“Life is a journey, not a destination”. And so is film. We explore the journey of film as we look back over the highlights of 2014 and give a sneak preview into the ones to watch out for in 2015.
On The Road by Mark Wilshin
In one way or another, all films are about journeys. But following on from Alfonso Cuaròn’s stunning interstellar journey home Gravity, the best independent films of 2014 seem to be following Hollywood’s lead and turning the hero’s quest into an art form. It’s not only epic adventures like John Curran’s Tracks, following one woman’s walk across the Australian bush from Alice Springs to the ocean (and soon to find a companion piece in Jean-Marc Vallée’s psychological expedition Wild), there’s also a rediscovered delight in movement to be found in films like Yann Demange’s video-game style British-soldier-caught-on-the-wrong-side-of-Belfast debut ’71, or the Coen brothers’ anarchically fanciful Inside Llewyn Davis. With a stellar cast list long enough to fill a small European train, Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel takes pleasure in the list of larger-than-life characters that Monsieur Gustave meets on his hapazard journey, but also rejoices in the sheer joy of kinesis – hurtling through snowy landscapes in cars, on skis, escaping down ropes and up ladders, and running with a childlike abandon from one episode to the next.
But just as Anderson alters the aspect ratio for each narrative level of his intricate story, there’s a playfulness with form which every director seems to be having a go at this year – from Jim Jarmusch’s graceful spiralling in his delicious vampire indie Only Lovers Left Alive via Jonathan Glazer’s Kubrickian, Glasgow-set, alien-killer-thriller Under The Skin to Xavier Dolan’s upcoming Mommy which treats the borders of the frame like the controlling confines of an overworked personality – and opens them with uninhibited glee. Even Richard Linklater’s labour of love Boyhood, can be seen as a daring journey into form – as he returns every summer for eleven years with a small cast and crew to make an indie epic about growing up. And while they may not have been quite so original in form, there were other great cinematic journeys this year, like the Dardennes brothers’ emotionally enriching Two Days, One Night, Pawel Pawlikowski’s excursion into the Polish past Ida, Steve McQueen’s dazzlingly haunting 12 Years A Slave and David Mackenzie’s viscerally brilliant Starred Up. Documentaries fared better than ever with Randall Wright’s home-video study of the artist Hockney and in Edward Lovelace and James Hall’s journey into recovery after a brain haemorrhage The Possibilities Are Endless. But special mention should also go to Mike Leigh’s astonishingly accomplished Mr Turner and Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s hypnotically intelligent Winter Sleep – both philosophical contemplations on the nature of the artist. Other highlights of 2014 were the utterly bonkers Nymphomaniac, the deliciously intricate The Past, the beautifully elegiac Leviathan, the quietly momentous Citizenfour, the impossibly upbeat Pride and the delicately original Lilting.
Against this list of honours, 2015 has a lot to live up to. But with releases set for Damien Chazelle’s tense drumming thriller Whiplash, Ira Sachs’ brilliantly romantic Love Is Strange and Peter Strickland’s retro soft-focus sado-masochism The Duke of Burgundy we’re off to a riproaring start. And with Ukrainian director Miroslav Slaboshpitsky’s utterly divisive The Tribe, François Ozon’s Romain-Duris-in-drag rom-com The New Girlfriend (it has to be worth it just for that, right?) and Ruben Östlund’s polemical Turist, 2015 is bound to get ugly. But whether it’s JC Chandor’s A Most Violent Year or Sam Taylor-Johnson’s 50 Shades Of Grey you’ve got your eye on (or Denis Villeneuve’s Enemy, Jessica Hausner’s Amour Fou, Bennett Miller’s Foxcatcher, Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice, Ava DuVernay’s Selma, Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland’s Still Alice, Saul Dibb’s Suite Française, Frédéric Tcheng’s Dior and I, Damián Szifrón’s Wild Tales, Roy Andersson’s A Pigeon Sat On A Branch Reflecting On Existence, Olivier Assayas’ Clouds of Sils Maria, Mia Hansen-Løve’s Eden, Benoît Jacquot’s 3 Coeurs, Andrew Haigh’s 45 Years, Terrence Malick’s Knight of Cups or Justin Kelly’s I Am Michael) 2015 looks set to be a great year for independent cinema the world over. Perhaps not as adventurous or daring, but like all those rollercoaster rides onscreen, an even more exhilarating journey.
The 2014 Dog And Wolf Awards
Most Disturbing Under The Skin
Best Heavy Metal Score Nymphomaniac
Best Drunk Russian Leviathan
Best Script The Past
Best Interplay of Past And Present – Lilting (so much better than Interstellar)
Best Seat-Gripper Starred Up
Best Use of Artist’s Own Home-Videos Hockney
Best Cinematography Winter Sleep
Best Everywhere Actor Jack O’Connell (with Oscar Isaac not far behind)