“The power of the story sheds a light and great perspective on well-known facts. The power of cinema draws on that collective history.” – Cate Blanchett
Forgive Us Our Debts – Italian Drama, Available on Netflix
Forgive Us Our Debts is a drama that feels like a sour treat matching wonderful camera work with a compelling, witty and melancholy script.
Forgive Us Our Debts revolves around Guido(Claudio Santamaria) a recently fired down on his luck middle-aged man. The story focuses on his new job as a debt collector and Guido being mentored by a seasoned debt collector named Franco(Marco Giallini). Guido struggles with the wicked demands of the job but feels an unwanted emotional stimulus from holding power over someone. Guido is stuck between the shame he feels being a debt collector and the money and power the job brings. Struggling between two worlds is a common theme for most characters in the film. Guido, Rina, a temporary bartender, and guido’s only friend, a man he calls the professore, all struggle with their identity. Caught in between their old selves and the people they want to become. Each character being so dynamic gives the plot of the movie much-needed depth. Rina is my favorite character, she is just worried enough about Guido to give him hope but she is always going to have to leave the country. Franco is also a standout, he is an unforgiving and cold debt collector who changes little.
All four main characters are acted well but Flonja Kodheli is a real standout. She added much more gravitas to every scene and I couldn’t take my eyes off of her the whole film. Marco Giallini made me hate Franco at multiple points, so he’s also a standout.
The Camerawork is a style not often seen in modern filmmaking, but I enjoy it. The long static cuts, which are abundant in the film, add a sense of reality. It makes the characters and the situations feel real instead of situations manufactured for maximum pleasure. Although, the most impressive cut in the movie uses a moving camera focused on Rina, showing the talent of the cinematography work.
Forgive Us Our Debts is worth a watch for any cinephile, but moviegoers who dislike a slow building plot and a melancholy story should look elsewhere. Also, it’s in Italian so you have to use subtitles.
“Modern-day cinema takes the form of a sermon. You don’t get to think, you only get to receive information.” – Gus Van Sant
Anon is a crime drama set in the near future in which any and all human interactions are recorded into a network known as the Ether. Clive Owen stars as a tortured detective who is thrown off by a case in which the murderer cannot be immediately identified by the Ether’s records. Unique and convincing in concept, the premise is dragged down by its stale acting, and nonsensical plot.
Unfortunately for Anon, the most memorable things about the film end up being its most glaring problems. Clive Owen’s character felt completely phoned in throughout the movie, perhaps in part to the writing itself. Many characters continuously made decisions that felt very out of place and stretched any suspension of disbelief that I had. It felt like over and over scenes were placed in the movie for no other reason than the screenwriter “felt like it should be in the movie”. The only real twists in the movie aren’t even really twists at all. Instead, the film tells you that your expectations are to be subverted and then I am expected to be surprised when they are? The premise and concept of the futuristic hyper recorded world that’s built is convincing in its own right. Muted in color scheme, and looming cinematography gives a clean, otherworldly version of our own without feeling dystopian and unrealistic. Worth mentioning is that throughout the film we are switched between regular camera angles, and tracking POV shots to depict what someone is viewing via the Ether. While it does become less jarring as the movie goes on, all of them are a camera sliding on a track, which doesn’t showcase in any capacity the natural feeling of a person’s point of view whether they are walking, running etc. Finally Anon attempts to make a sort of social commentary on the rapid disappearance of privacy in the modern era, but it does so only through trivial quotes and platitudes. There aren’t any consequences showcased as to why the lack of privacy is a bad thing so the movie falls flat here as well. This film is competent enough but falls short on so many of what appear to be its core draws that I can’t really recommend it unless you’re bored on a weekend and like the way Amanda Seyfried’s face looks.
“Cinematography is a writing with images in movement and with sounds.” – Robert Bresson
Veronica is a film loosely based off the real-life story of Estefanía Gutiérrez Lázaro after her use of an Ouija Board. Veronica, a 15-year-old girl living in Madrid with her 3 younger siblings and single mother, plans a Séance with 2 friends during a solar eclipse. The results of which lead her to believe an ill-intentioned presence now threatens her. Exceptional in its pacing, Veronica slowly draws you down the rabbit hole with an ever-growing sense of dread. Clever camerawork and impeccable sound complete this film and when the cast of characters are both written and played this well. It results in an immersive and genuinely terrifying experience.
I love horror movies. Both in practice and in concept the genre fascinates me, as does the idea of experiencing fear for entertainment’s sake. I think that this review might end up biased based on how many movies fall short where Veronica triumphs. Perhaps I am in the minority but it’s almost commonplace how desensitized you can become to absurd levels of gore and violence with the advent of modern filmmaking, and jump scares quickly end up predictable the more time you spend in front of the silver screen. There’s something to be appreciated from the use of subtlety and patience in a horror film and Veronica capitalizes on it in seemingly every scene. There is hardly any fat on this film and every shot is either directly progressing the plot or evoking a sense of dread with little details and premonitions which are tucked away into more scenes than not. The Characters, while not overly complex, are all well written and more importantly played professionally by everyone involved. This is especially noticeable in the acting abilities of Veronica’s younger siblings, as they add to the immersive depth of the movie rather than distract from it. The leading lady herself, Sandra Escacena does especially well at characterizing an increasingly convincing feeling of dread, paranoia, and restlessness which grips unto me the viewer with vice-like engagement. The latter is worth noting considering the movie’s run time of 105 minutes which absolutely does not feel its length. Veronica takes a genuinely chilling stab at the horror genre. It doesn’t make any grand leaps of faith or take genre changing risks. Instead, it uses its source material effectively, capitalizes on the devilish details woven into its cinematography, coupled with a solid cast of young actors. This film is a nightmare come true.