January 11, 2004

Lichter/Distant Lights

The Berlin and Beyond film festival is in SF and Ben and I went to see one of the films last night, Lichter (or Distant Lights in English, here's a synopsis). It was in much the same genre as Traffic. That film's tagline, "no one gets away clean" can apply here, too. What's different about this film is that rather than trying to tackle the problems of the central narrative element--smuggling people and cigarettes across the German-Polish border--head-on, it tells a more subtle story about human frailty, need, trust and betrayal. The characters, and there are many in its six (five? it's hard to keep track) parallel stories are all more than the roles they play. Traffic, an excellent film, made its characters iconic, representational of the roles of people in their position, and so made them statements in a debate on drug smuggling. Distant Lights doesn't seem to want to debate policy, it's much more concerned about how the situation, the border, forces people to confront themselves, their aspirations and each other. In a way it's a pretty serious downer of a film, since it provides no answers and--frankly--doesn't even articulate any questions, but it's a really powerful statement about what it takes to make choices and how contingent our choices are. As filmmaking, it's one of the most subtle, well-edited and tightly-written films I've seen in a long time and I highly recommend it.

Posted by mikek at January 11, 2004 01:07 PM | TrackBack
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