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La habitación de Fermat * Luis Piedrahita & Rodrigo Sopeña (2007)

Initially “Fermat’s Room” looked like an interesting film. An uncommon story about mathematicians who are invited to solve some “enigma” at a mysterious meeting. The result is less interesting. The four end up in a room having to solve “enigmas” that cannot be too hard the the super-mathematicians that are in the room. Each riddle has a time limit and thus the tension is built. Within that process and irritating amount of whodonnit-shifting-plots are rattled off making the situation more and more incredible. “Fermat’s Room” is another of these films with a nice idea, but poor execution.

Solyaris * Andrei Tarkovsky (1972)

SolyarisMy girlfriend read the book and then bought the film. Looking for the cover I noticed that there is also a 2002 American version with George Clooney. In any case, this film is usually presented as a science fiction, but besides the fact that a large part of this 3 hour film plays in some ship above the mysterious ocean of the planet Solaris, there is little scifi about it. The spaceship looks strangely earthly with statues, paintings on the walls, leather chairs and a library. “Solyaris” is more of a philosophical film about how humans react in different surroundings, what is reality, etc. For its time, this film of Tarkovsky must definately have been expensive and groundbreaking. Combining black and white and colour filming, elaborate stages, video-telephones, etc. makes this film not look oldfashioned at all. It is a bit long and slow, not really boring, but not as timeless as The Prisoner for example.

Spider * David Cronenberg (2002)

SpiderThat is funny, this is the second film in one weekend with Gabriel Byrne (who I know from the X-Files), but there is a 12 years lap between both films. Anyway, even when the box promises a “Videodrome” level film, I find this Cronenberg not too interesting myself. “Spider” is a psychological drama about a boy/man of the same name. Different times run through eachother and Cronenburg leaves a lot to the imagination of the viewer. “Spider” is not a bad or boring film, but I guess I expected a bit more…

Storm * Måns Mårlind (2005)

Storm“Storm” is a rather strange and confusing Swedish film. Almost anything I say will give away too much, but “Storm” has several alternating realities and each time when you think you understand the basic idea, there turns out to be another one. Somewhere between a psychological drama (in theme), action and fantasy thriller, “Storm” has combined several popular elements from outside the film industry. The film is not great, not even too original at all times, but an enjoyable watch and a nice mix of different elements.

El Método * Marcelo Piñeyro (2005)

El MétodoFor an entire film we follow an application process in which all applicants are put in one room. In some sort of “Big Brother” / “Das Experiment” kind of way, the applicants have to decide who leaves, the company where they want to work, only observing. Of course things are put to extreme a bit, but this is about the basis of the film. Almost entirely in one room and with only a few people, “El Método” does manage to create some psychological tension, but overall it is hardly interesting enough for the entire film. Of course something has come up with to make some plot changes, so I guess for people who like psychological films and/or minimalistic thrillers, “El Método” could be worth a try.

Dead Ringers * David Cronenberg (1988)

Dead RingersFor a Cronenberg this film is not even that strange. The identical Mantle twins gynaecologists are very close until the arrival of a certain special woman. After that things go downwards for the both of them and Beverly and Eliot almost grow apart. They plan to separate definately.
“Dead Ringers” is not reall a horror, or even a thriller, but more of a drama but of course not of the dramatical sort. Cronenberg has created a nice psychological film in which two men slowly loose their minds. A nice watch.

Possession * Andrzej Zulawski (1981)

PossessionA friend got me four classics, this is number two. I do not believe I ever saw this film, but horror has never been my genre, so I suppose I just never intended to watch it. In 1981 a pretty weird film was created, earlier than David Cronenberg’s “Videodrome” (1981), but the film more reminds of “Naked Lunch” (1991) (but it is not that bizarre). When it was done, I had completely lost track of the story, but it is not that difficult in reality. A man (Sam Neill) comes back after having been away for a long time. His wife (the beautifull Isabelle Adjani who also plays La Reine Margot) is not so sure if she wants to continue life the same way as before Mark left, so the good man becomes rather psychotic. The wife tops this by far and as the film continues it is suggested how that can be. The film is quite bizar with scenes in which Mark tries to see if the electric knife could cut his arm to Anna having some kind of seizure in a subway station. This get weirder and weirder and more and more bloody, especially when the viewer comes to the source of things, a fact so incredible that you might come up with all kinds of explantions to the hows and whys. This is actually very well done. I have seen my share of odd films, but Zulawski managed to make the psychotic couple just credible enough to make ‘that other thing’ almost unbelievable. Of course “Possession” is an old film, which shows, but it has a very good atmosphere and a very good story that is easy to give in one line, but hard to tell in detail.

