Sundance Reflections: Puzzling Foreign Films

We did see a few foreign-language films at Sundance, and my reactions towards them were very mixed. “Circles,” an international film about a Christian Serbian soldier killed during the Bosnian Civil War in 1992, is beautifully shot but a bit narratively cluttered. In the tradition of “Crash” and “Babel,” it’s a film that attempts to connect several storylines through interweaving narratives that rotate around a single focus. The focus here is Marko, the solider who is killed while trying to protect a Muslim from being beaten to death. The film focuses on the affects his death has on those who were close to him. There’s his father, distraught with grief, his friend, who is crippled by guilt from failing to save him from dying, his girlfriend, who is in an abusive relationship, and Haris, the man whose life he saved.

The film is beautifully shot, mostly composed of long shots and silence. Often, someone is just doing something, and the only indication of how they feel is what is showing on their faces. Some might find the long shots of actions boring from a narrative standpoint, but they’re gorgeous to look at. It’s also a testament to the power of the acting that the characters can say so much while saying so little.

I thought the film was a bit boring, but it’s themes of valuing each individual human life and moving on after a loss are still resonating with me days after. I think it’s one I’ll have to see again.

One film I won’t be seeing again is “What They Don’t Talk About When They Talk About Love,” a messy Indonesian film that follows the various romances in a school for the deaf and blind. The concept of a deaf boy falling in love with a blind girl is brilliant, and has lots of potential. I liked that story. But, the director felt the need to shoehorn in three or four other narratives that are far less interesting. By the middle of the film, I was praying to see the credits. It’s a shame, because I thought individual scenes were beautifully shot and acted. But, on the whole, it’s a mess, and not worth anyone’s time.