Sonntag, 7. September 2014

Venice Film Festival: Good Kill / Белые ночи почтальона Алексея Тряпицына (The Postman's White Nights)

It's hard to find anything to like in American writer/director Andrew Niccol's flat, somber drama "Good Kill". Set around the time military drones were increasingly employed in America's war on terror, it is bluntly written, mechanically self-explaining without ever coming up with a fresh angle on how wars take a toll on their participants. Basically all it does is recycle the age-old mantra of all anti-war movies: taking lives will make a crazy person out of you! And it does so not through scenes of combat but of people sitting around pressing buttons, over and over again. No matter how many times they stress this is just as bad as slaughter in the old way, it remains breathtakingly dull to watch. Probably attributable to the direction, there's a rigidity to the proceedings throughout, nothing seems dynamic but strangely, poorly rehearsed. Lead actor Ethan Hawke certainly doesn't help matters donning a zombie face and uttering his lines ever so robotically. January Jones fares just as poorly. To be fair, she's not been given the juciest role to play, but this performance as the suffering wife is just grating. The sense of omnipotence from the drone controls and the panning aerial shots brings to mind "The Truman Show", which Niccol also wrote. But the parallel ends there, as not an ounce of the originality and empathy of that movie can be found here.

Russian writer/director Andrei Konchalovsky's "Белые ночи почтальона Алексея Тряпицына (The Postman's White Nights)" is a sedate, hyper-realistic but somehow also dreamy portrait of a group of villagers from rural Russia shot in near documentary style. It's notable for how closely its narrative resembles the spontaneous, disorganized trajectory of life. There's no plot to speak of. Instead, we just follow the titular character as he delivers mail, runs errands, goes about his daily routine and meet the other residents of this lakeside settlement. The dialogue is composed mostly of busy chatter or petty complaints, often sounding too relaxed to be scripted. While the movie might not rock anybody's boat for its absolute stillness and everyday plainness, it definitely has its moments, especially those where art spills over and approaches something incredibly simple like truth. Plus, it looks lovely from start to finish. Whether it's the serenity and dazzling color palette of nature or the warmth and vibrant clutter of the interiors, the film evokes a child-like wonder in you with its charming storybook aesthetics. The mysterious grey cat and the inexplicable rocket launch add a seemingly paradoxical but lyrical layer of mythical surrealism to the picture, a genius touch from the helmer.

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