‘The Square’ And ‘Spoor’

Kolkata Film Festival

Abhijit Ghosh-Dastidar

Segments of Cinema, with inclisive use of themes, situations and atmospheres were presented at the Kolkata International Film Festival (November, 2017). The country specific focus on Morocco and United Kingdom, a retrospective of Michael Winterbottom (UM) and revivals of Alfred Hitchcock (UK), Powell and Pressburger (UK), Jean-Luc Godard (France) and Andrej Wajda (Poland) were torrent of moving images.

The Square
Ruben Ostlund’s ‘‘The Square’’ (Sweden/Germany/France/Denmark, Colour, 142 mins, Swedish/English language) is a study of delights and miseries alternating. Christian (Claes Bang), the chief curator in an important Stockholm museum, is interviewed by an American journalist, Anne (Elizabeth Moss). He is overseeing a project that reflects his social concerns. A statue of a man on a horse before the large museum building is removed, and a square carved in the museum front court yard, with the inscription ‘‘The square is a sanctuary of trust and caring’’. Does an object placed in a museum, make it an object of art? Visitors at the art galleries give their opinion on exhibition/non exhibition. A woman with an old man is sleeping on the pavement. On a street a girl comes screaming for help. Christian trying to save the girl from being assaulted by a young man, finds his wallet, mobile phone and cufflinks stolen. Shots of homeless people, beggars and poor immigrants appear juxtaposed to the art exhibits. Interviews and discourses on art keep occurring. A man in the audience tries to disrupt a talk on art. Christian believes that the culprit who stole his wallet resides in another poor part of the town. He leaves letters requesting the return of his belongings. A boy in the drab building cries for ‘‘revenge and chaos’’. Stolen items are returned.

Christian splashes currency notes on a beggar. An unauthorised video of a little blonde girl on the square, being lit up and blown apart, costs Christian his job as chief curator. He gets into a one day relationship with Anne. His two daughters residing with their mother, visit him at his apartment. A bare chested man, Oleg (Terry Notary) threateningly romps through a dining hall. In trying to search for the little thief’s address, Christian falls into the apartment garbage dump. He makes a phone video meaculpa for a despatching to the thief. The entire sound track is Shubert and Guineaus’ ‘‘Ave Maria’’, interrupted with Oleg’s grunts, distorting human speech. The series of elaborately staged sketch-comedy routines hover on social forces and economic structures, highlighting immigration, social inequality and alienation, and global capitalism. The carefully planned and theorised happenings are an anthology of performance art pieces. Sometimes the out-of-nowhere set pieces, features none of the main characters. Fredrik Wenzel’s photography enriches the film with a multitude of tones and nuances. ‘‘The Square’’ is a serio-comic spectrum, where Ostlund portrays the protagonists as obsessed with political correctness, and their failure to behave decently. Rasmus Thord’s music illuminates art in X-Royal Museum.

Foot tracks and animal smells in Agnieszk, a Holland’s ‘‘Spoor’’ (Poland, Germany, Czech Republic, colour, 128 mins) intersperse the ecological thriller. A quote from Dada introduces the film, ‘‘In horosceopes, the date of birth also indicates the date of death’’. An aged school teacher, Duszejko (Agnieska Mandat) lives in a mountain village, near the border of Poland and the Czech Republic. At dawn, Duszejko watches the rising sun, with her two dogs. The canine companions soon go missing. The poacher keeps his own dog locked in a shed. The girl of the local boutique also works at a sex club. The sadistic priest is not against killing animals, as ‘‘they do not have souls’’. The police chief ill-treats Duszejko. Some of the characters, who are local hunters, are found killed in the wintry wilderness. Every crime scene is marked by tell-tale animal tracks. Scarcely any clue is observable, and the narrative remains murky and disjointed. Neighbours are dying with battered throats. The police chief is also killed. Police arrest Duszejko. In a wall photo, hunters celebrate over poached animals. The watch towers and tall grass are part of the mystery and suspense. The episodic story line, presents men as stalkers and hunters, while religion does not recognise all of God’s creatures. Christmas to May, scenario shifts from snow to hunting season for deers and costume balls. Jolanta Dylewska and Rafal Paradowski’s camera follows the atmosphere of obsession. ‘‘Spoor’’ is manipulative.

Vol. 50, No.30, Jan 28 - Feb 03, 2017