Tuesday, January 15, 2008

MY FEELINGS FOR "FROST" (1997, FRED KELEMEN)

This is Filmsick’s new short film: MY MOTHER AND HER DARKNESS (2008). Somehow this film makes me smile and feel sad at the same time.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t_PX16nlFD4

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This is my reply to Noel Vera in my blog:
http://celinejulie.blogspot.com/2008/01/filmsicks-review-of-fate-1994-fred.html

Yes, I just saw FROST this November. There was a Fred Kelemen’s retrospective in Bangkok in November, showing KALYI, FATE, FROST, NIGHTFALL, and DESIRE (a videotape recording of his stage play), while his latest film--FALLEN (2005)—was shown in the World Film Festival of Bangkok in late October. Kelemen’ retrospective is certainly one of the best things ever happen in my life. Kelemen also came to the retrospective to talk with the audience.

I’m glad you call FROST a masterpiece. I think it is, too. In my opinion, I think FROST is more accessible than FATE. Though FROST is much longer than FATE, seeing characters moving across a vast landscape in FROST is hardly anything boring for me. Maybe it is because I like images of vast landscape. The story of FATE happens in a town and gives a much more claustrophobic feeling than FROST. As for comparing the different feelings I get from watching FROST and FATE, I think it is a little bit similar to the different feelings I get from watching the first three hours of HEREMIAS and watching the youth-drug scene in the eighth hour of HEREMIAS. FROST is a little bit like watching the first three hours of HEREMIAS—slow, but very comfortable. FATE is a little bit like watching the youth-drug scene in HEREMIAS—depressing and very uncomfortable.

Kelemen is also a director whose films are beyond my ability to describe. Though I love his films very much, I find it is too difficult for me to describe the feelings I get from his films. I hope some great critics would write about his films as much as Bela Tarr or Chantal Akerman.

One thing I like about FROST very much is the ending. In most films, the characters try to improve themselves and have some progress in the end. But in FROST, we cannot escape from the fact that some people may try to improve themselves, but they will never succeed. It is sad, but true. While most films try to evade this sad truth, FROST, along with many of Claude Chabrol’s films, dare to show us this truth.

I was very glad that Kelemen gave a Q&A after this film. His talking made me realize that there were many things I overlooked while watching FROST. For example, in the scene in the church, the boy screams out loud and runs away. Some audience and I didn’t know why the boy acts like that. Kelemen explained that it is because the boy mistook the figure of Jesus Christ on the cross as a real corpse. The boy is frightened because he thinks he sees a real corpse. And that indirectly shows the background of the boy. It shows that the boy is raised in an atheist family (we know that his family comes from East Germany), and has no education, or else the boy would have known Jesus Christ.

The characters in FROST give me some ambiguous feelings, which is a good thing. I don’t know if I should love or hate this mother and son. I can say I hate the father in this film, though he shows some warmth in the opening scene. As for the mother and son, I think FROST gives me some unresolved feelings. I ask myself if I were the mother, what would I do? I think I may do the same thing as her. I would leave my husband immediately. But how can I avoid her tragic fate? I don’t know. In most films, some characters make a mistake, and the audience know that we can avoid the tragic fate of those characters if we don’t make the same mistake. But in FROST, the mother meets her tragic fate, but I can’t figure out how to avoid her tragic fate. It is another sad truth in this film. Some people really don’t have many choices in life. They have done the best things they can do, but our universe, our world, our society may not let them escape from their tragic fate.

As for the boy, his obvious mistake is that he calls his father near the end of the film. If he hadn’t called his father, everything would have been much better. But it is not the kind of mistake resulted from evil. The boy decides to call his father not because he has some evil desires, but because of other reasons. Therefore, what the boy does gives me ambiguous feeling. I feel bad that the boy calls his father, though I can’t hate him just because he makes this mistake.

Another thing which makes me feel very ambiguous for the boy is that his existence seems to cause his mother great suffering, though it is not his fault. It is just the fact that he exists. If the boy doesn’t exist, his mother would have been much happier. One scene that makes me feel very strongly about this is the scene in the church. In that scene, I feel a great pity for the mother. She has walked for a very long time. She is extremely exhausted, and really needs a place to rest for a while. She finds a church. She just wants to rest in it by pretending to be one of the churchgoers. But then the boy ruins everything. His scream and his running away from the church means that the mother cannot rest anymore. She must keep on walking. If I were the mother in this scene, I think I may just lie down on the snow and decide to die. I don’t have the strength to walk any more.

I think the presentation of the boy as the unintentional cause of great suffering for his mother is a very interesting thing for me. This thing doesn’t make the boy gain much sympathy from me, and lets me look at the boy with some distance, instead of making the audience love and care for him very much as what most filmmakers will do. At the same time, I cannot hate the boy, because he doesn’t do anything wrong at all. The great suffering of his mother is caused by the mere fact that he exists. FROST doesn’t make me love the mother and son, nor does it make me hate them. FROST just lets me look at them in a much more truthful way than in most films.

