with the knight are not burden by doubt and uncertainty. Jof (Nils Poppe) and Mia (Bibi Anderson) are tied to each other and to life by love and faith. They have no deep fear — and they endure. The scene where they first encounter the knight and the squire is bright, illuminated and pastoral. The overall symbolism is clear and direct throughout the film. Jof understands that he and his wife must part from the knight his followers. In the final scene Jof describes to Mia the vision he has of the knight and the squire and the others following Death in a kind of entwined dance over a ridge to the knight’s castle.
Yes, The Seventh Seal is about the search for meaning and it is worth the journey.
Filmed in black and white.
In Swedish with English subtitles.
Slow Film is a blog series by Bob Miller, assistant librarian at PPL: lover of film, music, fiction and non-fiction. If you have suggestions for something that should be included in a future blog post, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.