the world were to end, would an old hippie even notice? The quality of his life would not change
much, or so it seems in Andreas Bolm’s The
Revenants, part of a double bill of short-ish films screening this year during
MoMA’s annual German film series, Kino!
and Ada live deep in the forest with their presumed son Fabian. Much of their lives involve the verdant
woods, but one would not quite say they live in concert with nature. Periodically, we hear radio reports and
voice-overs telling a much more eventful story that is not in-synch with the lulling
visuals Bolm presents. In the narrated
narrative an apocalyptic event is underway.
Yet, the central characters remain preoccupied with their own
issues. Ever the old New Leftie, Volker
disdains the “militarism” of the hazmat response teams, while Ada and Fabian
agonize over his older brother’s mysterious absence.
so we glean. As a hyrid-whatsit, there
is plenty of space for viewers to impose their own meaning on Revenant’s ambiguous form. Bolm provides a few signposts to guide the
traffic, but he also enjoys throwing in bits of jarring eccentricity, such as
the live rehearsals of Fabian’s garage band friends.
the apocalyptic narrative is strangely effective, precisely because it is
implied so elliptically. This is
definitely a film only a select few will enjoy, but it is worth checking out as
a way of stretching one’s cinematic palette.
It is far easier to step into a film like Malick’s To the Wonder, which has its rewards and will undoubtedly find its
way into the national conversation in coming weeks, if you occasionally experiment
with even more diffuse films. It is also
a good reason to join MoMA, because you can maintain your experimental sea legs
once or twice a year without coughing up for an individual ticket.
Mahlberg’s Kalifornia (absolutely not
to be confused with the Brad Pitt-David Duchovny movie) is also decidedly quiet
and unhurried, but it has a more structured narrative for audiences to
follow. Pavel is a Russian expat living
in a detached mobile home somewhere in the German countryside. After reconnecting from a figure from his
past, he packs a bag and heads west towards California, without any sort of
reservation or scrap of planning.
Bobrov is rather charming as his namesake, looking sort like a warmer and
fuzzier Derek Jacobi. Strictly speaking,
very little happens on his road trip, but Mahlberg deftly uses her engaging
protagonist as a humanist prism through which to refract the disenfranchised
humanity he encounters along the way. It
is a small film, but very nicely performed and crafted (especially cinematographer
Tony Krantz’s striking work).
Shrewdly, MoMA has scheduled the more accessible
Kalifornia (trailer here) to screen before the more challenging Revenants. Just about anyone
interested in German cinema will appreciate Mahlberg’s film. In contrast, The Revenants is a mixed bag that will appeal to a smaller,
self-selecting crowd. Recommended
accordingly, both films screen at MoMA this coming Saturday (4/20) and the
following Wednesday (4/24) as part of Kino! 2013: New Films from Germany. For
those interested in German film and culture, the full series begins this
Thursday (4/18) and concludes Wednesday the 24th.
Labels: Apocalyptic cinema, German Cinema, Kino '13, Short Films