Wednesday, October 09, 2013

A HARBOUR TOWN (2013, Dean Kavanagh, Ireland, A+30)

A HARBOUR TOWN (2013, Dean Kavanagh, Ireland, A+30)
For me, Kavanagh is an Impressionist filmmaker. Many of his films impress me like Impressionist paintings, because what I love in his films is not the plot, the story, or the dialogue, since these three things are nowhere to be found in many of his films. What I love in his films includes the atmosphere, the light, and the kind of beauty which is semi-natural, semi-abstract.
A HARBOUR TOWN makes me think about many things, including:
1.One of the things I like very much in this film is that the characters in this film seem to include a few things besides human beings. I think the characters in this film include humidity, the sound of water, and the sound of thunder and the rain. These three things may exist in films by other filmmakers, but they exist as just small elements in those films. In A HARBOUR TOWN, they become very prominent. They seem to be as important as the boy, the bespectacled man, and the character played by Rouzbeh Rashidi in this film.
I think HISTORY OF WATER (2012, Dean Kavanagh) and A HARBOUR TOWN are among very few films in this world in which humidity seems to exist as a character. When I watch Kavanagh’s films, I can feel dampness in the air, especially when I hear the sound of water, or see the cloudy sky, or see some waterdrops hanging from branches of a tree, or see the mist in the town, or see the vapor slowly disappearing from a windowpane, or see vapor covering the camera lens.
I can’t think of any other films which give prominence to humidity like this. There are some great films which give prominence to the fire, such as THE BURNT-OUT STAR (2012, Teeranit Siangsanoh). There are some great films which give prominence to the snow, such as WINTER REMAINS (2002, Sasithorn Ariyavicha) and SUBURBS OF EMPTINESS (2003, Thomas Koener). There are some great films which give prominence to waterdrops on windowpanes, such as WONDERFUL LIFE (2013, Teeranit Siangsanoh) and BIRTH OF THE SEANEMA (2004, Sasithorn Ariyavicha), but humidity, which is more “invisible” than waterdrops, has rarely been given such prominence as in Kavanagh’s films.
Sometimes I wonder if this thing has to do with Ireland, because the damp atmosphere in Kavanagh’s films unintentionally reminds me of the music video IN A LIFETIME (1985) by Clannad & Bono. I like the atmosphere in this music video very much, and I assume that it was shot in Ireland, too.
Anyway, the humidity in Kavanagh’s films is one of the things that make his films stand out from many other atmospheric films. I like atmospheric films very much, but some atmospheric films are too similar to one another, especially some Thai atmospheric films made 5-10 years ago.  I think it is because some filmmakers didn’t know what their strong points are when they made those films. That is not the case here. In Kavanagh’s films, you may see the leaves, the trees, the sky, the sea, or the beach like in some other atmospheric films, but the humidity in the air in Kavanagh’s films is the kind of things that you can’t experience from other films.
2.I think the sound of water, rain, and thunder in A HARBOUR TOWN is a character, too. This sound is not just a soundtrack, because there are many scenes in this film which make me wonder if the watery sound I hear is directly related to the image I see or not. There are many times which I think I hear the rain, though I’m not sure if it is raining in those scenes or not. There are many times which I think I hear various types of the sound of water, such as the sound of water running down a bathtub hole, or the sound of someone wading through water, but I don’t see images which directly correspond to the sound I hear. The sound of water seems to become an invisible character in the film. In most films, the sound of water is directly related to the images. The sound of water is there to support the images. But in Kavanagh’s films, the sound of water is not there to support the images, but to add another dimension to the images or the films.
3.Another thing I like very much in A HARBOUR TOWN is the fact that it arouses me to speculate what the characters think. In this film, the characters don’t talk. We must imagine by ourselves what the characters are thinking in each scene. And there are a few scenes in this film which arouse my imagination very much due to the acting of the actors and the way Kavanagh films these actors. These scenes or moments include the moment when we see the intense face of the boy while he is smoking a cigarette in a garden, the moment when we see the forlorn face of Rashidi while he is looking out a window, and the moment when we see the face of the bespectacled guy while he is meeting a chubby guy in the woods. Does the bespectacled guy feel uncomfortable? The film doesn’t tell us. We must imagine it by ourselves.
