Montag, 18. Februar 2013

Berlinale: La religieuse (The Nun) / The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman

French competition entry "La religieuse (The Nun)" by Guillaume Nicloux is an intense, handsomely-made drama about the horrors that went on behind the convent walls in 19th century France. While the physical and psychological abuse depicted in the film borders on torture porn for me, a pristine, dignified lead performance by Pauline Etienne held the narrative firmly anchored on the plight of a young girl oppressed by the institutionalized tyranny exercised in the name of faith. The divine Isabelle Huppert is given the thankless job of playing a predatory lesbian nun and will remain the target of derision so long as this movie is seen, but honestly, just to see the French icon with those watery eyes and mean lips decked out in full Sister gear is worth the price of admission. Among other things, the subtly sumptuous costumes helped afford the film a polished, refined look.

American competition entry "The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman", the feature film debut by Fredrik Bond, could be easily dismissed as an extended music video with empty notions of love in blown-up, neon-lit font, accompanied by sugar-coated electronica. That said, credit must be given to the zeal and skill with which those ardently romanticized scenes of bloody fairy tales are realized: glittery, kaleidoscopic, a combustion of light and colors coupled with a killer soundtrack, they may well be shamelessly superficial, but what ravishing surface they scratch. Shia LaBeouf is appropriately bright-eyed and love-struck as the amorous hero, but the true champion of this movie is the visual artistry of the director and his rather talented technical team.

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