Leeds Film Festival 2009 - Day 14

White Night Wedding (Iceland) (wiki/trailer)

Jon and Thora are going through their wedding rehearsal, but something is wrong. The spaced-out look in Jon's eyes are giving Thora and the vicar cause for concern. They are on the beautiful island of Flatey, in the north of Iceland. Up there, the summer days never end, and the 'white night' at the summer's peak where the sun doesn't go down at all, has been chosen as the big day. Jon is preoccupied by the memories of his first wife, Anna, who died the previous year.

Told in a non-linear style by flashing back and forth between the big day and the events of a year or so before, it tells of Anna's last days, and Jon's flirtations with Thora, a young student of his philosophy classes at the local university, some 18 years his junior. Back then the people of the village were respectful and friendly, but in the present day, they are guarded in their dealings with him, particularly Thora's mother, who distrusts Jon after she and her husband lent him money for a ludicrous golf course project, which he hasn't paid back yet. Only his closest friends, Borkur, the entrepreneur behind the golf idea and local tourist guide, and Sjonni, Jon's old friend from the south with an impressive foot size and belly to match, over to ensure he has a good stag night and play the organ on the big day.

Using great camerawork in the gorgeous Icelandic countryside, White Night plays as a gently humorous but at the same time emotional study of a man filled with self-loathing at the actions he seems unable to stop doing to the people around him. Though at the start he just appears nervy of the impending day, it becomes clear that it is not as clear-cut as that and his problems run far deeper. 8/10

West of Pluto (Can) (site)

This French-Canadian film is split down the middle, playing first in a semi-documentary format showing us the interests, insecurities and passions of a dozen or so teenagers. During a 'show and tell', they tell us about what grabs their interest. Hollywood actors, fishing, peanut butter and others are subjects covered in their presentation, and one boy professes a passion for the universe, and particularly the 2006 decision to remove Pluto's status as a planet of our solar system. We see them finding themselves in various ways, playing in a band, skateboarding, plucking up the courage to ask a girl out, and debating and philosophising (in the way the French seem to always do) about their assorted un-matured ideals.

The second half switches form, to where the characters seem to shed their 'real person' image and become actors in a film. Most of the teens end up at a party hosted by a young girl out of her depth with the situation. More and more people arrive, who she doesn't know, and things start getting broken or stolen. The gang eventually leave with the family photo of the girl's deceased parents. When the older brother returns, he heads out in pursuit, filled with rage.

This film led me through quite a few emotions. Several scenes will affect different people in different ways, evoking childhood memories that are either good or bad, and at several points during the film, my feelings towards the group swayed between understanding and empathy, and bitterness and pity. I confess, I enjoyed the experience much more than I thought I would, and the progression of the main characters by the end felt right and satisfying. 7.5/10

Love and Rage
(Den) (trailer)

Daniel's piano skills have earned him a reputation. After passing an exam despite fluffing one or two of the notes, we learn immediately that he has a problem with his nerves. His hands constantly sweat and he is shaking, but one of the examiners, Pierre, believes in him enough to accept Daniel's request to be his tutor.

Things begin to look up; his practice and tutorage help him improve, and he is called in to replace another student at a major concert, where a representative from prestigious Juilliard school in New York will be watching with interest. On top of that, he catches the eye of Sofie, a Cello player at the same school who sees his passion and skill at the piano and falls in love.

Daniel's passion, concentration and skill have a downside. He has inherited those traits from his father, who was also known for his anger. He committed suicide some time ago, and his mother doesn't want to talk about it. When Daniel goes mental after a coming together at the cinema and is thrown into the cells, everything he has worked for begins to fall apart, and will destroy him unless he learns to control it.

When watching this film, I really felt that I was in the mind of a person whose mental state was deteriorating. Rage, jealousy, hallucinations; it was unclear at some points whether what you were seeing was 'real', and I think that was deliberate. It was also quite Freudian in places, with the characters of Sofie and Daniels mother Birgitte, having closely linked character development. It is a well acted, tight and fascinating psychological study, overlaid with some beautiful classical scores. 8/10
Film Count: 144/150

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