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An almost silent masterpiece

“The Tribe” tells a visceral story in sign language

Nicholas Barber | May/June 2015

Miroslav Slaboshpitsky’s fiercely uncompromising writer-directorial debut, “The Tribe”, chronicles a teenage boy’s arrival at a rundown Ukrainian boarding school, and his induction into an underworld of vicious muggings and truck-stop prostitution. If that were all there was to it, it would be feted as a masterpiece of naturalistic Euro-grit. But there’s more.

Very nearly a silent movie, “The Tribe” (or “Plemya”) is set in a school for the deaf, so all of its characters communicate in sign language. There are no subtitles to translate their words, no vocal dialogue or voiceover whatsoever, and no music on the soundtrack to guide your interpretation. Even the most visceral scenes of sex and violence are spookily quiet. To most viewers, watching the film will be as demanding and disorientating as being parachuted onto an alien planet – but just as fascinating. You’re forced to imagine what is being said, but when Sergey (Grigoriy Fesenko) falls for one of his classmates, and upsets the school’s gangster hierarchy, the characters’ emotions come through loud and clear, and the long, fluid steadicam shots sing their own melodies. You won’t have seen, or heard, a film like it.  ~ Nicholas Barber
The Tribe opens in Britain May 15th

 

FILM AT A GLANCE

Far from the Madding Crowd (May 1st). With all due respect to Julie Christie and Terence Stamp, there’s still room for a definitive film of Hardy’s novel, and this one looks highly promising. Carey Mulligan plays Bathsheba Everdene, the director is Thomas Vinterberg (“The Hunt”), and the screenplay is by David Nicholls, whose hit novel, “One Day”, was inspired by his love of Hardy.

Rosewater (May 8th). Jon Stewart, soon to be ex-host of “The Daily Show”, turns director for the traumatic true story of a journalist (Gael García Bernal, below) imprisoned in Iran in the aftermath of the 2009 elections. Amazingly, Stewart doesn’t lose his sense of humour in the process.

Clouds of Sils Maria (May 15th). “Birdwoman”, maybe? Following Iñárritu’s Oscar winner, down swoops another post-modern comedy drama about a middle-aged escapee from a superhero movie franchise who is now rehearsing a play while being haunted by one of her own characters. Juliette Binoche is superb as the film’s grande dame. Kristen Stewart, who co-stars as her assistant, became the first American actress to win a César.

Timbuktu (May 22nd). When jihadists occupy an idyllic village in Mali, their hypocrisy and brutality are soon exposed – as is their humanity. Farcical comedy vies with dreadful tragedy in Abderrahmane Sissako’s deft drama.

Listen Up Philip (June 5th). A must for misanthropists, Alex Ross Perry’s bilious comedy stars Jason Schwartzman as a fabulously obnoxious young New York novelist who goes to stay with his Philip Roth-ish mentor (Jonathan Pryce).

The Look of Silence (June 12th). Joshua Oppenheimer follows “The Act of Killing” with a second searing documentary about the Indonesian massacres of 1965 and 1966. In this more conventional, but no less powerful enquiry, a victim’s brother confronts some of the murderers who have settled into complacent old age. ~ NB

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