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Linus de Paoli [Film Festival 08.17.09] Switzerland movie review drama

Year: 2009
Directors: Andrew Kotting
Writers: Andrew Kotting & John Cheetham
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: Linus de Paoli
Rating: 3 out of 10

This film of the "Filmmakers of the Present Competition" was hard to sit through, not knowing what to expect> I just knew that the director, Andrew Kötting, was a well-known video- and performance artist from England. "Ivul" is inspired by Kötting's own childhood, when he used to hide up in the trees due to his difficult relationship with his father. The poster might give the impression that is a comedy – it is not. There are some absurd formalistic ideas, but if you are looking for an entertaining collection of curiosities like "The Royal Tenenbaums", this is not the right movie for you.

The story takes place at an old manor house in the French countryside. Far from any big cities, it is surrounded by a mysterious forest. Although the family has to work on the fields, they appear to be some kind of landed gentry. Freya, the oldest daughter, will be going to Russia soon. Her brother Alex doesn’t want her to leave and it is pretty obvious that he desires her. She enjoys this position and on the day before she leaves, she allows Alex to kiss her on the belly. Of course he can’t resist – but he wants more than that. Before something serious happens, their father Andrei intervenes and bans Alex from the manor. Alex feels wrongly accused, climbs up on the roof of the house and refuses to ever come down again. At first the family thinks it’s just a game, but Alex is stubborn. He uses the trees to get into the forest without setting foot on the ground – and disappears. With the onset of winter, Mother Marie really starts to worry.

I know that sounds quite interesting, but I was surprised how absolutely nothing affected my emotionally. There is not a single character in the script that I truly liked, found fascinating, or even despised. At first it is funny to watch Alex climbing in the trees or balancing on walls, but his childish stubbornness annoyed me. After a while he was only getting on my nerves – what is he trying to prove? He is the only one who’s getting along just fine while the rest of the family slowly starts to break down. The entire second half of the film is dominated by self-pity.

The actors are not bad, but tend to do too much, especially Jean-Luc Bideau who plays Andrei, the father. He knows that he is a good actor, but uses this role basically for a performance so self-aggrandizing, that I found it unpleasant to watch. Within the character he is always performing with great gesture, even when he is alone. And I am not talking about an aware exaggeration ala Jacques Tati or Woody Allen. I couldn’t find any depth in him or the other characters.

The film was shot on HD and appears rather plain, but Kötting used a lot of stock footage from different eras and qualities. The opening titles and end credits are completely generated out of archive material, mostly from some garden party in the 30s or 40s. But he also often uses them for transitions. A short montage of shots of drugs follows the scene in which father Andrei has his heart attack – Probably taken from medical films. In the next scene, Andrei is back home in a special sickbed. Many films have used stock footage to create a certain look or atmosphere. When this is done wisely, it adds something to the film. In "Ivul" I had the feeling they were thrown in just to spice the whole thing up without really caring whether it fit the rest of the film. Kötting describes these shots as “the voice of the forest… or the mountains …or something else”, at least that is what he said after the screening. For me they seemed random and after a while I started to filter them out.

Kötting sees "Ivul" as the second part of his "ground" trilogy. The first part (probably his feature film "This Filthy Earth") was "on the ground", Ivul is "off the ground", and his third will be "under ground".

There must be something about this film, because some people in the audience were really amazed. Especially an old German guy that personally thanked Kötting after the screening for this wonderful experience. But even when I try to leave my personal taste behind and try to judge it as objective as possible I can’t say that it's a good film.

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