I’m Dusan Mirkovic, your neighbor.
Neighbors are friends.
Friends tell friends the truth.
Okay, maybe sometimes I’m a little bit asshole,
but the world needs assholes.
Otherwise where would shit go out.
Are you expecting a movie such as “Honey, I shrunk the kids” or something similar to “Gulliver’s Travels” then you’re going to be a little bit disappointed. No, “Downsizing” is not a comedy about shrunken people. And it’s certainly not a fairytale where little people capture a giant man. Or am I wrong about that? Maybe it is a bit of both. First of all, “Downsizing” is funny at times. The whole process of shrinking and the way they travel with normal people are unique ideas. The first half hour or so you look with child-like amazement at it all. Just like children who visit “It’s a small world” in Eurodisney for the first time. Then the film gets a more critical character in which the ecology and our materialistic thinking are denounced. Just like in “Gulliver’s travels“. That ancient story was also a satirical view of the English and European society.
Let’s get small and rich at the same time.
The starting point is, to be honest, reasonably ingenious. Do you have a limited income and is it hard to come by every month, as Paul Safranek (Matt Damon) and his wife Audrey (Kristen Wiig) experience? No problem. The Norwegians have perfected the technology for shrinking people. Trouble-free and without side-effects (besides the fact you’ll be completely hairless and toothless during the starting procedure) one can reduce your body to a mini-person of about 13 centimeters. Initially, the intention was to significantly reduce our ecological footprint. But the reason why most chose to get small, is the financial benefit you have of it. The cost of living is much lower and everything only costs a fraction of what it’s worth in real life. “Ok, that’s simple.” thinks sheepish-looking Paul. So he and his wife decide to take the step. They sell everything they’ve got and they buy a spacious villa (Playmobil size) in Leisureland to retire for the rest of their lives.
Now let’s get serious.
Until then, it all feels like a fairytale and sounds funny. But then the socially critical atmosphere sneaks into the film bit by bit. First of all, there’s the report on how scaled down immigrants cross the borders of the U.S. very easily. That’s where the Vietnamese environmental activist Ngoc Lan Tran (Hong Chau) appears. Then the Serbian Dusan (hilarious role of Christoph Waltz) is introduced. A cunning businessman who imports luxury products from the ordinary world in smaller quantities and distributes all of it in mini-people’s country. Voila, that’s where the macroeconomics and capitalism aspect comes into play. And finally, poverty turns out to be an aspect in this miniature country as well. That means there are people there who lack a decent health care. The frivolous mood disappears systematically (but still here and there another comic note) to make way for more serious subjects.
A movie that brings up lots of questions.
Maybe the second part is a turn-off for some. The romantic part felt rather forced in my opinion. But otherwise, I thought it was a pleasant film. A film with ups and downs. Matt Damon plays the subdued Paul in a great way. But it’s mainly Hong Chau who steals the show. An energetic person who talks in an edgy way with a cynical undertone. A magnificent piece of acting. In the end, the problem of the ecology and the survival of our planet was slowly being pushed to the background. And maybe the makers of this film have put too many ideas and philosophies into this film. But the result is that it’s almost impossible to get bored during this movie. However, I was just wondering. The removal of hair is a necessity. But what if you suffer from ingrown hair? And bald people? Do they get a reduction? And who makes all the daily necessities such as a comb, hair dryer or drill? I don’t think these are ridiculous questions.
My rating 7/10
The Zone Of Interest Is A Bleak Reminder of the Horrors of Holocaust
The Zone of Interest is Jonathan Glazer’s latest feature loosely based on Martin Amis’ novel of the same name. It stars Christian Friedel and Sandra Huller in the lead roles. The German-language feature was a major breakout from the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year, where it also won the Grand Prix award. It is based around one of the darkest chapters in human history and serves as an important reminder of how brutal and evil humans are capable of being.
Glazer is known for having carefully crafted frames with plenty of nuances which is the case here as well. He intricately designs each and every scene for maximum impact. Before we enter the first scene, the screen fades to black with a chilling score in the background that sets the viewer up for everything they are about to witness. Black is also the colour of evil which hints at what aspects of human nature this story will explore. The cinematography is also top-notch. The use of natural lighting works really well to complement the setting of a warm family atmosphere. Also, there are a few moments where the visual style changes and those scenes are thoughtfully captured as well.
Christian Friedel and Sandra Huller are both fantastic in their roles. Friedel is absolutely convincing as Rudolph Hoss, the commander of the Auschwitz concentration camps, and Huller plays his wife Hedwig, who steals a lot of scenes with her emotional range. The editing is also careful and patient. Each scene gets time to breathe and settle properly resulting in a lot of extended scenes of the daily life of the family. The background music is minimal, but whenever it kicks in, it makes sure to elevate the scenes with creepy and ominous sounds.
The plot may seem basic and simple on the surface level, but we gradually see the layers unfold as the narrative moves forward. The story gets darker and darker with time and can be utterly shocking and horrifying at times, especially in the third act. It is no doubt a slow burn In terms of its pacing and takes its own time to set things up and we keep getting to see more sides of the characters in the second half of the movie.
