Divino Amor [Divine Love] (2019)

Divino Amor
Director: Gabriel Mascaro
Writer: Gabriel Mascaro, Rachel Daisy Ellis, Esdras Bezerra, Lucas Paraizo, Marcelo Gomes
Cast: Dira Paes, Julio Machado, Antonio Pastich, Clayton Mariano, Luciano Mallmann, Teca Pereira, Suzy Lopes, Thardelly Lima, Tony Silva, Emílio de Mello, Mariana Nunes, Thalita Carauta
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 30.10.2019

Plot:
Brazil, 2027. Joana (Dira Paes) works as a clerk at the registry office. Whenever she is confronted with a couple filing for divorce, she tries to convince them to stay together. Sometimes she succeeds and sometimes she manages to recruit them for the church she and her husband Danilo (Julio Machado) attend, Divino Amor. But the bigger project for their life right now is Joana trying to get pregnant. Unfortunately she and Danilo are having trouble with that.

Divino Amor is a very interesting, subtle dystopia that isn’t exactly clear-cut in its morality as dystopias usually are. But instead of interesting ambiguity, I was a little frustrated as I felt that the film avoided taking a position here.

The film poster, showing Joana (Dira Paes) and Danilo (Julio Machado) holding their hands in front of a neon dove in several concentric circles.
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Widerstandsmomente [Moments of Resistance] (2019)

Widerstandsmomente
Director: Jo Schmeiser
Writer: Jo Schmeiser
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 28.10.2019

“Plot”:
In Widerstandsmomente, Schmeiser brings together various women and how they resist(ed) – starting in the World War II and stretching all the way to today. She puts various forms of resistance next to each other, examining the possibilities for everyone to resist in their own way.

I thought the topic of Widerstandsmomente was very interesting and I’m all here for resistance, but the film didn’t really come together for me, unfortunately.

A young woman in a hijab with her arms raised.
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Knives and Skin (2019)

Knives and Skin
Director: Jennifer Reeder
Writer: Jennifer Reeder
Cast: Kate Arrington, Tim Hopper, Marika Engelhardt, James Vincent Meredith, Tony Fitzpatrick, Marilyn Dodds Frank, Audrey Francis, Robert T. Cunningham, Alex Moss, Claire VanDerLinden, Ty Olwin, Jalen Gilbert, Grace Smith, Kayla Carter, Raven Whitley, Aurora Real de Asua, Haley Bolithon
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 27.10.2019

Plot:
Caroline (Raven Whitley) heads out to the lake with Andy (Ty Olwin) to make it out. But things go from romantic to bad pretty quick and Andy leaves Caroline behind, driving off with her glasses still in the car. Caroline never makes it home that night, leaving her single mother Lisa (Marika Engelhardt) to slowly unravel as she frantically starts the search for Caroline. The girls in her school, some of whom she used to be friends with, are deeply affected by her disappearance, too. As is Andy who can’t bring himself to admit to his relationship with Caroline and the way they parted that night. The longer Caroline stays missing, the worse things get for all of them.

Knives and Skin was one of the best discoveries for me at this year’s Viennale. A surreal musical that manages to be funny at the same time as being emotionally devastating, it completely stole my heart.

The film poster showing a young woman with a bloody head, a woman in profile in pink and a young woman with warrior paint in her face.
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Une fille facile [An Easy Girl] (2019)

Une fille facile
Director: Rebecca Zlotowski
Writer: Rebecca Zlotowski, Teddy Lussi-Modeste
Cast: Mina Farid, Zahia Dehar, Benoît Magimel, Nuno Lopes, Clotilde Courau, Loubna Abidar, Lakdhar Dridi
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 27.10.2019

Plot:
Naïma (Mina Farid) is 16 and nearing the end of her school, so decisions need to be made about the next steps in her life. She wants to spend the summer holidays thinking about that, when her cousin Sofia (Zahia Dehar) shows up in Cannes to stay with the family over the summer. Sofia is obviously doing well in Paris, being able to afford expensive stuff or rather, not having trouble accepting them as gifts from men. Naïma is intrigued by her beautiful and successful cousin. When Sofia catches the attention of Andres (Nuno Lopes) who is in Cannes with his yacht and his trusted employee-slash-friend Philippe (Benoît Magimel), Sofia introduces Naïma to a whole new world.

Une fille facile is a beautifully shot, very smart look at power dynamics shaped by gender, class and race. It’s sharp and critical, but never judgmental of the two young women who are trying to find their way. I loved it.

The film poster showing Sofia (Zahia Dehar) and Naïma (Mina Farid) walking together.
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Space Dogs (2019)

Space Dogs
Director: Elsa Kremser, Levin Peter
Writer: Elsa Kremser, Levin Peter
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 27.10.2019

Content Note: animal abuse and death

“Plot”:
Street dogs are roaming the streets of Moscow, always looking for a bite to eat somewhere. Laika, the first dog who went to space, in fact, one of the first living beings from earth to go, period, was also a street dog. For her to be able to go, experiments had to be carried out, on more dogs. The documentary takes a look at the relationship between Moscow and its dogs.

