The Idiot, Best Intentions and Carnage

  • 2012-03-07
  • By Laurence Boyce

ANTI-HOLLYWOOD: ‘New Europe’ gets a showing at this year’s film festival, side-by-side old masters including Polanski’s “Carnage” (pictured).

VILNIUS - It’s sometimes easy to forget how important film festivals are. As we live under a stranglehold of Hollywood blockbusters and the occasional interesting independent film, festivals open up a world of cinema that is often denied to audiences. Vilnius International Film Festival is particularly interesting thanks to its focus on cinema from ‘New Europe,’ giving a showcase to countries whose production output may be small but whose films remain fresh and exciting.

This year is no different with a number of gems in the competition program ‘New Europe – New Names.’ “Best Intentions” is an engaging example of the so-called ‘Romanian New Wave’ that follows a son who returns to his home town to visit his mother in the hospital where he fights with his father and friends over the best course of treatment. It’s a film that makes a virtue out of the ordinary, as the everyday becomes the dramatic thanks to a compelling story and the odd surreal touch. Shot almost entirely from the direct point-of-view of various characters (though this never comes across as a cheap gimmick), it’s a strong blend of excellent direction and strong performances.

There’s also a strong performance at the center of “Visible World,” an intriguing Slovakian film about a loner who becomes obsessed with the family who lives opposite him. Lead Ivan Trojan is mesmerizing in a film that – whilst reminiscent of such films as “Rear Window” – manages to keep things interesting by toning down the more melodramatic moments and going for a chilling realism. Baltic audiences will also be pleased to know that “The Idiot” – the Estonian adaptation of the Dostoyevsky novel – also makes an appearance. Its mixture of surreality, theatricality and literary provenance make it one of the most popular Estonian films on the festival circuit over the past year or so. Other films to watch out for include “Clip,” a disturbing but fearless debut Serbian feature about teenage sexuality that won big at the prestigious Rotterdam International Film Festival, and “The Maiden Danced To Death” about a man who returns to his native Hungary after years in exile to discover that communism has gone but plenty of old rivalries still remain.

Out of competition, there’s the UK film “Wild Bill” which sees a father return from prison to find his sons abandoned and fending for themselves. Blending the social realism that the country’s cinematic output is famous for with a dash of the magical, it’s another debut feature that promises much for the future. There are also two massively popular Russian films as “Generation P” – a satire of the advertising industry – and “Elena,” a massively affecting film about a woman who must deal with her ungrateful family.

Despite fresh faces, there are still a few old masters who get a look in, including Roman Polanski whose film “Carnage” is a riotously entertaining story of four people in an apartment arguing about – well – everything. With its origins in a stage play (which shows), the film works thanks to sharp dialogue wonderfully delivered by the likes of Kate Winslet and Christoph Waltz. Also, in the documentary section, Frederick Wiseman, who is considered one of the greatest filmmakers of all time thanks to such groundbreaking documentaries as “Salesman” – returns with “Crazy Horse,” a look at the legendary Parisian nightclub.

Add in comedy, a focus on the “Femme Fatale” in movies and industry events, and Vilnius International Film Festival provides what all good festivals should have – a wide and diverse program that will appeal to many, and especially to those excited about discovering new talent.

The 17th Vilnius International Film Festival will take place on March 15-29;
go to for full details.