TBS * Pieter Kuijpers (2008)

For not Dutch readers, this film requires quite a bit of explaining. The title refers to a part of the Dutch containment system. With certain crimes and suspects, convicts can be send to forced psychological treatment for undetermined time which is called “given in availability to the state” (yes, strange term). For this reason the international title does not refer to this system at all, so it translated “No Way Out”.
Then there is ‘that other’ element of this film in being that one of the most famous Dutch comedians (Theo Maassen) plays the major part of this film.
“TBS”/”No Way Out” is a psychological thriller which starts with the (violent) escape of two TBS-convicts. The two split and “Johan” (Maassen) wants to find his mother in order to convince her that he was convicted on false charges. In the process he kidnaps the 13-year-old Tessa and they travel to Belgium to find Johan’s mother.
As the film continues, we learn Johan’s version of the reason he is put in TBS, but slowly move towards the official and then the actual version of the events. The film has a nice tension-bow, with a rumbling soundtrack and Maassen’s sinister face. Also the way the viewpoint goes from Johan to reality is nicely done. Towards the end there are some action scenes and the ending is perhaps not completely unexpected, but still ‘unamerican’.
Not bad at all for the Dutch film.

Ópium: Egy Elmebeteg Nö Naplója * János Szász * 2007

OpiumOpium, diary of a madwoman is a film with a perhaps not too original story, but which is well worked out. Also it is a Hungarian film and I haven’t seen much of those. Dr. Brenner is an opium addict and writer with a writer’s block. Also he is psychiatrist and agrees to an appointment at a remote psychiatrical hospital where he hopes to find inspiration to write again. Brenner’s modern methods (Jung) conflict with the “medieval methods” of Dr. Moravcsik who runs the hospital, but Moravcsik allows Brenner to try his methods on a hopeless patient called Gizella. Brenner is intrigued by Gizella, her illness and behaviour and also finds out that the forced writing of the young woman is better than he even hopes to write himself. The mad and unpredictable Gizella drains the life out of Brenner who starts to use more and more opium, but eventually his only writing inspiration is copying Gizella’s writings.
I know, I know, I give away much of the story, but it is mostly the atmosphere that makes this film a suggested watch. However “thriller” is a bit too much of a description, the film has some good, dark moments, but I would just call this film a drama. The acting is great, the stages are magnificent and inspite of the not-too-good English, the “Naked Lunch”-like commentary of Brenner is wonderfull.
So perhaps this means that the Balkan might be an area to look out for when it comes to films that are a bit different from all the rest. By the way, the IMDb page seems to suggest that the film was based on real diaries.

Nuit Noire * Olivier Smolders * 2005

I have a friend who should actually have a filmreviews site. He always has the weirdest films, most unknown titles and the rest a year earlier than most people. This time he brought me a Belgian film which premiered in France in 2005 and in most other countries in 2006. “Nuit Noire” (“dark night”) is a strange film of a director probably from French-speaking Belgium (the film is in French). At first sight it seems that the film goes back and forth the ‘real world’ and the mind of a man who thinks his sister died at a young age, but soon it becomes clear that the ‘real world’ isn’t quite normal either. The film is pretty dark and plays at night(s) and is very minimalistic in dialogue and sound. This creates a nice, pressing atmosphere which slowly works towards more a kind of mystery so it is not that strange to take David Lynch as comparison. The story (if there is any) gets more and more confusing and weird. Between the dark shots of the film, crystal clear close-ups of insects are put which are either symbolic or just have to add to the strange atmosphere. “Nuit Noire” turned out very well and I can recommend it to people who like dark thriller/horror movies and who do not need a straight and understandable story.