Posts Tagged ‘Mannheim Heidelberg Film Festival’

Zero Fucks Given (2021)

Dir.: Emmanuel Mare, Julie Lecoustre; Cast: Adèle Exarchopoulos, Mara Tarquin, Alexander Perrier, Jonathan Sawdon; Belgium 2021, 115 min.

This bizarre but brilliant first feature for French duo Emmanuel Marre and Julie Lecoustre follows a shameless young air-stewardess on a flight to nowhere, emotionally speaking. We soon understand why.

Cassandra (Exarchopoulos from Blue is the Warmest Colour) works for a budget airline mostly around Europe. She dreams of being hired by Emirates Airlines or even a high-paying company called Private Jets, but speaks only a little English apart from French.

From her base in Lanzarote relationships are tricky so she signs out of reality, keeps her family at a distance and opts for an online life on Tinder under the pseudonym ‘Carpe Diem’, a bare-breasted selfie setting the tone for some casual sexual encounters. In some ways she is typical of the resigned young millennial who literally doesn’t care what happens as long as she’s having fun.

Not only is the job repetitive and unfulfilling, Cassandra spends most of her time in airline terminals, a hostile and alien environment made worse since Covid. Drugs and disco are her favourite release on breaks from the inflight tedium. When her contract runs out, she is re-assigned to a course that includes saving passengers with CPR – an exercise Cassandra fails dismally, unable to interact even with a dummy: “You are breaking all his ribs” the course leader tells her, after Cassandra pummels the model doll mercilessly. Job follows job largely down to Cassandra’s ability to sell her persona on Zoom interviews – ‘Seize the day’ very much captures the economic and social climate of this disposal world.

Exarchopoulos gives a stunning performance as the women “with no attributes”, an empty vessel not even trying to find an engagement with the outside world. She is vague to the point of disowning herself, constantly on the move in transit positions. She is the modern young woman honed for the instant turnaround of her professional life, opting for a quick fix while treading water in the hope of a better opportunity, always with her eye on the main chance. Cassandra is the opposite of her sister and father: rootless and uninterested in her past, leaving them to deal with the emotional consequences of the mother’s death. DoP Olivier Boonjing excels with the cold airport images which contrast with the warmer colours of Cassandra’s hometown. Zero Fucks Given is certainly original: an almost sinister study of a modern milliennial. Hugely recommended. AS

NOW ON GENERAL RELEASE NATIONWIDE | The Rainer Werner Fassbinder Award for Best Screenplay, presented this year to Zero Fucks Given‹ by Julie Lecoustre and Emmanuel Marre |MANNHEIM HEIDELBERG FILM FESTIVAL 2021

Vera Dreams of the Sea (2021)

Dir: Katrina Krasniqi | Drama, Albania, Kosovo, Macedonia. 87 mins.

The evocative title of this confident feature debut from Kosovo’s Katrina Krasniqi belies the toughness of the heroine in a family drama focusing on inheritance and male dominance. Vera (played with restraint by Teuta Ajdini Jegeni) is a calm but resolute woman who is not to be messed with, particularly when it comes to losing her home.

Vera is swift to point out that the only thing she has ever inherited is her bread-winning ability as a sign language translator, a talent that no one can steal, and gives her economic and personal freedom. She works for a TV news channel and lives in old-fashioned but comfortable surroundings in Prishtina with her husband, retired judge Fatmiri (Xhevat Qorraj).

But when he suddenly commits suicide, Vera faces the threat of homelessness due to Albania’s patriarchal society dictating that males automatically inherit. This taut character drama is a stinging indictment on a culture that places men at the head of the queue before women and children. After the funeral, Vera’s husband’s cousin, Ahmeti (Astrit Kabashi), shamelessly asserts how close he was to Fatmiri, so much so the judge had left him the family house. His side of the story is then endorsed by a disdainful crew of ‘village elders’ who refuse to countenance Vera’s righteous claim on the property. A series of sinister threats then ensue.

Vera’s daughter, Sara (Alketa Sylaj), is a single mother struggling for financial security of her own, which puts her at a disadvantage, confidence-wise, when auditioning for a part which she fails to land in the feature’s ‘play within a film’ structure.

Vera is of the old school of Kosovo women; keeping her own counsel, quietly firm and  pragmatic, unlike the strung-out and emotional Sara. But in private she does shed a tear at the injustice of her predicament, while driving back on the brand new Prishtina-Skopje highway (a nod to the nation’s economic future that has clearly come at a price).

And she will work things to her advantage in the satisfying conclusion, proving her a force to be reckoned with in Doruntina’ Basha’s refined screenplay where a great deal happens behind closed doors. Vera’s emotional outlet comes in her dreams where she sees herself drowning in the titular sea, a potent motif with its clear implications. Another powerful scene pictures Vera and Ahmeti in a cafe for the deaf, where she states her argument loud and clear, and in no uncertain terms. MT



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