It is utterly shocking how a family man who reads his children bedtime stories and loves his wife wholeheartedly can do the things that Rudolph Hoss does. But that level of brutality and faithfulness to reality is among its biggest strengths. The movie doesn’t have too many weak aspects, but it is slow and takes a while to get going. Also, it will turn out to be difficult to follow or comprehend for general audiences and it might be difficult to follow for some. It demands patience and attention.
The Zone of Interest is a kind of movie that subtly and slowly horrifies you with its brutal and harrowing storytelling. Jonathan Glazer is at the top of his game. The lead performances are top notch and the conclusion leaves a heavy impact on the viewer. It won’t work for everyone, but will certainly find the appreciation it deserves.
The Zone of Interest will release in cinemas on December 8.
‘Past Lives’ Review: A Transcendent Cinematic Journey
Hollywood has a knack for producing extraordinary movies year after year, but there comes a time when the industry exceeds all expectations with a gem of a movie like ‘Past Lives.’ A mesmerizing film directed by the talented Celine Song takes audiences on an unparalleled journey of self-discovery and the exploration of our interconnectedness through time. This thought-provoking movie connects various lives, blurring the boundaries of reality and immersing viewers in a transcendental tale.
The romantic drama showcases Song’s remarkable storytelling ability, presenting a narrative that delicately balances emotion and intellect. ‘Past Lives’ starts with Hae Sung (Teo Yoo), Nora (Greta Lee), and Arthur (John Magaro) sitting at a bar. An unseen couple watches and tries to guess their relationship. We are taken back in time and get all the vital details about the relationship they have been sharing throughout various parts of their lives. One of the best aspects of the movie is how Son interconnects the lives of diverse characters across different periods and unveils the secrets that bind them together. The film’s nonlinear structure allows for a gripping exploration of multiple storylines, ensuring an engaging and enthralling experience.
Visually, ‘Past Lives’ is an absolute feast for the eyes. The poignant visuals heighten the emotional resonance of the narrative, leaving a lasting impression on the viewer. Accompanying the stunning visuals and sound design is an enchanting score that perfectly complements the film’s ethereal quality. Beyond its visual and musical splendor, the movie invites viewers to contemplate profound themes and philosophical questions. The film raises thought-provoking inquiries about the nature of existence, the way people’s lives are connected, and the impact of our actions across time. The script forces the moviegoers to reflect on the concept of destiny, choices, and the ripple effects they create.
Furthermore, the performances in ‘Past Lives’ are nothing short of extraordinary. The ensemble cast, led by seasoned actors, delivers nuanced and heartfelt portrayals, breathing life into their respective characters. Greta Lee is enchanting as Nora and delivers a performance that is undoubtedly going to give her all the buzz during the awards season. Meanwhile, Teo Yoo is just as brilliant. The talent on display evokes genuine empathy, enhancing the overall experience.
Even though the awards season is far away from where we are, we have already got a strong contender for Best Picture and top acting categories in the form of ‘Past Lives.’ It is quite rare these days to see a romantic story that provides such an immersive experience and we are glad that Celine Song’s film has given us a movie that makes us wonder why such romantic movies are not made anymore.
‘Past Lives’ is a modern masterpiece.
A Kind of Kidnapping – Dark Comedy with Politics
Written and directed by Dan Clark, this fairly star studded independent film follows a young couple who are stuck in a financial situation, and decide to kidnap a sleazy conservative politician in order to receive a ransom, that will allow them to escape their static lives.
Patrick Baladi (The Office) plays Hardy our creepy politician, Kelly Wenham (Double Date) plays Maggie, a complex woman who seemingly is always drawn to the “bad boy”, Jack Parry-Jones (The Crown) plays Brian our voice of reason within all of this, or is he?
The character development is well written and allows the space for character arcs, unlike a lot of small films, where there isn’t that room in the script. The three main leads feel very grounded and familiar, everyone knows someone like this in their life or perhaps public figures in the media.
The performances of the main three lead actors are great, if it wasn’t for them, I don’t think this film would work as well. Alongside the strong performances, the editing of the film helped to navigate this non-linear plot and allowed the film to peel aways the layers of backstory which all helped to create a stronger character driven piece.
As the film was nearing the final act, it felt as though it was dragging a little. Dan Clark mentioned in the Q&A after the screening how this was a short film before and I can definitely see how it could work in a confined setting really well. Maybe there was a bit of padding in second to third act to reach that feautre length requirement that didn’t aid certain character moments.
If you want to hear my full thoughts, the best thing to do is check out my review over on YouTube and let me know your thoughts in the comments.
When independent film is fighting for its life, A Kind of Kidnapping is the light in the dark. This is one of the better British produced indie films I’ve seen in a long time.
A Kind of Kidnapping is out on digital on 24th July on iTunes, Amazon, Google and Sky.
This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, the [series/movie/etc] being covered here wouldn’t exist.
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