The Place Beyond the Pines is a film by Derek Cianfrance. This is the second collaboration between the director and actor Ryan Gosling, the last being the hyper realistic Blue Valentine (that I thoroughly enjoyed). Based off that movie I wanted to see this, though I was put off by what seemed a melodramatic movie from the trailer featuring an overly tattooed Gosling. To say I was pleasantly surprised by what I got in the film would be an understatement, the early 180 plot turn and subsequent narratives were really welcomed.
The story follows a stuntman who travels with a circus. He is met by an ex-lover who reveals fathered her child. He abruptly quits his job to take up his role of father only to find that she moved in with another man. He picks up a part time job for minimum wage and is later informed by his boss that he used to rob banks and that could be a way to get cash. He has initial success before it goes bad in which he is killed in brief shoot out with a cop. Here the narrative switches following the cop lying about shooting first and feeling guilty for the victim as it is revealed the cop also has an infant son. He is then wrangled by his fellow cops that prove to be corrupt back to the victims baby mother’s house to find the stolen money. The cop after trying to correct this ends up exposing the corrupt cops fast forwarding the narrative again 15 years that follows the plight of the two infants who are now of high school age and become friends…
Billing a film with Ryan Gosling and killing him off in the first thirty minutes is genius. Coming off of Blue Valentine and judging from the trailer, nobody could say they saw this coming. Then from there almost naturalistically leading the narrative to the sons was really good. I wanted to hate this movie and just couldn’t. Even the director’s own indie trappings and at times overly conscious camerawork become welcomed. It carries subtle homages that could be attributed to such various sources as Rebel Without a Causes or to a Greek Tragedy. The troubled youth angst combined with the fact that it stems from a father’s sins is interesting, yet the film remains starkly American. At the heart of it is the chase of the American dream with morality as our only guide.
The Turin Horse is a film by Béla Tarr and Ágnes Hranitzky. I only heard about this film recently from a friend who I met at a recent photography portfolio review. Based on the rumor of Friedrich Nietzsche’s cause for insanity…the story goes that he stepped out and came across a horse and its shabby owner. The owner was whipping the horse since it refused to move and it was said Nietzsche clung to the horse and started to violently weep. He was taken away and remained silent for two days before going demented. We know of Nietzsche but nothing of the horse…this film is about the horse and its owner and his daughter.
Instantly watching this and seeing the banality, I recalled the 1960’s Japanese film The Naked Island. That film was about a Japanese family on a waterless island who everyday had to go get water from a neighboring island to keep on living. The cinematography suggests the family is nothing more than ants as we see long shots of them going up and down the same hill for water every day. It becomes allegorical of the nature of existence as with this film here. We only see them eat potatoes, get water, feed their stubborn horse, and sleep. The director cited the film saying it is about the heaviness of existence. He then supports this with a film that sees only thirty shots in all. At two and half hours, one can understand the ASLs are past ten minutes yet for me it never felt static. The camera though held in one shot is constantly moving, very gently but it is often in motion. The movement of the characters with in the framing are then extremely well choreographed and held just right. An example of this would be a long shot of a tree on the top of a small hill. The two and the horse walk into the shot and disappear as they go over the horizon. The shot is then held for a minute with the wind and debris fluttering across the screen until suddenly the couple slowly reappear and go back exactly from where the shot started. Because the intensity of the storm, we have no choice but to understand the harshness of the weather and without words the shot explains why they would give up and go back.
Going back to the director’s own thoughts he states, “The daily repetition of the same routine makes it possible to show that something is wrong with their world. It’s very simple and pure.” This wrongness is further explained, “the man differs from Nietzsche in that he is not claiming that God is dead, but rather puts blame on both humans and God: “The key point is that the humanity, all of us, including me, are responsible for destruction of the world. But there is also a force above human at work – the gale blowing throughout the film – that is also destroying the world. So both humanity and a higher force are destroying the world.”
However the interesting point for me then becomes the horse itself. The horse seemed to remain the only individual to the hold the concept of existential freedom. It is said to be in bad faith to allow anything to obstruct freedom. The very banal nature of its owners’ lives and their routine existence was fought by the horse. It all came to an existential crisis when Nietzsche came across this horse and immediately recognized this horse’s fight for its freedom…