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- Reviewed from the 2023 Berlin Global Film Festival
In the fantasy of Oedipus, the swollen-footed king of Thebes, there is both of those the certainty of the prophecy regarding him and the disaster brought on by the unfamiliar. It is a story dependent on omission and absence: Oedipus does not know who his serious dad and mom are, and so kills 1 and marries the other unwittingly. For director Angela Schanelec, it proves a fitting tale to draw on, 1 quite much conducive to the German auteur’s formal strategies and pursuits in absence, length and theatre.
Her most recent movie, Tunes, uses the foundational factors of this Greek tragedy – its national location, the patricide and incest, the disaster that occurs after the reality is found – but it is the central problem of omission that consumes Schanelec’s film. There are narrative absences, jumps in time, and an absence of expected logic Schanelec’s Oedipus, termed Jon (performed by Aliocha Schneider), is the exact age as his birth dad and mom Iro (Agathe Bonitzer) and Lucian (Theodore Vrachas), for example, when the drama unfolds. Drama may perhaps be the appropriate phrase in the Historical Greek sense, but the movie adheres to no modern perceptions of the spectacular. It is gradual and meandering, oblique and opaque it is frustratingly brilliant.
The movie opens with an approaching storm, clouds that engulf the frame, and the cry of a newborn baby. Husband and spouse Elias and Merope (Argyris Xafis and Marisha Triantafyllidou respectively) find the baby, Jon, and elevate him as their possess. His very small feet are blistered and bleeding, and Merope tries to soothe them with sea water. After grown, Jon’s lower-glass cheekbones and skinny body give him a statuesque high quality in this he resembles Iro, whose hanging characteristics appear to be carved from ivory. Most of Schanelec’s visual alternatives in the film express this feeling of poise and form number of other filmmakers can make anything as easy as filling a glass with drinking water appear so elegant. Costuming is keenly applied, also – numerous Schanelec movies use objects of clothes to make her figures additional legible, but in Tunes she also performs with the theatrical, providing Jon and the other prisoners buskin-like system sandals as part of their sandy-toned uniforms.
One particular of the filmmaker’s temporal shifts looks to come about just ahead of Jon is owing to be unveiled from prison. A momentary scene depicts him teaching a course of young children whilst Iro attends to some some others, but what appears to be their have crying newborn interrupts the lesson. It feels like a flash into the long run of Jon and Iro’s marriage, in advance of returning to some perception of linearity – Jon’s launch day arrives and their new daily life as a few begins. They have children collectively and spend time with Elias and Merope. It is also unclear what calendar year any of this might be happening overheard commentary from a soccer recreation looks to posture aspect of the narrative in 2006 but if not there are few clues.
But this, and a great deal else in the movie, are riddles to which the anti-Sphinx Schanelec doesn’t offer answers. They are merely there to be pondered, to present symbolic and poetic meanings and non-meanings. In just one scene, Iro can help a colleague with the crossword clue “another word for mirror, 6 letters”, to which she responds, “dream”. This line crystallises anything about the film’s inner logic, which attracts backlinks involving the oneiric and the true, particular reflections and wandering mythology. To consider to pin down this contemplating and pressure it into rapid clarity is antithetical to Schanelec’s storytelling mode.
In this tale, Iro’s path follows that of Jocasta, Oedipus’s mother and spouse, who inevitably commits suicide on realising the accurate character of her relationship. But Schanelec alters Oedipus’s path by not depicting Jon gouging out his personal eyes in despair. As a substitute, Jon leans into tunes. His eyesight may perhaps worsen a bit but his voice grows in toughness, singing the folksy tracks of Canadian musician Doug Tielli as Jon moves into a new period of life. There is a recommendation of a kind of repentance, or self-sacrifice, for Jon, but this is averted when, in the remaining moments of the movie, he is found dancing and singing, nymph-like, in an idyllic forest, and is thus liberated.
New music is at once an undeniable visible delight on a frame-by-body degree and a powerful problem that needs that we embrace what we cannot see. Oedipus was blinded, and so are we as viewers, experience all over in the darkness of omission. And what a thrill to do so, to be captured by the director’s visuals and pushed away, compelled to know a lot more and liberated ourselves by her refusal to give.