Thursday, August 06, 2009

MIFF 2009 - Part 2

The Hurt Locker
The Hurt Locker follows a small team of bomb defusers through the last month of their tour of duty in Iraq. As a character study of the soldiers, it's pretty interesting, contrasting the lead specialist, who appears rather reckless, but actually has something more which makes him tick, with his team mates, who seem to just want to ge the job done and get back home to the US.

This film left me a little dazed. I liked it, but I'm a little unsure about why. The film doesn't really lay down an argument about war. It's not glorifying it, nor is it denouncing it. Instead, it takes a more personal point of view, highlighting the alienation and disconnect from the everyday, that most soldiers thrust into such a situaion would inevitably feel.

I would recommend the film, but don't go into it expecting anything particularly Hollywood. Apart from the stunning opening sequences.

Hansel and Gretel
A Korean take on the fairy tale, protagonist Eun-soo finds himself lost in a forest after a car accident, on his way to visit his sick mother. He passes out, and wakes to find an angelic little girl with a lantern, who leads him back to her house, deep in the middle of the forest. He meets her picture-perfect family, but it soon becomes evident that something's not quite right there. Eun-Soo tries repeatedly to leave the forest and get back to the road, but always ends up back at the house, and slowly (a little too slowly?) secrets are revealed.

Like a lot of Korean films which float between fantasy and horror, Hansel and Gretel oozes style. The art direction and set design is consummate, right down to the disturbing and eerie rabbit-motifed artwork throughout the house. For this alone, the film is worht seeing. Equally, the acting is great, especially the performances of the three children, who are unsettlingly precocious. Where the film gets let down is in the pacing. What starts off with great promise, gets bogged down in overlong flashbacks, and a drawn out climax and denouement. Some more judicious editing would have made this film really great, but as it is, it's still one of the stand out films I've seen this year in the festival.

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