4.My most favorite scene in A HARBOUR TOWN is the scene in which the bespectacled guy plays accordion on a street at night while the boy is walking around him. I’m not sure why I like this scene the most. I guess it is partly because this scene is not as claustrophobic as other scenes. And it may be because playing accordion on a street feels like releasing something inside the player. I think there are many scenes in this film in which the characters are feeling something strong inside them, but they don’t release their feelings. They hold their feelings inside. But in this accordion scene, it seems some feelings have been released. I also like the presence of the wind in this scene. We can see the hair of the spectacled guy and some parts of the boy’s clothes being blown by the wind in this scene. I just like this kind of atmosphere very much—being caressed by a cold breeze at night in an open space with a friend and the sound of music.
5. Another scene that I like very much is the scene in which we see the boy holding a magnifying glass, and then we see the reflection of the camera and the director in the magnifying glass. I like this kind of scenes in which the director reveals himself to us or films himself very much. It seems as if suddenly the fictional world in this film falls apart, and a dimension of reality or half-reality is added.
6.Another scene that I like very much is the scene in which we see Rashidi in a building through a purple lens of a camera, but then Rashidi walks toward the camera, and then we see Rashidi holds that camera, while the first person who holds that camera disappears. This scene is very intriguing.
7.I think the story about the character played by Rashidi is very interesting. It adds another dimension to the film. Many scenes in the film seem to be about daily life of people in this town and their memories. But scenes about Rashidi are not about daily life or memories. The character Rashidi plays seem to be locked inside a building. He wants to get out, but he can’t. And we see someone crawls quickly after him near the end of this film. This scene seems as if it comes from a horror film. It seems as if the story about this character comes from another film. But I don’t think this character is superfluous. I think if this film is called A HARBOUR TOWN, it is alright to show that there are some people in this town whose lives should be presented in a very different way from other people’s lives.
8. There is a thing in this film which I’m not sure is called a zoetrope or not. This thing is made of paper with holes moving around a lamp, yielding beautiful light and shadow in the room. This scene seems like the climax of the film.
9.I like the reflections on a glass of water and the reflections on windowpanes in this film very much.
10.I also like the narrow vision in some scenes. In some scenes in this film, we see a character through a small, narrow frame. The framing in these scenes are very interesting.
11. Some scenes in this film unintentionally remind me of some films that I like, for example:
11.1 There is a scene in this film in which the hand of a chacter in a house is elongated so much that it becomes like the hand of an alien. This scene reminds me of HISTORY OF WATER, because there is a scene in HISTORY OF WATER which presents strange sound in a house. This sound makes me imagine that there is an alien hiding inside the house. I like both scenes in these two films very much, partly because both scenes make me feel that there is a world of imagination existing in our daily life.
11.2 I also like the scene in which we see the face of the boy illuminated by the flashlight. But this face appears very tiny on the screeen and is surrounded by darkness. This beautiful scene unintentionally reminds me of a scene in FLIGHT OF THE INNOCENT (1993, Carlo Carlei), in which we see the face of the mother surrounded by darkness on the screen.
12.If I were rich, I would hold a retrospective of Dean Kavanagh, Rouzbeh Rashidi, Teeranit Siangsanoh, and Wachara Kanha, because I think these four experimental filmmakers are great and there are many things in their films which remind me of one another. Their films seem to have unintentional dialogues with one another. It would be a great fun to compare and contrast their films. For example:
12.1 In Kavanagh’s films, we sometimes find a character holding a flashlight searching for something in the dark, especially old photos. It seems this character is in search of old memories.
In Teeranit’s films, we often find a character holding a flashlight searching for something in the dark, too, but this kind of scenes often happens in futuristis sci-fi films of Teeranit, and these characters often search for plants and trees, which seem to be rare in the future world.
12.2 What I like very much in Kavanagh’s films is the cloudy sky. What I like very much in Teeranit’s films is the night sky.
12.3 Both Kavanagh and Teeranit like to incorporate scenes from TV into their films.
12.4 I like the extreme close up of human skin and hair in A HARBOUR TOWN very much. It unintentionally reminds me of THOR SOPA (2012, Wachara Kanha).
12.5 I also like the sunlight which pierces through the leaves of trees in A HARBOUR TOWN very much. It unintentionally reminds me of RAY OF LIGHT (2012, Wachara Kanha).
In conclusion, A HARBOUR TOWN is one of my most favorite films I saw this year, because it makes me feel as if Kavanagh can use a camera like a paintbrush. There are very few filmmakers that I know who can do this.

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