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Tackling Generational Conflicts in the Era of Manipulation


By Roger Costa


Is it true that once you learn how to control your hunger, you are able to control everything else in your life? Can someone change the eating habits, whether an excessive disorder or the abstinence of that, in order to fit in or to understand the system, the environment and the strategies of consumerism?

Austrian director Jessica Hausner’s Cannes official selection investigates these topics through generational conflicts experienced by her characters. If you had seen one of her films before, you are familiar with her dark, macabre and somber styles. Hausner has been engaged in exploring controversial themes and subjects, developing a unique narrative aesthetic that could easily describe it as a modern blend of Kubrick, Wes Anderson, Von Trier and Bunuel.

The arrrival of a young nutricionist at an upclass private boarding school challenges and drastically shapes the lives of a group of students who enroll in her class seeking different benefits, such as controling personal behavior, skipping punishment or earning extra credits. At first, her methods seem naturally ordinary, opportunities to open-up,  meditations, smaller portions of meal, then it gradually becomes intrusive, manipulative and dangerous leading to extremes. A sort of new religion is born, and faith is their motivation. But not the usual faith, this is something tragically different.

While the teacher (a tour-de-force performance by “doesn’t seem to age” Mia Wasikowska) increasingly becomes a controlling force, yet attached and fond of the reckless kids (at least for her own conceptions), director Hausner presents tragic facts about modernity: the distance between parents and children, the emotional and social challenges faced by the young generation, the manipulation of ideals, their loneliness, depressive inclinations, lack of commitment and negligence to basic values. Hausner is not interested in applying a moral lesson or guiding society towards a solution. Instead, she masterly conducts the audience through a rollercoaster of dysfunctional emotions and situations that mirror our own individualism and perpetual search for the perfect body, the perfect match, the perfect journey. Using a deadpan technique, she points to the various faces of the problem, the eating education (or tradition), the role of capitalism and industrial interests, the negligence in the school system, and parental disorder, but once again, it is an examination of all the facts and consequences, not a trial.

Working with a fantastic cast of young emerging stars who deliver convincing portraits of people their age, Hausner has also at her favor the intensely luminous yet haunting cinematography by Martin Gschlacht, the futuristic and abstract, saturated set designs by Beck Rainford and the penetrating dark music by Markus Binder. Everything works in synch with the film’s intentions and mood, elevating the quality of this excellent, horrifying dark comedy of manners.

Constantly provocative, utterly disturbing and enigmatic, Hausner conceives her most shocking and impressive film to date.

(Film Movement. 3/15. IFC Center)


Stunningly observed and masterly narrated, Turkey’s Oscar submission is worth every second of its 197 minutes of length. A secret complain about the relationship between a teacher and a pre-teen girl is only the tip of the iceberg in this head-spinning, cut-throat drama filled with sensational insights on relevant issues such as our role and responsibility as influential intelligence to the future of humanity. Director and co-writer Nuri Bilge Ceylan conducts the material with impressive sensibility, meticulously unveiling important, defining clues throughout details, creating a gripping, poetic yet very tense atmosphere, impossible to resist or to look away. There is no looking away here, though the snow prevails since its magnificent opening sequence (the teacher walks through the infinitude of a snow covered region) the film operates on a delicate and poetic compilation of deeply natural images that resembles life as it is, but in a more appealing sense. It is a different approach, a new vision of modern realism. But this is a director concentrated on dialogue, on deeply engaged and mind-bending conversations that can possibly heal a trauma or cause an unforgiven wound, between friends, between lovers, between co-workers or social relations alike.

Based on the diaries of one of the co-writers, the film focuses on the relationship of a teacher and his children students in the small, humble Turkish village. Their bond is tested during such turbulent winter, connecting three individuals: the arrogant teacher, his roommate and a wounded female artist who had lost her leg during a suicide-bomber attack. These three adults are the central enigmas of the film, each relating to sociopolitical events of their country, most importantly they reflect and seek to embody the importance of humanitarian value, moral standards, loyalty and the true meaning of friendship.

Among one of this year’s best films, a powerful, poetic meditation on the fragilities of human condition and the risks of our connections.

(Janus Films. Now Playing at Film at Lincoln Center, 65th Street Broadway, NYC)

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