A film which should make a great double bill with FROST is THE POLICEWOMAN (2003, Joaquim Sapinho, Portugal, A+), which is also about a mother and son traveling in an extremely hostile world. However, I think it is much easier to sympathize with the mother and son in THE POLICEWOMAN than in FROST. The mother and son in THE POLICEWOMAN don’t give me as many ambiguous feelings as in FROST.

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--Writing about FROST just reminds me of one song I like. It’s WHEN IT’S COLD I’D LIKE TO DIE by Moby. The song doesn’t have anything to do with the film. It just mentions coldness.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H3cSmny-3CI

4 comments:

Carlos Ferrão said...

Something you might find interesting is that, while I was in film school, Sapinho took all of us to watch Frost back in 97 or 98. Coincidence?

celinejulie said...

--What a wonderful teacher you had! Well, I don’t know if Sapinho is a good teacher or not. But taking his students to go to see FROST is surely one great thing a teacher can do.

What you wrote is a very interesting information. I don’t know if FROST inspired Joaquim Sapinho to make THE POLICEWOMAN or not, but I love both films very much. Both of these films may have something similar, but they are also great in their own ways.

What I like very much in THE POLICEWOMAN is exactly “the policewoman”. This character may appear for 5 minutes in the movie, but she surely leaves a long-lasting impression. My friend points out that the role of the policewoman in this film is like an angel. Or maybe we can call her an exterminating angel, because she passes on the power to judge (or exterminate) a bad man to the mother. I think THE POLICEWOMAN looks more like a feminist film than FROST.

I also love GLORIA (1999, Manuela Viegas), which is written by Sapinho very much. I hope both Manuela Viegas and Joaquim Sapinho will make more and more movies in the future. Though many people in imdb.com seem to hate their films, I just want to say I love their films very much. I wrote comments for both films in imdb.com, but it seems the majority don’t agree with me. (That happens a lot of times in my life, though.)


--I just noticed that Manuela Viegas worked as an editor for THE BLOOD (O SANGUE) (1989, Pedro Costa), BY THE SEASIDE (1986, Joao Cesar Monteiro), THE ASPERN PAPERS (1985, Eduardo de Gregorio), and SILVESTRE (1982, Joao Cesar Monteiro). I wish I could see all her works. Her background as an editor may help explaining why the editing in GLORIA is very powerful for me. I still don’t understand what happens near the end of GLORIA, because Viegas seems to edit the film until it becomes incomprehensible. But I like it that way.

Carlos Ferrão said...

Neither me nor my classmates were very fond of Sapinho; quite the opposite in fact but I won't go into details.

I'm glad you like Portuguese film, even though I now am a London resident. The best Portuguese film to come out as of late has been "Alice". Have you seen it? It is very Portuguese...

celinejulie said...

--I like ALICE (2005, Marco Martins) very much, though I felt a little bit confused during the first half of the film and couldn’t follow the story. It is because I felt sleepy during that time due to my lack of sleep during the film festival. But after the first half, it seemed like I could begin to understand the feelings, the frustration, and the suffering of the hero. I think the film portrays the hero’s obsession very powerfully. It seems like the film is obsessed with the hero’s obsession. The hero couldn’t stop thinking about his daughter, and the film couldn’t stop focusing on his suffering. Everything in the film is great—the acting, the atmosphere, the rhythm. I also like very much that the hero has to smile in front of his audience nearly every day, though inside he must feel like hell. I think losing a daughter is the worst thing in the world already, but losing a daughter and having to smile in front of other people every day is like doubling the worst thing.

Coincidentally, last year I saw three films which deal with people who lose their children—ALICE, BUG, and GHOSTS (2005, Christian Petzold).

--I have seen so few Portuguese films, maybe not more than 20. I saw most of them in the European Film Festival in Bangkok. Fortunately, the people who choose Portuguese films to show in the festival seem to share the same taste with me, because I nearly love all of them. On the other hand, the people who choose Spanish films for the same festival seem to choose only unworthy ones. I know Spanish cinema have a lot of great films, but those great ones are not chosen to be shown in Bangkok for reasons unknown to me.

My favorite Portuguese films include:

(in alphabetical order)

1.ADEUS, PAI (1996, Luis Filipe Rocha)

2.ALICE (2005, Marco Martins)

3.O FANTASMA (2000, Joao Pedro Rodrigues)

4.GLORIA (1999, Manuela Viegas)

5.MANO (2005, George Felner)

6.THE MAN ON THE FLYING TRAPEZE (2002, Fernando Matos Silva)

7.MURMURING COAST (2004, Margarida Cardoso)

8.THE POLICEWOMAN (2003, Joaquim Sapinho)

9.THE ROOT OF THE HEART (2000, Paulo Rocha)

10.A TALKING PICTURE (2003, Manoel de Oliveira)