THE MIDNIGHT SWIM
directed by Sara Adina Smith
The Midnight Swim excels at magnetizing mystery. Sara Adina Smith is wise to create a local legend, that while may not sound real, feels like something a local town could have drummed up over the course of a few generations. I found myself reflecting back on local legends we had in my home town; an escaped convict from a nearby prison who tormented and murdered a family, a satanist group who resided way back in Carbon Canyon, or other local legends friends had shared with me over the years from their own home towns. Like those legends I grew up with, the legend of the Seven Sisters Smith creates here is potent and used sparingly enough it doesn't lose its significance.
Walking away there's a refreshing affection that The Midnight Swim doesn't pigeonhole itself in one genre. The film has moving ability to focus on sisters reconciling while simultaneously teetering between reality and fantasy. Sara Adina Smith with her debut feature, proves she has a voice I want to hear more from in cinema.
directed by Eskil Vogt
Quick judgement could perceive the film as nothing more than another provocative example of misogyny in cinema. That a woman's worth is measured by her ability to cater to the male gaze, but that is selling the award winning script short. Writer and director Eskil Vogt has done a tremendous job crafting a tale about an author, after going blind, that tried to maintain her identity, sanity and memories foremost. Vogt embraces the mindset of a person who is losing grip with their perceptions of reality. Without the use of sight, Ingrid starts to suffer as little things begin to change or slip from her memory. Her memories create new realities or fantasies, that are thrilling to watch play out. People or characters that would have once been fleshed out, now become boiled down into tropes and stereotypes.
Vogt's drama is not fixated on catering to the male's gaze, however it is focused on wrestling with the vulnerability in loss of a sense. A sense that I couldn't imagine losing. I went into this film simply based off the terrifying thought of losing my eyesight. Just like the central character Ingrid, I am a visual person and my perception of what life would be like without that sense, could easily fall prey to my worst fears and insecurities.
Ingrid, sublimely played by Ellen Dorrit Petersen, begins to question not only her own sanity, but another big part in her life; her marriage. Does the loss of her eyesight effect her ability to maintain a happy marriage? A question that seems natural, notably with regards to the state of her marriage and mind of a person who is trapped in a web of pity. Self doubt is sure to set in with the loss of such a powerful sense. Especially with the stakes being so high in their relationship, it only compounds the perception further. Vogt dabbles plenty in the cynicism of vulnerability throughout Blind, although his film ultimately has a charmingly optimistic outlook. Finally, love it or hate it, this is a film that at the very least opens up conversation. It is a film that will have you talking. Talking about relationships, individuality, perception, imagination, reality and how they can all blend together under the right circumstances.
WILD TALES (RELATOS SALVAJES)
directed by Damián Szifron
Wild Tales is the kind of romp that is best seen with a crowd. It is the built for laughs and more than supplies them. While the faint of heart may be weary at the prospect of shock, Szifron's take on social hardships totally makes up for any fears going in. This is a fun two hours even if you are a little squeamish. A perfect "midnight" movie.
WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS
directed by Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement
What We Do in the Shadows is set for release early next year at the end of February and I highly recommend seeing it with a group of friends. It is the kind of comedy that you will want to see again and again.
That's a wrap on my coverage from Day Two at AFI FEST 2014. In case you missed it, check out my coverage of Day One here.