Rarely does a director with an eye for cinematic artistry come along, yet Baran bo Odar appears to come by his talent almost preternaturally. Bo Odar does not rely on a certain type of shot for his exquisite The Silence [Das letzte Schweigen], but instead uses a myriad of cinematic techniques to enthrall his viewer with the beauty of his film, and pacify their (given the subject matter) growing concern.
Two men sit alone in a darkened room. As a projector’s reel runs out, the audience catches a glimpse of a wide-eyed and terrified young girl projected on a blank wall. A red car pulls out of a garage, and begins a journey of indeterminate length through the forested areas of Germany. Invoking the introduction of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, The Silence uses an aerial camera to follow the two men as they drive through the countryside set to an equally haunting score. Coming upon a girl on a bicycle, the two men follow her down a dirt road that opens into a wheat field. The girl, eleven-year-old Pia, is raped and murdered. Twenty-three years later, police find a replica crime scene in the same field where Pia was killed, and begin an investigation to find Sinikka (Anna Lena Klenke) and her serial abductor/murderer. The abduction brings together a mixed cast of characters with varying degrees of involvement in the murder. As the police search desperate for the killer they failed to apprehend twenty-three years prior, Sinikka’s parents are forced to suffer in the unknowable torment of uncertainty.
Francis Ford Coppola’s quiet yet unbearably tense espionage thriller, The Conversation is a masterwork of character study. Slowly becoming my favorite Coppola film (blasphemy, I know), The Conversation is a psychological thriller masquerading as a slowly-burning drama.
Opening with a beautiful aerial shot of a well-manicured city park, The Conversation begins with just that, a conversation. Quiet at first, but building slowly, an anonymous couple circumnavigates the park discussing a broken and incoherent subject. Oddly broken up by electrical noise, and the jovial street music that surrounds them, their discussion is only observed bits at a time. As they talk, we soon see that the couple is being recorded by a team of surveillance experts, positioned around the square. We soon come to know the leader of this charade as Harry Caul (Gene Hackman) – an expert in the field of recording the conversations of others. Caul has been hired by an unknown employer, to record a conversation of unknown importance, and the only thing that matters to him is the “big, fat recording.” When he returns to his workshop, he sets to work mixing the audio from his three sources, until a clear and concise master is complete. Slowly becoming overcome with paranoia, Caul is quickly embroiled in a plot that – he believes – will end with the couple’s murder.
Slow and coldly-calculating in its presentation of the narrative, Blue Ruin unfolds around its lead character, who, like the film itself, is dead set on reaching a conclusion.
Jeremy Saulnier’s sophmore effort as a director is as beautiful and haunting as it is methodical in its story telling. Featuring a stand-out performance by Macon Blair, Blue Ruin is perhaps the most realistic revenge movie ever made. Macon stars as the painfully inept Dwight, whose childhood has tragically been ripped away by the brutal murder of his family. Driven into solitary destitute, Dwight’s life is once again shaken when he learns the man responsible for his parents’ deaths is being released from prison. Singularly focused on bringing his parents murder to justice, Dwight sets out to exact his revenge. Dwight is not ex-military, an amnesiac spy, nor does he possess a vary particular set of skills; he is a boy whose life was ruined the moment his parents were taken.
Twisted and dark, Shohei Imamura’s Vengeance is Mine is the candid portrait of a Japanese serial killer’s rampage, and is every bit as cold-blooded as its antihero.
Based on the book of the same name, which is itself based in reality, Vengeance is Mine is the story of Iwao Enokizu’s (Ken Ogata) life and the 78 days he spent on the run from police. Told in the first-person through flashbacks, Imamura dives into the sociopath’s psyche, and attempts to honestly portray the man as he was. The film opens with Enokizu already in police custody, and the flashbacks are presented as either Enokizu’s own confessions or as witness testimony.