giovedì 31 maggio 2012

Démanty noci (Diamanti nella notte) - Jan Nemec

un film d'altri tempi (è un complimento), storia di una fuga, della paura, della morte, di due ragazzi innocenti,  in un bianco e nero senza troppe parole che non si dimentica - Ismaele

…Fuga esteticamente fascinosa, interiormente cruenta; tentativo volitivo, subitaneo eppure ignavo: i condannati a morte sono in fondo immobili, inermi di fronte al cacciatore. Fuga meravigliosamente girata tra le foreste ceche, paludose, insicure ma bellissime. Lungo solo 64 minuti, essenzialmente muto, Nemec compie un'elaborazione a metà tra il surrealismo e l'oggetto filmico bressoniano. Quando una delle due figure centrali sarà costretta a soddisfare un bisogno alimentare, si troverà di fronte al bivio: uccidere, non uccidere. Qui sta la geniale intuizione di Nemec: rappresentare una morte che non è mai avvenuta. Il fuggiasco non ucciderà sul serio, nel reale, la generosa donna; la di lei morte avverrà solo in sogno, nell'irreale. Più avanti, l'intuizione viene ampliata: Nemec preconizza la morte dei due fuggitivi, oramai catturati nuovamente dalle forze nemiche. In questo caso, si va oltre al concetto di morte irreale: vi si trova quello di morte come pura percezione, espressione materica, la morte in funzione prolettica…

I love this movie so much because it relates an experience of life that I may have dreamed, or an experience of life that I didn't dream but that's how I would dream it. Two escaped inmates of a Nazi concentration camp run from their unseen captors, in the end we see the captors and director Jan Nemec (in a masterstroke of irony, his last name translates to "German") is saying all manner of beautiful things, about innocence torn asunder and about the regenerative cycle of life, about things that will happen again as they did because that's the way of nature. I like it so much because it suggests things about stakes and games, in this case the hunt is the game and human life is the stake, and a game without stakes is no game at all. If the players don't stand to lose something, the game is a game not worth playing, and if the players didn't enter the game of their own accord, as seems to be the case here, yet we find them on the game table does that mean they are not there by some other accord? I adore movies that deal with fatalism in dreamlike terms and Diamonds of the Night does that…

This is a rather unique film about the holocaust, it rarely shows the familiar iconography (as soon as you know it is about the holocaust you don't really need to show certain events as an audience is already aware of the horror of the period) nor does it try and explicitly show the wider ramifications of the holocaust beyond the two protagonists. The film is practically wordless as we witness the two young boys escape a train bound for a concentration camp and then their attempts at surviving. It is a hard film to review as words can't really do justice to the experience…

There are few markers of the period, save for the jackets the boys wear emblazoned with KL (for Konzentration Lager/Concentration Camp) whilst their fellow prisoners where the more well-known striped uniforms. The Jewish-originated forenames Lustig gave his protagonists, Manny and Danny, are also removed, so subsequent press notes and reviews refer to them by number, itself perhaps a nod to the experience of concentration camp life or the mere fact the these boys and their plight stand for many for like them, lending the film a universality, transcending the boundaries of country and religion. Němec too subscribed to this wider theory, specifically choosing actors who were not Jewish for the roles. The last casualty of Němec's distilling is dialogue. Heavily present in Lustig's novel, where the boys share memories and stories with each other along the way, Němec's boys are almost always silent. The first line of dialogue comes thirteen minutes in, and the first conversation proper comes a few moments later. 
Given all these alterations, you would expect that Lustig may have been displeased with Němec's rather brutal approach to his material, but it remains the writer's favourite adaptation of his work, and it's easy to see why. Far from being dull and oversimplified, Diamonds is a visually and aurally dense work, and depicts those dark Holocaust years in a manner that's uniquely subjective and deeply personal, in a different way to documentaries and eye-witness testimony. For all intents and purposes, we become the eye witness to the story, learning the shape of the narrative as it goes along. Sometimes, it feels like we are the third escapee, thanks to cinematographer Mirsolav Ondříček's handheld camera work. At times, our closeness to them is almost unbearable…

Nemec creates an incredible stripped down film that explores his characters state of mind rather than follow a traditional storyline.  There is little to no dialog at all, relying on the characters thoughts and actions as well as the handheld camera that intimately follows the two unnamed youths as they trek endlessly through the woods.  Quick flashbacks and other surrealistic images are often shown, and scenes are frequently repeated with different outcomes.  These non linear sequences are used to represent their thoughts and memories, products of both hallucinatory fantasy and an unforgiving reality.  They give a real sense of the terrifying physical and mental ordeal they face in their struggle for life.  Along with these visions, sound is also used to heighten this harrowing mood, with exaggerated sounds of rain, footsteps, gunshots and in one particularly disturbing sequence, the awful sound of mouths chewing that echo like in a brutal nightmare…

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