Utterly charming and bucolic, a meandering story of a summer idyll unexpectedly builds up into something deeply moving and memorable.
Summer 1983, somewhere near Crema, Lombardy. A landscape of sleepy village squares baking in the afternoon sun, of lazy rivers to bathe in, grass to roll in, of gardens with trees bearing luscious fruit.
A winding little river somewhere in the forest near Tachileik, in the Golden Triangle, along the border between Myanmar and Thailand. A young woman, Lianqing (Wu Ke-Xi), is being smuggled across. She is on her way to Bangkok, to earn a better living and send money back home. She regularly has to pay bribes, as she progresses on her journey.
Land of Mine starts quietly, with the sound of breathing. Soon someone roars with anger. A Danish officer. He launches himself with fury at marching German soldiers, beating them. World War II has just ended, and Denmark faces its German prisoners of war with bitter resentment.
The POWs are about to face a new hell on the sandy beaches and dunes of Denmark’s West Coast, under vast skies luminous even under massed clouds. The war is over but it is not yet peacetime for them. They are to clear landmines, and more than half of the prisoners will come to die or suffer atrocious injuries.
Colin Farrell becomes a troublingly perfect Agamemnon in this new film by Yorgos Lanthimos. The film pushes reality so far and with such patient, systematic determination that it reveals truths that we all somehow know but no longer wish to acknowledge.
The Killing of a Sacred Deer opens grandly. An extended close-up of open-heart surgery, performed to the grave and moving music of one of Schubert’s Stabat Maters. Still looking? Keep looking now and you might still be able to keep on looking later on. The music and sound design will help keep you there, will seduce and hypnotise you.
Joachim Trier’s latest film Thelma, made with his long-term collaborators, writer Eskil Vogt, cinematographer Jakob Ihre and composer Ola Fløttum, marks a new development in the director’s career. His usual powerful existential themes remain, but Thelma represents a departure in other ways, perhaps presaged by Trier’s previous work, Louder than Bombs (2015), which had starred Isabelle Huppert.
In the stillness of a Norwegian winter, a father and child go hunting. They walk across a frozen lake, towards the woods. The child, a little girl, perhaps four years old, stops on the ice and looks down. She can see fish swimming, below the frozen surface, under her feet. What happens next is disquieting, dark, and unexplained. Much later, the full horror becomes clear.
Is it ever possible to give up on wanting to know the truth? A young woman in a silver dress walks home as day breaks, after a night of clubbing and a moment of impersonal sex. Her walk, back to the parental home, is not a walk of shame. It’s a resolute march forward. A few moments later, she sets out, elegantly and conservatively dressed. Her mother thinks she is going to work, and worries she might be late. In a beautifully filmed moment, mother and daughter stand beside each other. They look so alike, but their quiet estrangement from each other is palpable.
Daphne is a rare treat of a film. Its raw immediacy and wit both delight and worry. Set in East London, close to the city’s centre and in an area where so many young people flock in order to live out something exciting, it follows a few moments in the life of a woman, still young enough to live fast – without risking a rapid middle-aged decline.
Magloire (Paul Hamy) is a man on a journey to nowhere, or more accurately, Nowhereland. He lives at night, on the run, stumbling onto a dying man and thence into the clutches of a menacing band of gangsters. His face looks innocent, but he is a pragmatic executioner. At first merely held hostage, he is soon an accomplice. A heist goes wrong. The gang, along with their molls, board a phantom cargo ship. They carry a heavy box, a troublesome legacy of their heist: enough polonium to, likely, destroy all of humanity.
What better way to transcend harrowing guilt and grief, than to be immersed in a world of primal fear?