Berlin Film Festival 2014: Day 9

Al doilea joc

Fathers and sons are the order of the day again today. Starting with Sudabeh Mortezai’s Macondo, which bears a striking thematic resemblance to both Jack and La Tercera Orilla. Its story of a young Chechen boy acting as man about the house in a fatherless family carries with it a mix of emotions as Ramasan is drawn to Isa, the friend of his late father, but also jealous of his role as head of the family and his mother’s attentions towards him. There’s some interesting politicking about interpretation, just like Zwischen Welten, as Ramasan deliberately mis-interprets the social worker’s questions about his mother’s potential boyfriends. But its story relies too much on the young boy’s emotional confusion, and his lapse into criminality inexplicable other than a plot device.

Yoji Yamada’s The Little House is also quite overwrought, adapted from the novel by Kyoko Nakajima. It focuses on the memoirs of great-aunt Taki, as her story is told in flashback, living as a maid with a family in Tokyo, and falling in love with shy arts student Shoji Itakura. It’s a history of Japan told through the domestic backdrop of one family home – from the fall of Nanking in 1937 to the atomic bombs that fell in 1945. It’s old-fashioned in its flashback narrative and its story of an illicit affair, but Yoji Yamada’s The Little House comes to life in the final reel as Taki’s great-nephew Takeshi and his girlfriend uncover the secrets of the family’s past.

Also digging into family history is Corneliu Porumboiu’s The Second Game – a simple experiment in pure cinema as Poromboiu matches the images of a 1987 football match between Steaua and Dinamo to the audio track of a conversation between the director and his father, who refereed the snowy match. A ramble through refereeing and football’s advantage rules, as well as Romanian past politics and the relationship between father and son. The beautiful game, with its ninety-minute running time, fits perfectly to a feature film, and the Porumboius’ commentary makes for an insightful and occasionally poetic remembrance of a forgotten past.

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