15 June 2009


Silentium is a Latin word for 'shut up'. It is also the title of an Austrian film by Wolfgang Murnberger based on a detective novel by Wolf Haas. It revolves around a grumpy private detective stumbling into the mysterious case of a man found dead on a rooftop in the beautiful city of Salzburg. As he keeps on searching for the truth behind the death, his life is increasingly in danger.

Even though what I just wrote in the previous paragraph seems pretty banal and commonplace in an average detective story, Silentium is somehow fresh in its gothic feel and odd characters. Simon Brennder, the detective, looks more like a homeless person than a detective as his life spirals out of control. Salzburg is also transformed into a city of at once carnivalesque and mysterious atmosphere.

It turns out that the death involves a Catholic school in which there are only 33 male students. The recruitment of Filipino maids of course rouses Brenner's suspicion as he tries to unravel the whole mystery. Of course, his search leads to a series of deaths which, albeit gory as it were, are somehow made light by the general humorous tone of the film.

Of course, I don't think I need to reveal the culprit, as the viewer could probably have guessed who is behind all this after watching it for a while. In fact, the director even shows the faces of the murderers at the beginning of the film. What is more important, I believe, is Brenner's reasoning and picking up trails, coupled with his eccentric personality. In one point, he is even compared to Jesus as he is portrayed as wearing a crown of thorns. This just makes me think: in what sense is Brenner a matyr? Does he sacrifice his life and safety in order to search for a truth no one wants in the same way that Jesus preaches what nobody nowadays wants to hear? Maybe Brenner's ethics is out of place in the world where we are becoming more desentisised to evils and moral corruption.

This is sad.

2 Days in Paris

Another film that uses Paris as a crucial setting, 2 Days in Paris is about love, relationships, and cultural conflict. Two main characters, Jack and Marion, are in love, but the film shows that somehow love is not enough.

What is interesting in this film are national stereotypes that are somehow inflated to the level of intentional absurdity. Marion is French: she is portrayed as temperamental, 'allegedly' promiscuous, and sophisticated. Jack is an cynical
American hypochondriac. However, these stereotypes are not there only to reinforce the difference in characterisation; they become the cause of misunderstanding, expectation, and of course self-realisation. What I like about this film is that Julie Delpy does not only parody these stereotypes, but she also portrays how we still use them in our attempt to understand or make sense of things and people around us.

Even though at times I got exhausted listening to their constant bickering and never-ending dialogues, 2 Days in Paris is beautiful. It shows how Jack and Marion, despite their stereotypical differences, wish to learn and transcend the stereotypical boundaries as deep down they hope that love can somehow conquer this difference. The ending, which for some may seem unrealistic, reflects something about life: that a split second can make or break a relationship. Somehow days or months of rationalising about make-up or break-up may not be important anymore in that split second when one wishes to stop or carry on. In that split second, perhaps indescribable instinct or faith in love counts.

04 June 2009

The Royal Tenenbaums

A quirky film, The Royal Tenenbaums is about family bonding, distinguished by its rich characterisation. The Tenenbaums are a family of geniuses; however, this doesn't mean they are happy. We see the parents divorced and living apart and we also see their children growing up to be an unhappy and insecure bunch of thirty-somethings.

However, despite the bleak plot, it is a feel-good film showcasing the attempt by the father, Royal Tenenbaum, to make amends and to pull his family back together. His sons and daughter do not look at his return with innocent expectations; however, soon enough they realise that somehow being a family one cannot expect perfection. Forgiveness is important as it enables lives to go on, not stuck with guilt and memories of bad experience.

Enough with the gist of the film. Sadly and unexpectedly, I don't empathise much with the film, finding it a bit too pretentious as it tries so hard to be quirky and eccentric. It may be better as a novel, not as a film. I don't know why I feel this way. Let me give you some possible reasons. You may choose one.

(A) I get bored of this overused style of contemporary weirdness and eccentricity to portray the postmodern sense of humanity.

(B) With this cynical style of representation, I just don't expect cheesy happy ending with Royal Tenenbaums dying happily with his sons, daughter, and grandchildren understanding him. In other words, I just don't expect this kind of film to 'teach' in such a didactic manner.

I have a dysfunctional family so I just don't believe in family bonding.

I have a male menopause.