Worlds of Difference
The Worlds of Difference section in the New Zealand Film Festival program showcases films from around the globe, picked not for the awards they have made, but for the impact they have had in the country they were made. In this age of the internet we all like to think we’re part of an ever shrinking global community, but if we don’t get out and see the world through the eyes of other cultures, then we’re nothing more than a zombie connected to an electronic non-reality. Our two tops picks from this category are:
Christian Carion’s tensely atmospheric Cold War spy movie reveals an amazing true story. In the early 80s a disillusioned KGB colonel (Emir Kusturica) decides that the world would be a safer place if the US knew just how thoroughly the Soviets had infiltrated their security. To ferry information into the West the Francophile Russian selects a meek French engineer (Guillaume Canet) whose mounting panic is rendered scarily understandable. -NZFF
“An extraordinary but little-known episode in international espionage, one that greatly greased the rails for the Soviet Union’s downfall, is fluently recounted in Farewell. If this were an amped-up American production, it would, given its subject matter, be one of the most heavily promoted films of the year… It’s puzzling that the story is not better known of how the Soviets’ extensive network of spies in the United States, some in place for decades, became almost entirely compromised in the early 80s. But it is to the advantage of Farewell (the French code name of the KGB source) that it has remained unfamiliar and therefore all the more astonishing as it plays out in the clear, methodical script by Éric Raynaud, working from a book by Sergei Kostine… It’s juicy, fascinating stuff, well orchestrated by Carion (Merry Christmas) and finely acted – especially by Kusturica,… who moves through the plot’s maze like a big, agile bear.” -Todd McCarthy, Variety
“A harrowing, richly human and well-acted espionage tale… The Big Brother atmosphere in a period Moscow… is stifling and the tense script is riddled with little paranoid touches which ratchet up the suspense.” -Lisa Nesselson, Screendaily
I grew up in England during the so called cold war – from the relative safety of England I witnessed the struggles of opposing ideologies, all through the evening news (we didn’t have internet back then). James Bond was the way the whole affair was visualised for the masses. Since growing up however, I’ve discovered that a well made film based on true events has a lot more bite than the staged stunts of Roger Moore. I’m expecting a gripping, well paced drama.
HOW I ENDED THIS SUMMER
A terrific psychological thriller drawing an encompassing, deeply unsettling atmosphere from its wild Arctic setting, How I Ended This Summer is both spartan and spectacular, a magnificent vindication of the giant screen. Two men work taking readings from their partly radioactive surroundings at an isolated meteorological station on an island in the Arctic, in the far east of Russia. Keeping one eye out for marauding polar bears, Gulybin, the older man, is utterly alert to his environment and its inherent dangers. He is also seasoned to the loneliness, the primal glare of the white nights and the relentless tedium of collecting and logging data.
His antsy new partner Danilov (Russian cinema’s current posterboy Grigory Dobrygin), coming equipped for boredom – iPod, video games, fitness programme – jars on the irascible older man’s nerves in ways he never comprehends. When Gulybin asks Danilov to cover for him while he gets in a day’s fishing, the resentful, increasingly intimidated younger man fails to grasp responsibility and places himself in terrifying danger. -NZFF
“Popogrebsky’s film proves that, even in the CGI era, film-making can still be an outward-bound muscular adventure… Rich in resonance, the story can be read partly as a brutal coming-of-age story, with the two men as a surrogate father-son duo; as a quasi-religious ordeal in which Danilov must go through earthly hell to redeem himself; or as a King Lear-type epic of madness and the elements. But the film also works as a nail-biting yarn, a tale of extraordinary endurance both for Danilov and for the actors.” -Jonathan Romney, Screendaily
WHY HOW I ENDED THIS SUMMER?
There is something magical that happens when I read the synopsis or watch the trailer. This film has the ability to be a 2 hour long nature documentary where nothing happens, but after watching the trailer you just know that there is so much more going on. Thrillers may be a dime a dozen, but a good solid psychological thriller, one that really knows how to play with your mind are a rare breed, and I have the feeling that this is one of those rarities.