I saw a few romantic comedies at the Subtitle European Film Festival in Kilkenny this year. Among them Italian for Beginners (Scherfig, 2000), Love is All You Need (Bier, 2012) and Long Story Short (el-Toukhy, 2015) all from Denmark, Soof (Beumer, 2013) from The Netherlands, and Status: Single (Ruminov, 2015) from Russia. For dramatic balance I saw Miss Violence (Avranas, 2013) from Greece, Victoria (Schipper, 2015) from Germany and Marshland (Rodriguez, 2014) from Spain. Italian for Beginners and Long Story Short bring friends together, sometimes romantically, these relationships are either analysed or simply left flowing throughout these episodic narratives featuring ensemble casts. Long Short Story’s narrative is a spinning wheel of vignettes; a birthday, a wedding, a christening, a Midsummer celebration. The film’s protagonist is Ellen (Mille Lehfeldt), she often her makes of a fool of herself at these gatherings, her charm as a thirty-something looking for a future and finding no clarity is a great strength of the film, the ending is more open when I think about it. The title character of Soof is a wife and mother (Lies Visschedijk), she questions her future and in a climactic moment she comically charges screaming at the top of her lungs with a milk crate towards a woman whom she is suspects will take her husband.
Status: Single received its world premiere at Subtitle. Stand-up comedian Nikita (Danila Kozlovsky) goes to drastic measures to win back his girlfriend (Liza Boyarskaya). A great comedic moment comes when Nikita’s friend (Igor Voynarovsky) is introduced to a stand-up colleague of Nikita’s, the friend responds “You look like Marilyn Monroe, no, better, Brad Pitt”. Nikita is locked in the present moment like a two minute scene where sprays water on himself to revive for a another day of his wild antics.
The cinematography by Alex Catalan for Marshland is incredible, landscapes of the Guadalquivir Marshes at times tricked my eye to resemble doors and tiles. Doorways are recurring feature in the claustrophobic Athens apartment of Miss Violence. With echoes of Michael Haneke’s techniques such as no music score and intense physical and emotional violence.
Victoria like Russian Ark (Sokurov, 2002) is often praised and discussed over the fact that it was shot in one take. Schipper starts in a night club, then a street, an off-license, an apartment block, a rooftop, another street, a cafe, a car, an underground car park, another street, back to the night club, another street, another apartment block, a taxi, a hotel, another street. Around fifteen locations are used in a shoot that was shot between 4am and 7am on a spring morning between Kreuzberg and Mitte in Berlin. The motive of Victoria (Laia Costa) throughout the film maybe questionable after a point, it demands a repeated viewing. I saw most of these films in the wonderful Cinemobile. The people of Kilkenny were as hospitable as ever and those who I spoke to really enjoyed this year’s festival.