REVIEW: Compartment No. 6

Compartment No. 6, a film by Finnish director Juho Kuosmanen was the kind of film that really makes you forget you’re sitting in a theater. The majority of the film consists of two travelers sharing a cabin on a sleeper train, heading from Moscow to Murmansk, Russia. Laura is a Finnish academic coping with the inevitable dissolution of her relationship while Lyokha is a Russian working-class man headed to make some money in the mines at their destination. Laura is conversely headed to see a set of petroglyphs as a historic endeavor, a trip that her sort-of-but-not-quite ex-partner dropped out from.

 

It feels a little tired to follow the arc of “they can’t stand each other” to “they have a snow ball fight, giggling and red-nosed,” but there’s a sense of sincerity to this film that is impossible to shake. This could very well be due to the fact that I’m not familiar with Eastern European culture and the lived realities of these places, but the setting felt as though it was constructed with a careful and affectionate eye.

 

The train as a center of activity and plot development was fantastic. In such a small space there seems to be an entire world constructed, as the two characters venture throughout various locations within the train. This kind of claustrophobia also lends itself to an accelerated intimacy, both in terms of the visual framing of the characters and the actual plot.

 

I’m still trying to decide how I feel about the ending of this film. I suppose I really mean the final act, as I’m wondering if it was entirely necessary. This section leaves the train and thus shifts contexts in a way that, yes, wraps everything up, but doesn’t quite align with the rhythm of the rest of the film. I think I also would have liked more ambiguity to the way their relationship ends, but at the same time I can’t be mad that this part of the movie finished the story off in a satisfying and sweet way.

 

At the end of the day, though, this film consists of every beat you hope to hit when travelling: interesting and frequent new characters, a feeling of imminent change, and an understanding that everything is so bittersweetly temporary. This movie is well worth a watch, and is sure to remain in viewers’ minds as we all wait for our next train to catch.

PREVIEW: Compartment No. 6

Now showing at the Michigan Theater, Compartment No. 6 is an award-winning film that is, at its core, a character study. The trailer seems excellent, offering a great visual vocabulary for the dreary train cabin and the building action leading us there. In addition to this, the plot device of two strangers getting to know each other through external forces, like a shared train car, is sure to offer an in-depth understanding of both these characters and their shared dynamic.

 

Spending some time in a theater is always a go-to for me when the weather gets as underwhelming as it is now. Grab a student ticket and check it out!

REVIEW: Oscar nominated shorts – Live Action

I admire short films because their shortness does not represent the depth of the message they carry but only shows the limitation to the time they are allowed to trap the audience’s attention. Due to these resources, they have to be clever in picking what to show and tell. This will mean that the audience will be on a quick, dramatic ride. The five films, although very different in the subject of the emotion they are telling, shared the common theme of pain and fear. It could be pain from a man having to ‘turn off’ his wife after her brain death(On my mind), fear of being imprisoned by machines that run the jurisdiction system without the flexibility to correct a mistake(Please hold), the pain of not having ‘a normal’ body and being laughed at(The dress), racism and violence conducted under it that comes without warning(The Long Goodbye), or the pain of a girl who dreamt of continuing her studies in the city where she was kidnapped to a rural village to do an unwanted marriage under the village and family’s approval(Ala Kachuu). They are communicated concisely and strongly, resembling a roller coaster with five peaks.

On My Mind – Great connection between scenes to make a complete story. The interesting buildup keeps the audience curious and engage during the first half.

Please Hold – The exemplary model of criticism toward the status quo. Intelligently designed reference to current digital society’s dehumanization of operations (we all have the experience of being frustrated by the neverending loop of ARS that does not have the option I want) and digital advertisements that nag you to spend money on options, and the necessity to have money even to fix something that went wrong. A thriller that has amazing communication: it was really easy to connect to the horrors and frustrations of the protagonist. However, I think the real horror was not the mechanic voices. The ones who saw this will remember the scene where the human attorney exclaimed ‘not again!’ before ending the $1000 call in a few seconds-will this mean that the protagonist was not the first wrongly accused? Why was the system not discarded after the continued horror of sentencing 40+ years to innocent men?

The Dress – A deep sorrow told of an unfamiliar world.

The Long Goodbye – The bewildering transition from a peaceful family home to a scene of murder and violence told the emotion of horror very well, but the part that was very unique to this movie came at the very end by a monologue from one of the characters. The rage, sorrow, and desperation break through the fourth wall with the character speaking directly at the audience. The poetic, POWERFUL monologue; it can also be found on the main actor, Riz Ahmed’s youtube channel.

Ala Kachuu – I wondered why the protagonist did not throw a fight against her kidnappers after she was forced into marriage, and then I fully realized the horror of the situation. The dread of being someplace where she knows not where, where everyone is acting kindly but on the watch for her escape, being abandoned by her family, and having no one to trust is just horrible. To seat in a theater may make the rebellion look easier, but in her situation, she did not know whether the people will attack her depending on how she reacted. The message at the very end saying that this kind of kidnap is being continued in the world was dreadful. This movie did a great job of emotionally converting the dreadfulness of such situations.