Space Dogs is a documentary in two interlocking parts, both of which felt very different to me, I have to say. Though I found both very interesting and well done, the part about the street dogs in Moscow today is the one that resonated more with me. In any case, the film is excellent, but also not always easy to take.

The film poster showing the image of a dog, made to look like a dog-shaped galaxy in front of a star-filled universe.
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Surematu [Immortal] (2019)

Surematu
Director: Ksenia Okhapkina
Writer: Pauls Bankovskis, Ksenia Okhapkina, Kersti Uibo
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 27.10.2019

“Plot”:
Apatity, a town in the Murmansk region of Russia, used to be a gulag. After the system change and the dismantling of the gulag, many of the people who were forced there at first, opted to stay and continue their lives in town. The documentary looks at the life in town as it approaches the Heroes of the Fatherland celebration.

Immortal is a very calm documentary that offers no real dialogue, no explanations as it investigates the town, mostly at night. It allows for many insights, but I’m afraid that it was a little too slow and way too pessimistic for me – I struggled.

The film poster showing a group of boys dressed in red uniforms.
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Raduga [The Rainbow] (1944)

Raduga
Director: Mark Donskoy
Writer: Wanda Wasilewska
Based on: her own novel
Cast: Natalya Uzhviy, Nina Alisova, Elena Tyapkina, Valentina Ivashova, Anton Dunaysky, Anna Lisyanskaya, Hans Klering, Nikolai Bratersky, Vladimir Chobur
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 27.10.2019

Plot:
In the middle of nowhere in the Ukraine, there’s a village that is occupied by the Nazis who have instated an iron rule on the mostly female, old or very young population. The men, and some women, too, are off fighting – either in the war as soldiers, or as partisans in the area. Olena (Natalya Uzhviy) was one of the partisans, but she decided to return to the village to have her baby. But once there, the Nazis lean hard on her to reveal the whereabouts of the other partisans.

Raduga is a propaganda film meant to inspire resistance which is an interesting double goal for the film to handle. But Raduga definitely knows what it’s doing.

The film poster showing a woman wrapped in a scarf in front of a barbed wire fence.
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Dylda [Beanpole] (2019)

Dylda
Director: Kantemir Balagov
Writer: Kantemir Balagov, Aleksandr Terekhov
Cast: Viktoria Miroshnichenko, Vasilisa Perelygina, Andrey Bykov, Igor Shirokov, Konstantin Balakirev, Kseniya Kutepova, Alyona Kuchkova, Timofey Glazkov
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 26.10.2019

Content Note: ableism

Plot:
Iya (Viktoria Miroshnichenko), called Dylda – Beanpole – by everyone, is a nurse at the tail end of the second World War that left Leningrad pretty much devastated. When she isn’t working, she takes care of her little boy Pashka (Timofey Glazkov). Things aren’t easy for the two of them and made harder by the fact that Iya has episodes – stupors – a remnant of the work she did at the front. But they make do, at least for a while, especially with the help of the doctor Iya works with, Nikolay (Andrey Bykov). When Iya’s best friend Masha (Vasilisa Perelygina) who was a soldier returns, things have changed though and both have to figure out what to do now.

Dylda is a strong film that echoed with me long after it was over. It tackles some very tough topics with sensitivity, but not by pulling its punches. I’m not so sure about how it handles disability – there was a bit much going on here. But other than that, I was really impressed.

The film poster showing Iya (Viktoria Miroshnichenko) with a hand covering her face.
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Touch Me Not (2018)

Touch Me Not
Director: Adina Pintilie
Writer: Adina Pintilie
Cast: Laura Benson, Tómas Lemarquis, Christian Bayerlein, Grit Uhlemann, Hanna Hofmann, Seani Love, Adina Pintilie
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 6.11.2018
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Plot:
In this mix of fiction and documentary, Laura (Laura Benson), Tómas (Tómas Lemarquis) and Christian (Christian Bayerlein) share their journey of (re-)discovering intimacy, looking for connections and overcoming their fears by finding them.

Touch Me Not is a fantastic film. It’s touching, interesting, smart and full of insights. It’s not only a film about intimacy, it is a film that’s intimate itself, sharing something very valuable.

The film poster showing the upper body of a naked woman, throwing her head back mid-orgasm.
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Diane (2018)

Diane
Director: Kent Jones
Writer: Kent Jones
Cast: Mary Kay Place, Jake Lacy, Estelle Parsons, Andrea Martin, Deirdre O’Connell, Glynnis O’Connor, Joyce Van Patten, Kerry Flanagan, Phyllis Somerville, Celia Keenan-Bolger
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 6.11.2018
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Plot:
Diane (Mary Kay Place) spends most of her time taking care of others, at least when she isn’t trying to connect to her son Brian (Jake Lacy) who has been addicted to drugs for a long time. But she can’t convince him to seek professional help. As she fills her days delivering food here, visiting her cousin Dottie (Deirdre O’Connell) in the hospital, and meeting up with her neighbors, her past keeps catching up with her, though.

Diane starts off well enough, but once we delve a little deeper into Diane’s motivation, the movie did start to annoy me – despite some excellent things about it.

The film poster showing Mary Kay Place lighting a candle.
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