Leeds Film Festival 2010: Day 2

The Old School of Capitalism (Ser) (info)

Serbia is in dire financial straits, more so than most countries. The lower class workers are regularly protesting in rallys through the streets, demanding respect and payment for the tasks they have done on the trust their employers will hold to their promises that money is on its way. This story focuses on the struggle of a group of local factory workers, not paid in two years, who meet at a rally and thanks to a little bit of booze, are fired up enough to break into their boss's premises across town and see what's inside his secret warehouse. It turns out not much, but conspiracy theories bounce around the little group, and while a few of them pay his wife a visit at home, the others get to demolishing the warehouse for bricks, seemingly unconcerned about any police intervention. As things get more desperate and the workers become dissatisfied with each successive invasion into the life of their small-town manager and his friends, both sides find themselves doing things they would not normally consider. Throw in a small group of Balkans, who claim to be activist journalists who want to spread the word about this rebellion but may be something else entirely, and you have a recipe for people getting killed. Interspersed with the action are documentary-style clips of the rally, and the people there who have decided on Capitalism, Socialism or Communism as the way to get the people out of poverty and are prepared to argue passionately about it to anyone who will listen.

A strange and difficult to separate mix of documentary and acting, this film is easy to criticise from the start; choppy production values, a very chaotic beginning in which the viewer just has to hope it all calms down, and a cast with seemingly no prior acting experience. And yet Capitalism has a strange appeal, something aching to be told just beneath the surface sometimes gets out and makes itself known. A Serbian film highly critical of Serbia and it's apparently massively corrupted government must not have been an easy thing to make or fund, the underlying themes of downtrodden workers and the corruption of power are constantly in the background. It is the barely organised and often chaotic exchanges between the sides where the passion of the film is at its strongest. 6.5/10

The Bothersome Man (Nor/Icl) (wiki)

Andreas finds himself aboard a bus; he has clearly been 'away' for several days. He is scruffy and has an untidy beard that has taken weeks to sprout. The bus drops him off in the middle of nowhere, from where he is taken to a nice, European town and given a job and an apartment.

Disoriented and confused, Andreas attempts to fit in and make normal of this strange new life, but things aren't quite right. Food seems to have no taste, and his new colleagues are increasingly shown to be just empty shells with painted smiles. Nobody seems to have passion or emotion for anything, and when Andreas meets Anne at a dinner party, her agreement to going out with him (and later becoming his wife) are soulless and with only the plainest of positive expression. Increasingly feeling isolated, Andreas attempts to leave the city by any means necessary fail each time, and his only hope seems to rest with a mysterious man thinking aloud about the same concerns in the public lav.

Playing as a cross between The Prisoner and The Truman Show, The Bothersome Man holds the ground between creepy claustrophobic thriller and jet-black comedy. The subway scene in particular will have you simultaneously laughing and squirming in your seat as Andreas takes the ultimate decision to free himself. It's professionally made, with sharp editing and tight performances and a plot that draws the viewer in through morbid curiosity at just how bad things are beneath the surface and where it will all lead. 7.5/10

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