Sunday, January 25, 2015

Rocks in My Pockets

I missed the Chlotrudis Society nominations meeting yesterday to go to the Boston Horror Show, which may have been a good thing where this movie was concerned, because there are some people on the mailing list who have been championing it rather strongly over recent weeks, and I can totally see this being a case where they push it for every eligible category, and I try to hold my tongue about not liking it, but...

I wanted to like it. There were plenty of moments when I was staring at the screen agape, all "holy cow look at that", and the fact that this is a extremely impressive piece of animation isn't the only reason to like it. Unfortunately, it's got the sort of narration that has me saying "shut up shut up shut up shutupshutup!" under my breath, glancing at the clock on the Brattle's wall to see how much longer until I'm actually let go. It is frustrating as can be; I can't remember the last time one element of a movie has so thoroughly wrecked my enjoyment.

Speaking of the narration in a different sense: The IMDB shows this as Latvia's submission for the Foreign-Language Film Oscar, but I recall precious little (if any) of the film being in anything but English. Given the nature of the production - there is no dialogue, just voice-over narration - I wonder if there is just a completely different soundtrack in the version submitted.

Rocks in My Pockets

* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 20 January 2015 in the Brattle Theatre (Some of the Best of 2014, DCP)

I want to champion Rocks in My Pockets; it is a striking animated film made with adults in mind, and one that tackles a difficult but important subject head-on. The world needs movies like that. The thing is, the world also needs them to be something other than a chore to sit through. That isn't to say that a film about depression and suicide should be easy, or fun, but it needs to hook the audience, and at the risk of sounding uncaring, this one can get very tedious at points.

It starts out provocatively enough, with filmmaker and narrator Signe Baumane describing a dream about watching her grandmother Anna attempt suicide, and how she would not make the same mistakes Anna does in this dream, because she has given plenty of thought about how to do it right. It turns out that there is a history of mental illness and suicide among the women of Baumane's Latvian family, and she recounts five: Herself, Anna, and three cousins - Miranda, whom Signe was close to; the beautiful and aloof Linda; and Irbe, who casually mentions to Signe one day that she hears voices.

All five of these tales have elements in common - familial and cultural pressures to not reveal this "weakness", the looming presence of the Soviet Union, which drastically upends circumstances and has only clumsy pharmacological treatment on offer for mental illness, the stricter bonds of propriety placed upon women than men. It's to Baumane's credit that, while she gives the bulk of the movie over to Anna (she lived an eventful life even without urges to relinquish it), she finds ways to differentiate these tales and characters who are often only met briefly. Her drawing style may be simple and not given to animated wild takes, but there's a common unease to her characters that transfers readily to the audience.

Full review at EFC.

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