The Bird Can’t Fly

The Bird Can’t Fly (2007) is, at first, a strange movie to absorb. So much is unexplained and you wonder if the steep learning curve is worth it. I’m writing this to say, emphatically, YES.
This is the first directing effort of Threes Anna (she also co-wrote it) from the Netherlands and I look forward to her next film Silent City and all future endeavours.
When you let this film in, it begins to haunt. You have to see it again almost immediately because there is so much you missed. I don’t want to explain too much of the plot since experiencing it for yourself is so crucial, so I’ll give some impressions.
First, the beautiful acting. Every member of the cast, even the children, are fabulous. Barbara Hershey superbly plays Melody who appears so serene and controlled, almost inhumanly so, at the opening of the movie but changes so dramatically by the end. Yusuf Davids (Melody’s grandson River) is riveting. When he’s on the screen (especially in his ‘Lord of the Flies’ element) you have to watch him. All the characters are unique from all the strong women which fill this movie to the skill of Tony Kgoroge (Scoop) and John Kani (Stone) who are the adult men.
Fairlands, South Africa, is the setting of most of the film. This was a diamond mining town which is being progressively buried by desert. The resort hotel, where Melody once worked, has only it’s roof and sign still exposed. The people still living there exist in huts that are drab at first but become more colourful as we learn more about the people who live in them. A truth most travellers learn.
One of the most beautiful transitions that I missed the first time (but Karen spotted right away) was the little girl’s doll. I’m not sure who the actor is (perhaps Amanda Dilma?) but what an amazing performance from such a young and beautiful girl. River demands rope of his feral band of conspiratorial children and this girl, whose seeming only possession is a doll, pulls it’s hair out and braids it. Then she replaces the hair with ostrich feathers. Doll with hair, Doll with no hair, Doll with feathers. It’s easy to miss but… wow, it’s a gorgeous symbol for the loss and then rejuvenation that we’re witness to here!
Very highly recommended. An important movie for anyone sensitive.

The Outlander

This film starring Jim Kaviezel (Kainan) was a pleasant surprise. Although it involves Earth’s past, Vikings, an alien, his space craft, and a pissed off alien dragon it isn’t as ridiculous as it sounds.  The writer explains these so well that they didn’t remind me overly much of the rash of Beowulf movies lately. The back story (that humans had been seeded on Earth by Kainan’s people) and that Kainan crash landed with an imprisoned alien dragon was an explanation for his human appearance. It certainly seemed reasonable as I watched, anyway.  I liked the special effects for the Moorwen or dragon. It is a good adventure film and, I think, worth a couple of hours of precious time if you like good action sci-fi films.

Meet the Robinsons

I liked the idea behind Disney’s Meet the Robinsons ever since the first trailer I saw for it. Strangely enough, all the kids were doing their own thing and so Karen and I watched this kid’s animation alone.
We enjoyed it very much. The story moves along quickly with a lot to keep interest from flagging. There were some sappy moments (especially the reuse of the “keep moving forward” part of Disney’s quote I’ve put at the end) but this is a much better film than I expect from the modern Walt Disney syndicate. Some elements are easy to predict but there were some surprises for me and that was fun!
Recommended.

We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.
Walt Disney

The Lives of Others

This movie (originally called Das Leben der Anderen) is a virtuoso feature film writing and directorial debut by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck that very much deserves all the many awards it was collected. Prompted by my sister-in-law’s brother’s advice (Thanks Doug!) I put the DVD on hold at the library and finally watched it last night with my wife. This is a most impressive film and should be seen by all who are interested in history or in exceptional film-making or if you are an adult.
The performance of the late Ulrich Mühe, in particular, is outstanding. Exceptional. He is one of those performers who, after watching this movie, you just want to see everything he has done. I only wish I understood German half as well as Donnersmarck understands English so I could actually do that. And when you learn how this actor’s life in the GDR so closely mirrored the monitoring of artists in the film… you just have to shudder.
Donnersmarck, too, is someone whose future work I will be very keen to follow. His painstaking research and incredible attention to detail in capturing 1984 Communist Germany is inspiring. I especially appreciate his picking of that particular year. Besides being appropriate historically it also is more than a nod to George Orwell and his Ministry of Truth. I’ve often thought that Orwell should not have picked a date as the title for his book but, with Donnersmarck’s help, I now see his chillingly exacting foresight.
I was also impressed by the acting of Sebastian Koch, Martina Gedeck and Ulrich Tukur.
I understand Hollywood wishes to do a remake. My only question is “Why?” What a waste that would be. Put the money into America’s own dark closets of history and Ministry of Information if you really want to acknowledge the greatness of Donnersmarck’s work. Do some more research on J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI or, even closer to home for Hollywood, the McCarthy hearings and you’d be better served.
A must see!