The ability to be moved in the cinema has a ratio inversely proportional to the number of movies watched and one’s experience. The effectiveness of the image in this area does not necessarily mean that we are dealing with a masterpiece, but every tear shed in a dark room full of unknown people is a special moment. Therefore, instead of classic summary of the year, I serve you a list of my ten emotions.
1. Oneiric emotion – The Land Imagined, dir. Yeo Siew Hua
I wrote about the winner of the Golden Leopard from Locarno during the Five Flavors Festival and I still maintain that this is the best film I have watched this year. When the prospect of a world breaking apart constantly is on the back of our heads, there is no better remedy than a sleepy movie that activates a semi-unconscious sphere of routinely repressed thoughts of degradation (sins of wild capitalism, loneliness and communication failure) with the help of beautiful neon frames and neo-noir style. Tears in Singapore, on the beach of stolen sand.
2. Slow emotion – Kraben rahu, dir. Phuttiphong Aroonpheng
Winner of the Orizzonti Award from Venice. This year I haven’t seen the second movie with such a beautiful male sexual tension (without erotic scenes), perhaps unintentional at all. The assumption was to show refugees from the Rohingya people – and of course, as it is in slow cinema, it was happening in the background – in practice, the relationship, silence and poetry were more important. Cigarette on a steamy night, shiny sea water and tears. An experience reserved for slow cinema fans.
3. Locarnian emotion – Closing Time, dir. Nicole Vögele
Special Jury Award in Locarno in the competition “Cineasti del presente” and a documentary – as if it was filmed just for me. The work of the young Swiss artist, about whom I wrote in September, has a similar spirit as in the case of The Land Imagined. The clash of merciless civilization and nature slowly retreating under the pressure of greedy expansion of capitalism. Night work in a metropolis suffering from palpitations. It’s again about the collapse of the world, although in a different style. Vögele is rightly not afraid of boredom, and I want to see more documentary filmmakers like that. Subtle symbolism and beautiful frames move effectively.
4. Overwhelming emotion – An Elephant Sitting Still, dir. Hu Bo
The most disturbing movie of 2018. After its premiere in Berlin, Hu Bo, the director, committed suicide. The cry of despair in An Elephant Sitting Still is not just a self-suggestion. Absolute helplessness of life in a cold society deprived of hope, there is no sharper portrait of China. Hu Bo’s work is so dark that after three hours of screening crying is mixed with nervous laughter. Regret for the young Chinese who could in the future become the spiritual heir of Béla Tarr (from whom he received his education) is one thing left for us after the film.
5. Community participated emotion – At War, dir. Stéphane Brizé
An example that it is enough to know me a little to know exactly what tools to use to win me over. At War is not an outstanding piece of cinema – we should not expect to be enchanted by a film about protesting French workers. Instead, it is a cinema that perfectly builds its credibility, cares for a solid emotional connection with the characters (phenomenal Vincent Lindon) and tension resulting from the conflict between David (a group of workers) and Goliath (a large corporation). Protest is a result not only of frustration, anger, a just cry for realisation of basic needs and justice, but also the moment when the nervous breakdown takes the form of a human mass.
6. Lyrical and anthropological emotion – Ága, dir. Milko Lazarov
Georgeous wide frames filled to the brim with white Yakutia and classic arrangements of the National Orchestra of Bulgaria, accompanying and maximizing the emotions of the characters. The disappearance of the old world gently mixed with the personal tragedy of an elderly couple. Ága is a film so lyrical that the more sensitive will get goosebumps. Who would expect that classic movie means can be so effective.
7. Sundanceian emotion – The Rider, dir. Chloé Zhao
Emotional surprise. I usually don’t like Sundance, but this time the risk paid off. Zhao creates a reconstruction of the tragedy and does it bravely – with survivors of this same tragedy. Working with amateur actors who did a great job of transforming their own emotions deserves a lot of praise. There were times when I consociated charming frames in the film with Cormac McCarthy’s Border Trilogy. A beautiful steppe, lovely horses and a look at the cowboy profession that still exists. To those who give an example of a film in which horses are portrayed more beautifully, beer is on me!
8. Documentary-reflective emotion – Inland Sea, dir. Kazuhiro Soda
My personal documentary discovery and observational style, as the director himself calls it. Wandering around small coastal town dying of old age, in which the youngest person is in their seventies. Accidental meetings, scraps of half-forgotten lives, the compulsion to work on a non-existent retirement, and clinging to life in a world which looks like rusted memories of another age. Evokes compassion and reflection on old age probably more acidic than sweet.
9. Magic emotion – Happy As Lazzaro, dir. Alice Rohrwacher
The most embarrassing emotion for me. Happy As Lazzaro is a salute to Italian neorealism with elements of magical realism poetics. There will be plenty of humor and old fashioned look at contemporary problems. The contrast between the old (beautiful, golden village, ironical nostalgia that reminds of its feudal character) and the new (it is hard to be truly free when one is enslaved by capital) is cleverly built. Any fan of classic Italian cinema will have a great time.
10. Carnal emotion – Touch Me Not, dir. Adina Pintilie
A controversial film that in the sense efficiently divided its recipients into those on which it properly worked and on those which it has not. A kind of emotional performance and the question of whether the cinema is the right place for this kind of educational experimentation. Four walls of the closed room, unknown people around and carnaly-emotional exhibitionism on the screen. The educational value of a complex-free view of sexuality cannot be overestimated. Months after the screening, I think that Touch Me Not will work especially for those who do not fully reconcile with their own bodies, sexuality and identity. I recommend watching it in a lonely, quiet place.