Dienstag, 2. September 2014

Venice Film Festival: The Cut

German writer/director Fatih Akin's "The Cut" is a blow-by-blow account of a man's journey out of enslavement in search of his family against the background of the mass persecution of ethnic minorities in the Ottoman Empire during the first world war. Clocking in at 138 minutes and shot across several continents, it's an epic endeavor that wows with its scale and finesse but underwhelms for the complete linearity of its narrative.

An unspectacularly staged first act sees the central character taken away from home and made a militant worker. Neutrally descriptive, squarely procedural, the flair and nimbleness that one has come to expect from Akin's work is instantly missing. The stiffness of the direction improves over the course of the following two hours, but what's portrayed is still very much a straightforward pursuit, and despite its grueling time span, an altogether ironed-out one. There's no denying the admirable intentions of the filmmaker to recreate a past fraught with unjust and misfortune, but in many ways what he achieves through this approach resembles more closely an exposé or historical document than a cinematic piece.

Tech work on the film is remarkable all around though. Great production design gives the picture a texture, almost a fragrance from another time that's wonderfully transportive. The cinematography captures dutifully the often stunning vista of sprawling deserts or a bustling Havana. The personal highlight is the dazzling, hypnotic score composed by Alexander Hacke though. The electric guitar/bass-laced main theme trembles with violence and exudes an exotic menace that at first seem like an odd fit for the movie, but in fact bring out the angriness of a fateful, forgotten epoch. Lead actor Tahar Rahim is fine if not entirely captivating. There's a boyish purity in his eyes that compels without fail though.

Patiently told, beautifully designed and shot, this is an enjoyable multi-continental production that's too mild for its own good. In absence of the brutal force of "Gegen die Wand (Head-On)", the spellbinding poeticism of "Auf der anderen Seite (The Edge of Heaven)" or the infectious energy of "Soul Kitchen", it might also be Akin's softest yet.

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