Montag, 17. Februar 2014

Berlinale: Blind / The Two Faces of January

Norwegian thriller "Blind" has a nifty idea that's often utilized to titillating, confounding, shocking effect through intelligent, playful direction and razor-sharp editing. Writer/director Eskil Vogt toys ruthlessly with perception, imagination, sensation, illusion by way of narrating the story through a visually impaired woman with a suspicious mind and some wild fantasies. Very soon the viewer would learn to mistrust what they see as what's portrayed on screen proves to be highly unreliable and prone to shape-shift or auto-correct even mid-action. It gets ever more slippery when possibly made-up characters multiply and step ever further across the perceived boundary of fiction. In some ways this film reminds me of Christopher Nolan's masterpiece "Memento" as they are both essentially about storytelling and the flawed, emotionally manipulated way we have of processing reality. But in this case the result is not quite as compelling due to a noticeable lack of discipline and consistency of vision. One has the feeling the director is having too much fun playing God and gets carried away without realizing it. That said, the script remains a formidable achievement and all technical aspects of the film are pro.

Hossein Amini's "The Two Faces of January" is a thriller set in 1960's Greece involving greed, jealousy, deaths, deceit and questionable identities, all starting with a fateful clash between the affluent and the poor, typical Patricia Highsmith territory that is. This new adaptation, reminiscent of "The Talented Mr. Ripley" in some of its themes, is also very pretty to look at. The Greek ruins and landscape provide plenty of postcard-ready backdrop, the period costume with classic suits and retro sunglasses are darling creations, above all, the cinematography, dousing every frame in tones of tan and amber, gives the movie a faded newspapers look that's timelessly chic. In an airport scene later in the film, the camerawork also proves its mighty alertness, slithering right behind a fleeing Oscar Isaac and creating some über-heightened tension. Performance-wise, Viggo Mortensen and Kirsten Dunst are both strong and especially persuasive together as the posh couple. Ultimately the movie is hampered by its own narrow scope and low stakes, though, not being able to blossom into something more intricate and grand than a rather blameless, unmalicious game between three not very lucky/bright people. The plain ending doesn't help either.

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