12 January 2018.
THE DEATH AND LIFE OF OTTO BLOOM ****
Australia has a fine culture of exceptional films. As in this fascinating tale of a dazed young man found by the police and brought to a clinic.
His strange story – that of a man who goes through time in reverse, from the future towards his past – is unraveled through interviews with the resident doctor, with whom he eventually falls in love. The media catches on and he becomes an international celebrity as his extraordinary life is put under a microscope.
The very notion of time as “pure illusion”, according to Albert Einstein, has often intrigued writers and filmmakers. Take for instance two other films, Christopher Nolan’s “Memento” and David Fincher’s “Benjamin Button”. Both dealt with the notion of time in reverse, but neither was as moving and compelling as this one, a first feature film directed by the very talented Cris Jones, who tragically passed away this past year at age 37, just as his film was taking off at the Melbourne film festival.
Here is cinema that touches on romance, the intellect, incredible possibilities and the mysterious idea of time actually suspended between the past and the future. Filmed in an almost documentary style and beautifully acted by the ever-lovely Rachel Ward (remember “The Thorn Birds”?) as the neurologist, her daughter Matilda Brown as her younger self, and Xavier Samuel as Otto Bloom, it will leave you with a myriad questions to dwell upon. I left the cinema incredibly elated, fascinated and moved.
SAMI BLOOD *** (vo Swedish)
The wonder of good cinema is that it’s not only entertaining but also enlightening about subjects of which we may have been completely ignorant. As in this film about the racism which existed in Sweden towards the people of Lapland – the Sami – who were considered backward and almost untouchable during the early 20th century.
Based in the 1930s, here is the story of a teenager who rebels against the unbearable treatment of her people. Longing for more education and a better life, she runs away to the university town of Upsala to continue her education, something that was normally prohibited to the Sami at that time. This is her odyssey of shame, moments of new love, and of her struggle to overcome the prejudices that seem to be unfortunately inherent in people…everywhere…
A curious idea…Since the world is threatened by overpopulation, global warming, unemployment and so on…a Nordic scientist comes up with an invention that can minimize people who will then live in idyllic communities, giving them and the world more room to breath and better financial opportunities.
The excellent, award-winning director Alexander Payne has many fine films to his credit, such as “About Schmidt”, “Sideways” and “Nebraska”, always dealing with human relationships. However, though this one has a unique futuristic concept and stars a convincing Matt Damon and the charismatic Christophe Waltz, there is something lacking. Maybe because it seems undecided between comedy and a serious look at personal and world dilemmas, or maybe the notion of incredible transformation is not addressed with sufficient gravity.
It’s entertaining, eccentric, quirky, but you walk out and the whole theory of change for the better seems to dissipate, as does the film. Is Payne trying to show us no matter what we do, we will always remain tainted human beings? Is it that unfortunate news which weighs it down?
Quality cinema should be either completely entertaining and/or touch the soul. This one is momentarily entertaining, but misses the soul. Waiting for your next one, Mr. Payne.
Superb **** Very Good *** Good ** Mediocre * Miserable – no stars
Neptune Ravar Ingwersen reviews film extensively for publications in Switzerland. She views 4 to 8 films a week and her aim is to sort the wheat from the chaff for readers.
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