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The Berlinale Blog: Women on the verge

Rory O’Connor looks at deteriorating minds, Kaufmanesque cutting and a bold new voice from Norway.

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A bold use of editing can be a clinical tool when visualizing the deteriorating mind; Jim Carrey running around his fading memories in Eternal Sunshine; Sisif’s life flashing by at the end of Gance’s La Roue. Indeed, if one art form has ever been equipped to capture the mind’s flickering eye, film is surely it.

Butter on the Latch from Josephine Decker is a fairy-tale of sorts which follows two young women on an R&R outing to a Bulgarian cultural festival in the woodlands of upstate New York. Improvised dialogue and natural lighting show the film’s mumblecore – or rather mumblegore – roots but when night time comes things grow much darker. The film takes a pagan horror twist with Decker using super quick cuts and manic torchlight to express her heroine’s terror. The character seems to be losing it. Little is explained.

Norwegian director Eskil Vogt gained some clout last year for his tight 24-hour script for Joachim Trier’s Oslo, August 31; a crisp, melancholic film in both theme and aesthetic. Both could be said of Blind – Voigt’s first film as director – but where Trier’s film found footing in the streets of the Norwegian capitol, Blind looks to pull the rug from underneath you.

We find Ingrid (Ellen Dorrit Petersen) feeling her way around her Oslo apartment; a sleek sterile place in the usual Scandinavian fashion. We learn she’s recently lost her sight and harbours fears of leaving the flat. We see the world not through her eyes per se but more through her touch and, for a visual experience, it’s rather jarring. Her husband seems to be there but perhaps he’s not. She spills some food; cracks her head; she’s a bit of a mess all round. Then we meet Morten, a gentle loner with a habit for internet porn, and Elin, a single mother who lives in his building. We should probably leave it at that.

There’s more than a hint of Charlie Kaufman at work here. Much like that American auteur Voigt shows little if any regard for spatial continuity or lateral timing, playing around with scenery like a bored child. Ingrid says she’s losing her grasp on things – forgetting the images which constituted her everyday life – and through some maverick editing, Voigt expresses it so.

The young writer nabbed a screenplay award at Sundance last week and while this particular trail might have been blazed before – and considering Charlie Kaufman’s current rate of output – the Norwegian is certainly one to watch. His film will be screened seven times next week so the programmers here seem to think so too.

Butter on the Latch screens Feb 11, 22:00 (CineStar 8) and Feb 12, 12:30 (Arsenal 1)

Blind screens Feb 09, 20:00 (CinemaxX 7),Feb 10, 14:00 (Hebbel am Ufer), Feb 10, 22:45 (CineStar 3),Feb 11, 20:15 (Cubix 7),Feb 11, 20:15 (Cubix 8), Feb 14, 22:30 (CineStar 7) and Feb 16, 17:00 (CineStar 7).