Caos Calmo

Caos CalmoCaos Calmo
Antonello Grimaldi :: Italy :: 2008 :: 1h55

Pietro’s life takes a cruel turn when his wife Lara dies in an accident in their holiday home. Pietro returns to Rome with his 10 year old daughter Claudia, lost in the void of Lara’s absence. When he brings his daughter to school, he decides to wait outside till she comes back out again. Sitting on the bench under the trees mourning, his work, his family, his emotions, all pass him by.

The movie is not only very original in its set-up, following Pietro as he passes his time in front of his daughter’s school, it is also beautifully made. Filled with subtle details: most of Pietro’s life shows up on that little square. He takes on new priorities in his life (like a little game he plays with a passing child), meets new people and sets himself back into the saddle. Pietro’s development from his confused and shocked state of his wife’s death to coming to terms with being a widower with daughter comes through a re-think of his entire life up to that point. Not in the sense that his life needs remodelling, but rather to be able to look at it up close.

Professionally, Pietro is surrounded by the management of the a big Italian cinema channel. The company is in the middle of a discussion of whether or not to merge with an American group. This discussion rages on passionately around him, but he does not really defend or lobby for his opinion on the matter. Working life just continues, with his secretary or his colleagues passing by on the little square to sort things out which can not do without his input, or just to get something off their backs. There are several remarkable ideas at play here. Firstly, the idea that cinema as just another product to be sold is far removed from a vision of cinema as a one of the pillars of Italian culture. Losing control of their own cinema barely seems to touch the executives because they deplore the current situation. Of course this becomes bitter-sweet, when you realise you are watching an excellent Italian movie and not a popcorn supplement. Secondly, Pietro is an important man and his absence from the office does not seem to have much effect on his career or the functioning of the organisation. Everybody can be missed for a while, the organisation just solves most issues organically to fill up the void.

Caos Calmo shows a quiet stream flowing, with Pietro standing at the side watching. As he stares into the stream, focusses his eyes, slowly but surely he can see the undercurrents. The movie is not a particularly joyful one, but it is filmed realistically and most importantly, it is very funny. The humour removes the weight of the sadness, making the exercise a pleasure to watch. Highly recommended.




Eddy Terstall :: The Netherlands :: 2004 :: 1h42

Through an awkward accident, Camiel (Marcel Hensema) meets Simon (Cees Geel). Camiel is an intelligent, shy, insecure, gay student studying to become a dentist. Simon is close to his opposite: a true Amsterdam mythical hero – down-to-earth, liberal, dry humoured seducer (“Couldn’t you just instantly turn into a naked chick?”) who owns two cafés and lives in the Dutch paradox – he’s in the semi-legal business of running a hash home delivery service. Both are true products of Dutch society, as it is dreamed to be, with their multilingual, easy, matter-of-fact approach to life. But the film is mostly about Simon. Well, about Camiel looking Simon, fascinated.

So what is it about Simon that so fascinates Camiel? To a certain extent, Camiel is an outsider, he is just someone who walks the streets. He is not extraordinary in any sense. Neither his love life, nor his profession can help him up, nor does he play an instrument or have any hidden talent. When he meets Simon, it seems as if Simon has his whole life organised around himself, to be able to live his life fully. He is surrounded by his oddball friends and has a loving family (in Thailand!). And that with a forgiving smile which allows him to boyishly do as he pleases.

The second half of the movie is darker than the first, when the weight on the looming tragedy starts to be felt (Simon’s approaching death). The second half of the film is more emotional, building on the characters and relationships of the first half. Notice the remarkable difference in the treatment of the subject with Les Invasions Barbares, of death, friendship, love, sex and society. Perhaps the last is most remarkable, because somewhere Simon is the society. There is no clash with an outer world which is different to him – because the difference between the individuals is what makes up the society in which he lives. Similarly there is no generational gap either, Simon’s children will make something out of their lives as he did with his, nothing fundamental has changed. It is Western society at its (brief?) peak.

If there is any weakness in the film, then it would have to be Simon’s interest in Camiel, the reasons of which could have been more explicit (perhaps his stability, or his intelligence?). None the less, the audience takes on the role of Camiel, and is taken along into Simon’s world. A world which is a rare glimpse into the liberal post-modern society which is (was?) The Netherlands. Camiel will not be the only one leaving impressed.


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Nanouk Leopold :: The Netherlands :: 2005 :: 1h24

A young woman finds her colleague dead after a suicide on their business trip, realizing it could have been her. The shock provokes a self-analysis of her own life living in her Scandinavian-type house outside the city with her husband and son, to see if she can consider herself happy, alive and valued. What starts out as slow and unclear, unravels itself as the movie progresses, and lingers after it is over. The photography encourages you to see the world through her eyes, which is the core of the means, as very few words are spoken. Her questioning herself – the honesty of her relationship(s) and her importance to those around her- takes her away from the very thing she is observing, namely her own life. A recital which hinges mostly on whether or not you can read into her mind, as the unspoken leaves room for projection. By all means an impressive and life-changing exercise.

Les Invasions Barbares

Les Invasions BarbaresLes Invasions Barbares

Denys Arcand :: Canada :: 2003 :: 1h39 :: 2 Oct. 2003

We are presented with a picture of an idyllic death. In an era of post-ideology a man reaches his end. Thanks to a loving wife and a strong son, he does not die alone, but is surrounded by his friends. As any movie dealing with death, it is inevitable to be moralistic, to pose the big questions. The ‘what is really important’ question is shown through the contrast between the old promiscuous bon vivant professor and his City lifestyle, gentlemanly son. Similarly, his friends are contrasted with the youth.

It is hard to do justice to such a complex and masterfully made film. It is not only subdivided into ‘chapters’ but also into layers, leaving you with a matrix still to be untangled. We find threads of moral questions about the role of reason, ideology, of love, technology, and of the ‘choices’ of roles in society. We are shown a world in which the family members are spread out across the globe, and communicate as if they are neighbours – if they so desire. And that suffix, of course, is the crux.

As the chapters pass, each time the image fades out and back in again, each time as if it was your last breath. The emphasis on the in-determinability of your own death is contrasted with the determination to control, our lives and certainly our death. The son, who to some extend plays the main character even if it is not him who is dying, is the emblem of control. He has turned his video-playing youth into successful stock market playing adulthood. He has an unscrupulous instrumental vision of the world, even if he is not insensitive.

Verdict: complex, beautiful and funny movie, well worth seeing. You could consider the DVD though, so that you can pause it – it is rather packed to the rim. (Perhaps for the Canadian accent as well, should you be unaccustomed.)