PREVIEW: Oscar nominated Shorts – Live Action

Shorts TV annually released oscar nominated short films. This year’s nominations are:

On My Mind (Martin Strange-Hansen and Kim Magnusson / Denmark)

Please Hold ( K.D. Dávila and Levin Menekse / USA)

The Dress (Tadeusz Łysiak and Maciej Ślesicki / Poland)

The Long Goodbye (Aneil Karia and Riz Ahmed / UK/Netherlands)

Ala Kachuu – Take and Run (Maria Brendle and Nadine Lüchinger/ Kyrgyzstan/Switzerland)

Ranging from 12-38 minutes, they all seem to tell strong stories within a short time span. Click here for trailers.

Among the movies, the synopsis of ‘Please Hold’ was especially interesting. It’s based in the future in a mysterious jail controlled by the ‘computed bureaucracy of the privatized American justice system‘. The trailer of ‘The Long Goodbye’ also intrigued my interest as well – the irony between bright, cheerful rap music as the background and something serious and dangerous seems to be happening to the characters made me wonder what’s going on.

Again, U of M students can get a ticket to the Oscar-nominated shorts series free if they use the Passport to the Arts before March 22th. The movie is playing on the 19th and 22nd at the Michigan theater. Please refer to the webpage of Arts at Michigan for further information on where to find the ticket / how to use them.

REVIEW: THE BATMAN

The Batman, 2022 / Spoiler Alert!

 

If we look at the evolution of superhero movies decades later, I think it will be a pretty interesting anthropology resource. All superheroes symbolize justice but the social norm of justice changes over time. This happened in the new batman as well.

New society, new villains. The villains in this movie do not work on personal, fictional motivation like pride or psycopathy. Instead, in this movie, they are the ones who were harmed systematically. The villain is not lone genius anymore – they are people who urge others to turn to violence with them to break down the society, and the most vicious crisis was aroused when they worked as a group. This resembles the spread of hatred on the internet and violent crimes happening in consequence of those messages. The metaphor to the modern society was quite clear – the riddled even blatantly talked like a  youtube or user of another Social Media platform, thanking the viewers for their support. I was almost expecting a ‘please like and subscribe…’.

The classic hero changed with the society to address the new messages aginst the evil as well. Bruce Wayne, if I remember correctly from prior films, was torn between his identity as a billionaire and the mysterious superhero and the dilemma of the personal judgment of justice was his main worry. For this new Batman, however, whether it’s known who’s under the bat-mask is not such an existential problem. This batman seems to be more careless about it (he got almost unmasked by a curious policeman after he was unconscious due to a bomb explosion) and the Riddler even says that who’s under the mask “does not matter”. If the former batman hides deeper inside himself to solve his doubts, this one comes out. The scene where batman leads the civilian out of the water with the red light and help carry wounded citizens clearly showed that this batman demonstrates a new notion of peace-not one that is magically achieved by a lone superhero, but one that is led by a superhero symbol but that can be achieved together. This batmans stands with the people, and that reminded me of the appeal in the society to unite together to fight the wrong. Batman with the mysteriousness reduced, interacting with the people was a new change. Almost like a friendly neighborhood… No, that’s another guy.

This movie is dark-literally. It had a lot of rain in the scenes and ones that minimal light is used. This led to many visually highly satisfying scenes-my favorite was the one where the screen was all dark and the movement of the characters was illuminated only with the fire from the end of the gun. Also, I saw the rain as more than the weather- with the final crisis being the flood, water could mean the danger to the city, and the rain could represent that the city was in danger. In all, highly recommend this movie. Go check it out!

REVIEW: The Worst Person in the World

The Worst Person in the World is an anthology of sorts, chronicling a young woman’s struggles with making meaningful connections, navigating her career, and establishing her general place in the world. This sounds extremely cliché on paper, and I hate to say it but it somewhat held true in the film as well. 

 

I will firstly recognize that there’s a very strong chance I simply didn’t connect with this film. Sometimes that just doesn’t happen. There was still a sense of quality to the production and the performances did feel genuine, so maybe the fact that I walked away feeling very little is moreso a matter of a personal misalignment.

 

That said, I think there are a few other factors that caused me to feel so neutral. The style of the film felt a little inconsistent and choppy, this owing greatly to a scene involving psychedelics. All the established conventions of the drama that had been unfolding thus far were eschewed in favor of overblown effects, animation, and surreal sequences. I understand that there’s a lot of fun, playful techniques that can be used to convey an experience like that and there are moments of quick, pastiche editing earlier in the film, but in this case it just felt out of place and a little indulgent. Another particular instance of a chapter that didn’t fit quite right was a short one that used constructed media clips that we watch the protagonist watch. This isn’t inherently bad but it just felt disjointed in terms of style.

 

Another manifestation of this choppiness was the excessive structuring of the narrative. There was a prologue, an epilogue, and twelve individually named chapters between. For an ultimately chronological story, these separations felt unnecessary and moreso a chance for foreshadowing puns and dramatic titling. I do think it was an interesting mode of pacing for viewers, but making sections more discrete didn’t serve the narrative’s development and the emotional shifts of the film. 

 

Lastly, the paths of the characters all intersected far too neatly. This could be a style choice akin to the surreal moments in the film, but the way people floated in and out of the protagonist’s life felt a bit too convenient. The first few instances made sense, but there’s a specific reveal at the end of the movie that just made me roll my eyes. 

 

Any of these thoughts could certainly change on a second watch, but the fact of the matter is that I left the State thinking about other works that make the same points as this film, but better (see: Shiva Baby, Fleabag, etc). I still encourage a watch as I think this film is doing some interesting things with cinematography and has some thought-provoking points, but it’s definitely not going to be my film of the year.