Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Salvation Army (2013) New Director New Films 2014

Based on director Abdellah Tal's own novel, Salvation Army tells the story of Abdellah,  a young man who leaves his family home to engage in random trysts with various men. The trysts are a means of escape from the unhappiness of his home life. The film then jumps ahead ten years...

I wish I hadn't read anything about the film since doing so set up a  false expectation that got knocked down pretty quick. The material on the film talks about it being about a young gay man's awakening. It is, but the film actually speaks to a larger audience. This isn't a gay film, its a film about a person who feels like an outsider. The feelings are universal. Watching the film I could to relate to the feelings of needing an escape.

The early part of the film is a wonderful look at Abdellah's life. There is a tactile nature to it where we feel not only the emotion but other things. We're in his house, and on the trip. We can almost smell and taste and feel it all physically. The e is the often repeated motif of washing that runs through the film. People wash themselves and each other. The sequences are extremely intense and frankly almost sexual in nature. Its rare that any film makes one feel as this one does...

Or does for the first hour or so.

At the point the film hits say the 55 minute mark it all implodes. Leaping a head to 10 years the film loses focus. Now we are with an older Abdellah. He is involved with a professor, but something has happened between them things aren't right. The film jumps through time and place and is extremely disorienting as the film rushes to a conclusion as if the director ripped out whole chapters from his novel and tossed them aside. We are thrown into the relationship between the two men with no explanation. Things happen then there is a shift to Geneva after more months have passed.  He's too early for classes, he meets the professor and there is a confrontation that means what exactly?

The real head scratcher of the final 25 minutes is the singing of the song that ends the film, what is it and what is it suppose to mean? The print I saw did not subtitle the lyrics so that the words, which clearly meant something to out hero, are lost. What is in them that provokes his reaction?

For me this odd choice not to reveal the lyrics completely sank the film.

To be honest I loved the first hour of the film. I thought it was great, and I was ready to hail it as one of my finds of the year. However as soon as the film lept ahead it became the wrong sort of obtuse, not explaining how we got here, nor giving us enough to work out what its suppose to mean (and I mean that on a level more than just missing lyrics)

Talk about crash and burn.

The film plays March 27th at Lincoln Center and March 28th at MoMA. Details and tickets can be found here.

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