Saturday, March 20, 2010

Film Review: The Collectress

"The Collectress" ** 1\2 (out of ****)

"The Collectress" (2008) is a Lithuanian film which was part of the European Union Film Festival in Chicago at the Gene Siskel Film Center. I managed to catch the last showing of the film on Thursday, March 18th. As of the writing of this review the film has no scheduled wide release in America.

"The Collectress" is a film which many Americans, in theory, should be able to relate to, as part of the film's social themes, but, it is how it goes about telling its story that may put off some viewers.

The film follows a young and beautiful speech therapist, Gaile (Gabija Jaraminaite), who after the death of her father (Valerijus Jevsejevas) is no longer able to feel any emotion. She has been so affected by his death that the only time she can feel anything is when she sees herself on film, which she pays a film editor (Marius Jampolskis) to do.

If I interpreted the film correctly, I think what we have here is a commentary on how people have become so removed from society we are no longer able to relate. We can feel nothing in the moment. If you think watching "reality" television shows are keeping you connected to the world, I have a bridge in Brooklyn you may be interested in buying. It seems the people of Lithuania are going through the same problems we in America are going through. Despite all of our advance technology we seem to have lost our ability to personally communicate with people. Why call someone when I can text them?

On paper this all sounds quite interesting and thought provoking. And a very good film can be made from this material, however first time director, Kristina Buozyte, didn't bring me into the film enough. The movie is almost too subtle for its own good. It doesn't display Gaile's emotional problems clear enough. I would have liked to see her struggle more trying to connect to people. She goes through her ordeal too fast. I would have preferred more of a grieving process.

Still there are qualities of the film that make me appreciate it. I like films that are outside of the mainstream. I did go willingly to see this movie. Clearly it caught my interest. It seems bold and fresh when compared to cookie cutter Hollywood movies. Here is a film which seems willing to break the rules. Set us in a different direction. And I like Gabija Jaraminaite's performance. This is not a likable character but Jaraminaite keeps me from hating her. We realize there is more there than meets the eye. I just wish the film would have explored it a bit more.

In the end I'm glad I saw "The Collectress" even though it is not a complete success. It was an interesting viewing experience. Hopefully the film will get distributed in America (though I doubt it) or at least find a life on DVD.

The film won the Lithuanian Film Award (dubbed the Silver Crane) for "Best Picture", quite an accomplishment for the first time director, who originally wanted the film to be a 20 minute short.