Be careful what you wish for
AFTER THE DAY BEFORE (Attila Janisch, Hungary, 1)
After this film, my Welsh friend Daniel Owen said, close as I recall: “when people hear that I’m going to a film festival, they think it’s all shite like that.” It’s a simple story about a city traveler coming into a rural community to inherit a farm where there’s whispers about a missing girl. But it’s made mind-thumpingly boring and basically unintelligible because of (1) a blank-faced, hangdog, bored-looking actor in the lead role; (2) The Official High-Cinematic Style of lengthy takes, minimal dialogue, long shots, minimal plot; (3) the plot events being presented in a basically random order as though chronology and intelligibility are for wimps (FOLLOWING is a much better film with this same narrative non-“structure”); (4) the film also being a symbolic parable of alienation (the stranger from outside is barely understood and barely understands what the folk are saying; they don’t want him around; the protagonist is a symbolic artist; he can’t find the house he’s looking for; the characters don’t have names — all of that). The Festival Guidebook calls AFTER THE DAY BEFORE a “deeply unsettling film [that] is about looking without understanding … and searching without finding.” Hard to argue with any of that — I was deeply unsettled, looked without understanding and searched without finding, all right. Janisch has Bela Tarr’s cinematographer, so all the shots of reeds and tall grasses and hill and dale are pretty enough, I suppose. And I’m sure there’s also some Lacan gibberish in there about the mirror phase (the protagonist “sees himself” commit the “crime” he’s been “investigating”), but if an artist doesn’t care enough to make his work intelligible, it’s not my job to do so. So awful on every level was AFTER THE DAY BEFORE that I responded to Dan’s comment that I sure hoped this would be the worst film I would see this festival, because if it wasn’t, if there was a more-awful filmgoing experience in my future, God could only exist as a despicable sadist unworthy of worship and his Church could only be an instrument of evil that I’d have nothing to do with and … well … hmm … Lukas Moodysson, I really hate you.
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