Samstag, 6. September 2014

Venice Film Festival: Im Keller (In the Basement) / Sivas

Austrian provocateur Ulrich Seidl's "Im Keller (In the Basement)" is an ably made, gleefully disturbing documentary about what people do in the secrecy of their homes. The premise is fascinating, a fact you recognize as soon as the camera follows a middle-aged woman down flights of stairs and into a world that she prefers. A primal sense of curiosity and a dread of what's to come drive the picture accordingly. For his part, Seidl has certainly found people with quite "unusual" hobbies to share, and they're all candidly laid out without a trace of embarrassment or judgment. In fact, it's the calm, explanatory banality of the presentation- visually sparse, aurally vacuum- like a masochist neutrally counting the blows she receives on her bottom, that makes the experience unsettling. Streamlined, clear-eyed, appallingly open-minded, it's all kinds of incorrectness made ready to consume. Ultimately though, I don't think the movie reveals so much as merely demonstrates what we humans are capable of. And it's not a pretty sight.

Set in the brutal world of dog-fighting, Turkish writer/director Kaan Müjdeci's feature debut "Sivas" is a sporadically thrilling but overall unfocused and emotionally lacking drama. Shot on hand-held camera that's agile in a sharp and not nauseating fashion, the film successfully captures life in rural Turkey by picking up vivid particulars and especially shines in the handful of canine fight scenes. Using classily composed panoramic views of the battles as well as breathtaking close-ups of the animals at work and the people caught in bloodlust, these sequences sparkle with speed and ferocity, throwing you right in the middle of the action. Elsewhere the film doesn't quite work, as none of its many plot points- the child-dog relationship, the coming-of-age story, the social, political critique- is given enough treatment to count. Young lead actor Dogan Izci is adorable but doesn't really get to stretch any acting muscles here.

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