Inside Encounters #3- INT 7: Visions of Modern Europe
Visions of Modern Europe is an unflinching gaze at the everyday struggles of those merely existing in the corners of European society. In this programme, economic and social pressures combine to tug and worry at the seams of families and relationships. These pressures form a vague omnipotent force that presses in on characters that are often helpless to exert control over their own fate.
In three films questions of personal and national identity are brought to the fore; Dead End, Free World and Our Lad each present contrasting images of citizenship pivoting on key social or economic issues. In Dead End, in the wake of the Cypriot government’s fiscal implosion an old man’s home life withers around him as he contemplates a muted revolution against a country he no longer recognises. In UK entry Our Lad, a young Muslim British soldier returning from Afghanistan causes ripples in his family and the Islamic community, raising questions of contemporary British heritage and religion. Estonian film Free World (Vaba Maa) is the most elusive and thought provoking of the three, taking an existential approach to notions of self-determination and identity in rural Estonia. It is one of the highlights of the programme for me, and balances out the Western European films on the card.
The rest of the programme is a stark depiction of the debilitating elements in the lives of European citizens like unemployment, poverty and social alienation. Spanish domestic drama When Everything Is Over (Cuando Todo Pase) is the most compelling film in terms of connecting a wider societal issue with its narrative, as a loving family is stretched to breaking point by poverty. It boasts an economy of scenes and camera work that has allowed the filmmaker to speak unobstructed to the viewer. In Something Will Turn Up (Kati Tha Ginei) an ageing woman, stirred by an encounter with a passionate young couple, tries to fight off the enveloping veil of impoverishment while coping with her husband’s ennui. Similarly in Best of Britain, a young man makes a symbolic stand against circumstance in a bid to maintain his dignity.
Visions of Modern Europe is a daunting proposition that forces us to look plainly at the state of our societies, but the programme also rewards with flashes of human resilience and beauty that are every bit as real as the bleak context. A poignant and essential insight into the fabric of our continent, this should be a mandatory screening for all Encounters attendees this year.
By Rory Gibson