The Thessaloniki International Film Festival was going on this past week, and my husband and I made it to a handful of films, some with horrifying results. Part of the problem was having to see movies around our schedules, and so our choices weren't as varied as we would have liked (we flagged perhaps 20 films we would have liked to see over the course of the festival - we made it to 4). Another tip that might have been helpful – checking IMDB first – although I didn’t really want to be influenced by someone else’s opinion. All in all I don’t regret any of the choices (even the horrible, really couldn’t understand it “experimental” film), because that is part of the film festival experience. You can’t expect to love everything, and obviously, as with all art, everything is subjective.
The first movie we went to see was When Pigs Fly, directed by Sara Driver. A ghost story, I think the setting was fabulously done – American Gothic, perfect for the film - and the idea of ghosts being more alive than the living worked well. Unfortunately, the dialogue fell horribly flat, and made what could have been a great film a bit of a farce. Of course, this could have been what Ms. Driver intended (we did not attend the viewing where she answered questions), for whatever reasons. I try not to make assumptions about artistic intentions. However, I’d have to say that overall I enjoyed it, and the things I saw in it that were good.
The second movie was You Are Not I, also directed by Sara Driver. This film was excellent insight into the mind of a mental patient, from her point of view, with beautiful acting (mostly in voice-overs) by Suzanne Fletcher. There were so many things about this film that I loved - the way the young woman moved as if invisible through an accident scene, the monologues, and the interactions she had with her sister and others. This film was apparently lost at one point, so I am glad that another copy was found and is being shared with the world.
Our third choice was Finisterrae, directed by Sergio Caballero. Apparently this film belongs to the “experimental” genre of cinema, which, not being a film student, I am not exactly sure what that means. The concept was interesting enough – two ghosts on a mission to rejoin the world of the living. I hate to say that most of the film – its meanings and nuances, were lost on me and my husband. My initial reaction was “you’ve got to be kidding me”, if that says anything. However, I accept that there are many things I don’t know about film, and that this film was a vision of something I could not properly understand. I felt the dialogues forced, the imagery sophomoric, and I could not identify with the ghosts in their quest. I did, however, like that the ghosts were depicted in white sheets – the old fashioned way for ghosts to take on corporeal form. I also loved the scenery and cinematography. There was one scene that I felt was beautiful visually (a reindeer walking through an unfurnished but stately house), but it had no meaning to me as far as the film was concerned.
Lastly, we saw Jesus, Du Weisst, a documentary by Ulrich Seidl, which follows six Catholics as they confer with Jesus. Jesus is their confessor, their psychiatrist – always silent as they unfurl their myriad problems with their relationships. I found it sad, a testament to why religion fails (self-serving and empty), but my husband found comfort in it. Despite my religious views I was entertained by the film and the glimpse into how another culture interacts with their religion.
Kudos to the film festival staff for another banner year. I’m looking forward to the documentary festival in March!