Posts Tagged ‘Rotterdam’

Nina (2018) **

Dir.: Olga Chajdas; Cast: Julia Kijowska, Eliza Rycembel, Andrzej Konopka; Poland 2018, 122 min.

This hit and miss debut drama from Polish filmmaker Olga Chajdas struggles with an illogical narrative, despite some positive elements. 

French teacher Nina (Kijowska) desperately wants a child despite her failing marriage to Wotjek (Konopka), a car mechanic. In order to find the ideal surrogate mother the couple embark on a bizarre strategy: reversing their car into a prospective surrogate’s car, they then offer the victim a cost free repair at Wotjek’s garage and make a connection. And it’s during one of these ill-conceived escapades that Nina meets Magda (Rycembel), an airport security guard with an active lesbian sex life. Nina falls head over heels for the androgynous young woman but Wotjek, feeling left out, reacts with a violent assault on Magda. Nina then gets cold feet, after a confrontation with one of Madga’s ex-lovers with the whole debacle culminating in a positive conclusion. 

Strangely enough some of strongest scenes in NINA take place away from the central lesbian love affair. But while the lovers somehow lack a certain chemistry, Rycembel’s performance as the hot to trot initiator of the sensitive sexual encounter scenes has a lot going for it. And this is what makes Nina unique in spite of its hapless narrative. DoP Tomasz Naumiuk does a great job of recording the wild goings on with his mobile handheld images. There are also some extremely beautiful snowy landscapes.

At Rotterdam Film Festival 2018, where NINA won the VPRO Big Screen Award, Chajdas talked about the repressive new government and the lack of a gay club scene in Poland – so so she makes this a more colourful feature of her drama than reality permits.  AS


Jonaki (2018) * * * * | Rotterdam International Film Festival

Dir.: Aditya Vikram Sengupta; Cast: Lolita Chatterjee, Ratnabali Bhattacharjee, Sumanto Chattopadhyay, Jim Sarbh; India/France/Singapore 2018, 97’.

Director/writer Aditya Vikram Sengupta follows his impressive debut Labour of Love with another love story set in a decaying world after the British left India and featuring a great comeback from 81 year old actress Lolita Chatterjee in the title role. Elliptical structure JONAKI (meaning firefly in Bengali) incorporates episodes from the life of beloved grandmother whose arranged marriage at the age of sixteen ruined her life.

Lying on her deathbed in hospital, Jonaki is lost in memories recalling the love her life, a young Christian man (Sarbh) she was forbidden to see by her strict mother (Bhattacharjee) and father (Chattopadhyay). Her parents want her to marry a rich man who runs his own business, and owns a local cinema. During British rule, Kolkata was made the capital of the “Jewel in the Crown”, that lead to the Indian upper classes in the city becoming quite wealthy: The magnificent locations featured in the film now look like a mixture of Buñuel’s Viridiana and Mrs. Havisham’s mansion in Great Expectations. But the old glory is gradually falling into decay, and Jonaki feels imprisoned in her home. Sengupta acts as his own DoP, creating ethereal and otherworldly images underlined by a unusual casting choices: Jonaki’s parents seem to be the same age as she was in her teens and early adulthood – whilst she is now eighty, and is criticised and often punished by much younger protagonists. Only her lover is the same age as she is, accentuating their spiritual bond.

There is a surreal and eerie quality running through this distinctive drama: In the dormitory of a girl’s Christian boarding school, the girls’ sleeping patterns sleep are synchronised, we also come across an orange-loving scientist who dreams of England and grows a horn on his forehead, which he later burns off. The local cinema is destroyed by fire, and is then replaced by a modern version – without seating. In the boarding school, oranges roll out of the rooms into the corridor; Sengupta partitions these rooms with glass walls and coloured windows, to allow the action to unfold simultaneously. At one point, we see poor Jonaki listening to her parents discussing her difficult behaviour in a room next door.

Jonaki falls between genres; the  viewer is drawn in and memerised by the ravishing images, the continuously changing lights and shadows. The episodic narrative is stringent, working like memory itself – meandering, reminiscing, leaving threads and picking them up again later. Sengupta offers his own cinematic vision, unique in todays’s so often predictable film landscape – and is all the better for it.AS




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