Friday, August 9, 2013

MIFF Session 14: A HIJACKING: Transparency

Art Spieglman's drawing is astounding in its detail and expression, managing to be highly emotional and realistic even when it's of something fanciful. When he came to tell the story of his recent ancestry's suffering during the Holocaust he pared his style back to bare essentials as though he inked it with a blunt stick. He was already using allegory casting the Jewish characters as mice, the Poles as pigs and the Germans as cats. He knew that any further visible artistry would only cloud what was a story best served by putting as little as possible between the reader and the page.

Along those lines Tobias Lindholm keeps the two settings of his story of contemporary piracy strictly verite. The cast is sizeable but placed perspectively around one hostage, the pirates' representative and the CEO of the shipping company on the other end of the phone in Denmark. It's shot on digital and never feels less than documentary real.

The Rozen, a ship bound for Mumbai, is hijacked in the Indian Ocean by African pirates. They demand fifteen million dollars in ransom from the parent company in Copenhagen. The latter bring in a British advisor to oversee negotiations. He recommends they outsource a negotiator but the CEO whom we've already seen is a steely-eyed winner of deals insists on doing this himself. Back on the Rozen the cook provides the voice of the crew (the captain is ill) and the plainly dressed Omar goes between the pirates and the company. Everyone is set in for what might be months of negotiation.

Dig? This is not a Hollywood SWAT team actioner but a slow burning one hour forty five of tension. It is not about the crime but the negotiation. What will fly what won't? What will they do and what won't they? Time, as the advisor chillingly opines, is a Western thing; all the pirates know is that it is valued by their targets. The rest is the great sweating hell of unknowing.

So, it's barebones and uncluttered, haven't we seen it before? I don't know if we have done half as well as this, without pyrotechnics or loud action sequences, left almost entirely to the power of language and risk through information gaps. At one point when Peter the CEO has possibly forced a disastrous event we stay with him as he stares into something that no longer looks like the office to him but some fiery punitive hell. We do this because everything that a higher calorie film would put there like a bursting orchestral score and quick snip monatge are dispensed with. There's nothing between us and Peter. We project a great deal on to him because we must. The camera will not look away and we have to do something ourselves. Even if this approach to drama is not new here it is devastatingly effective. This might have just been some very fine tv but it is nothing less than cinema.

The final moments are quiet but weigh us down like anchors. I have seldom known such a voiceless crowd as the one I was in as we filed out of the screening, down the Forum stairs and out to the frozen wet grey of the evening, still waiting for the credits to roll.

No comments:

Post a Comment