Film: Also Showing
festen thomas vinterberg (15) n Kini and adams Idrissa ouedraogo n Schpaaa eric poppe (18) n The 39 Steps alfred hitchcock (PG)
Thursday 04 March 1999
The one notable absentee is Christian's twin sister, Linda, whose recent suicide reverberates through the family house and unexpectedly becomes the focal point of the birthday celebrations. Picture the scene: the guests are done up to the nines and making merry over the dinner table when Christian rises to toast his father, as agreed. Only it's not a fond filial tribute - it's a calm denunciation of the old man for sexually abusing him and his dead sister when they were kids. The silence that falls over the assembled, followed by a stifled clap, is ghastly perfection. It's impossible to imagine a more horrible accusation. What we urgently need to discover is whether it's true.
Vinterberg's distinctive visual style - a shaky verite look - is governed by the Dogme code of film-making, whose rules he formulated with fellow Dane Lars von Trier. In effect it means using only hand-held camera, natural light and untreated sound. More importantly, it's the boldly naturalistic performances he draws from his cast that make the film soar, from bit parts all the way up to Moritzen's paternal monster. (It's testament to the film's extraordinary subtlety that, by the end, you may feel a terrible shiver of sympathy for him.)
At times, this terrific party-on-the-verge-of-a-nervous-breakdown recalls Robert Altman's A Wedding, and there are shades of Bunuel in the way the veneer of respectability is peeled away to reveal viciousness and hypocrisy. Yet Vinterberg has no reason to stand in anybody's shadow: his film has a confidence all its own, and its seamless melding of tragedy and farce will be hard to forget.
Kini and Adams is a tale of two friends who long to escape their tumbledown existence in the remote Zimb- abwean countryside. Kini (Vusi Kuneni) and Adams (David Mohloki) have spent the last five years patiently repairing an old wreck of a car which they hope will transport them to a brighter future in the city. But fissures in their friendship begin to show when Kini, the responsible family man, is promoted to foreman at the quarry where they both work, and Adams, a dreamy type, falls helplessly prey to a rapacious working girl. Idrissa Ouedraogo's film has a storybook simplicity, and makes good use of the parched landscape. What hobbles it is some amateur-hour acting and a script that's distinctly programmatic: the constant exchange of dismal, heavy-handed jokes is particularly unfortunate.
Norway's main newspaper, Dagbladet called Schpaaa " the most important Norwegian film of the decade", so I was braced for something out of the common ruck. Erik Poppe's feature debut turns out to be an energetic, though hardly groundbreaking, portrait of disaffected youth on the streets of Oslo. Its focus is the friendship between 13-year-old Jonas (Maikel Andressen Abou-Zelof) and 15-year-old Emir (Jalal Zahedjekta), a war child from former Yugoslavia; along with three other mixed-descent Norwegian kids they hang on the fringes of the Oslo underworld, bunking off school, stealing and, in the time-honoured tradition of youth, smashing things up. But they get in over their heads when a heroin deal backfires and gang loyalties reach critical mass. The filmmakers reveal an ambivalent sympathy for their tearaway subjects, which is fine, but there's nothing especially insightful about the treatment of teenage criminality. And the doomy techno-soundtrack protests "urban jungle" with galumphing self- importance. If you want the dope on Oslo's peculiar drabness, try Pal Sletaune's wonderful Junk Mail.
Graham Greene once complained of Hitchcock's "inadequate sense of reality", and it's true that The 39 Steps (1935) has its fair share of inconsistencies and plot-holes. Yet no matter how many times you watch it, there's something irresistible about this creaking melodrama. Part of the appeal lies in its comedy: the opening music-hall scene is a hilarious view of the London masses at leisure, barracking the MC from the stalls and brawling over nothing. It also emerges in Hitchcock's sense of mischief - his handcuffing of suave Robert Donat to the prissy Madeleine Carroll injects an erotic undertone that's typically perverse. Yet what modern audiences will most respond to is its innocence, the glimpse of a bygone age when it was OK to smoke in theatres, wear fabulous overcoats and invite a mysterious woman back to your pad without a hint of salaciousness - and then cook her a piece of haddock. In those pre-Delia days that must have required some style.
All films released tomorrow
BBC Trust agrees to axe channel from TV in favour of digital moveTV
Final Top Gear reviewTV
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Autistic teenager beaten up by bullies makes them watch 20-minute video about autism
- 2 Nick Kyrgios calls former Olympian Dawn Fraser a 'blatant racist' after she tells Wimbledon star to 'go back where their parents came from'
- 3 World learns of app that shows you who unfriended you on Facebook, app promptly crashes
- 4 Chris Moyles reportedly set to make radio comeback with new breakfast show on XFM
- 5 The Greece debt crisis explained in less than 100 words
Game of Thrones season 6: Daenerys actress Emilia Clarke says '50/50 chance' Jon Snow is alive
Chronixx interview: Reggae sensation on taking the opening spot at Glastonbury and calling Barack Obama a 'waste man'
Game of Thrones season 6: Director Jack Bender says showrunners 'communicate closely' with George RR Martin
Top Gear: Jeremy Clarkson 'can't front ITV motoring show' due to BBC contract clause
Amy Winehouse film: Mark Ronson praises 'respectful' movie as it scores highest ever UK opening for British documentary
More Britons believe that multiculturalism makes the country worse - not better, says poll
Osborne to cap family benefits at £23,000 – announced ahead of his post-election Budget
Nathan Collier: Montana man inspired by same-sex marriage ruling requests right to wed two wives
Forget little green men – aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert
Girl, 7, stares down hate preacher at Ohio festival with pro-LGBT rainbow flag gesture
Sickness and disability benefits could be reduced by £30 a week as part of £12bn welfare cuts