War is a favorite subject for the movies. The reasons are as obvious as they are abundant: any battle will provide enough spectacle, drama, and conflict to provide material for a thousand films, from The Red & The White to Saving Private Ryan. What separates Loznitsa from other directors is his obsessive focus on how war affects the psychology of a populace, generations after the fighting is done.
The first thing to say about Lav Diaz’s latest film, Season of the Devil, is that there’s a lot of singing. For many of his fans, this comes as a surprise. Across his nearly hundred-hour filmography, Diaz never incorporates a traditional musical score, and seldom makes use of diegetic song or performance. Given their similarly sparse dialogue, his films are generally steeped in near or total silence.
A narrative film has to convey a lot of context very quickly. When we watch a well-made film, we usually gather within about a hundred seconds what the tone, pace and atmosphere is going to be. We might also glean something of the time, the politics. We don’t necessarily need to meet the main characters, or see the main location, in this time. Whether a film opens with desert- or streetscapes, an empty road, garbled speech, rapid-fire closeups, drone shots, or bright, shapeless bursts of colour…—what we as viewers seek is to place ourselves in a coherent milieu, within which the events to come will cohere.
Helena Wittmann's debut film Drift features a loose narrative: two women (Theresa George, Josefina Gill) convene at a beach house in Sylt, converse throughout their stay, and eventually depart. During the first third of the film, the ocean is initially perceived as something important, but perhaps secondary to the leads. Images of water are to be expected for a film taking place on the German island, but they slowly inform how the remainder of the film is experienced. In viewing these bodies of water, one continuously finds analogues in shots that don't prioritize water. For one, observations of their movement become mirrored in travels by land: a gentle rivulet finds itself in the tracking shot of a bicycle ride, while the gentle ebb and flow of the ocean bears resemblance to a car driving down a bumpy street. The sensuous shapes of these bodies also manifest in a flapping sail, the curvature of leaves, and the duvet that lay atop the women's bed. The women even share myths related to water; that Wittmann presents an anthropological component to water reveals her desire for us to comprehend it as something far more multifaceted than we may think.