With new work from two legendary directors playing the festival this week, young Inverness playwright and theatre director Jack Reid tells us why we should be excited about Terrence Malick’s A Hidden Life and Werner Herzog’s Family Romance, LCC.
Terrence Malick has spent the last decade courting both critical admiration and confusion with his experimental and visually rich films. Malick’s A Hidden Life reinforces the strengths of his style, whilst improving his focus on character and plot through the story of a farmer in the Austrian alps who takes a stand against Nazi conscription. With attention placed on the natural and human beauty on display, this tale of defiance in the face of evil is a showcase of what Malick can achieve when given a compelling story to tell.
A Hidden Life is filled with stunning handheld and roving camerawork, creating an intimate yet brutal portrait of the Nazi occupation of Austria. Having polarised audiences with complex story structures in Tree of Life
(2011) and Knight of Cups (2015), Malick is at his best when engaged in more conventional storytelling. In this small-scale story of individual defiance and the power of one person against many, Malick’s engrossing film looks set to be less alienating than some of his more divisive recent work.
Just as engaging and no less controversial is Werner Herzog, who has made six films in the last three years and shows no sign of slowing down his prolific output. Family Romance, LLC is concerned with the recent trend in Japanese society of people hiring surrogate friends, parents or even adoring Instagram fans. The goal of all this seems to be a search for genuine connection, or at least the next best thing. Set amidst the urban sprawl of modern Japan, the film walks a fine line between genres - it is a scripted drama but the content is presented as entirely realistic in the current technological tomorrowland of Japan’s inner cities.
Family Romance, LLC uses an entirely Japanese cast but the theme translates across cultures; one of loneliness and the struggle to feel more genuine emotional connection in an online world. This film captures the spirit of Herzog’s early career; independently funded and produced, he made it with a small crew filming many scenes guerrilla-style. Renowned for a radical and undaunted filmmaking style in defence of the dispossessed and unusual, Herzog’s latest confirms the 77-year old directors fondness for the outsiders of society. Combining the challenges presented by an aging population, ‘influencer culture’ and gig economics, Family Romance, LLC gives us an oddly touching look at an odd new future for followers, friendship and family.
Terrence Malick and Werner Herzog both look set to produce some of their most interesting work yet with these new films; building on what has made each of the acclaimed directors masters of the craft. These films consolidate a lifetime of lessons learned in cinema.
This blog was written by:
Supported by Film Hub Scotland, part of the BFI’s Film Audience Network, and funded by Creative Scotland and Lottery funding from the BFI.