Film Scouts Diaries

2010 Festroia International Film Festival Diaries
Part 6: ...Women on the Edge...

by Henri Béhar

SETUBAL, PORTUGAL, June 8, 2010 – In the episodic Heartbeats (Finland, Official Selection), Saara Cantell follows the lives of women of different ages and backgrounds (seven women, seven episodes, loosely linked), focusing on seemingly ordinary events that may, in each case, turn out to be crucial. For "this is a film," as the catalog puts it, "about choices and decisions – and the difficulty of making one." The Finnish director goes for long takes, giving her actors plenty of room to actually act and allowing cinematographer Marita Hälifors to come up with intricate camera work ("choreography" might be a more appropriate word). All good, you think? Almost. For however well written and acted the film may be, it fails to truly grab you and leaves you with a feeling of "Uh-huh... and?"

Ben Sombogaart's The Storm (Netherlands, Official Selection) is far more spectacular and a far more unabashed crowd-pleaser. It takes place on and around January 31, 1951, the night the dikes in the province of Zeeland broke during a historic storm that the Dutch still vividly remember. At the center of the film is Julia, an 18-year-old single mother, shunned, therefore, by the conservative inhabitants of her small village. As the waters rise uncontrollably, she manages to put her baby in a trunk before being swept away by the currents. Rescued by an air force sergeant, she convinces him to help her go back and find her son. Thus begins a long search through a surreally drowned landscape, a search that will last nearly eighteen years... As is required of her, Sylvia Hoeks (Julia) delivers the kind of powerhouse performance that juries adore – wouldn't be surprised if she ended up with the Best Actress Award. But the "recreation" of the storm is what really gets you (shades of Country, which starred Mel Gibson and Jessica Lange). According to the production notes, "the film was shot in the area that was originally flooded, with ninety farmers allowing their properties to be flooded once again when the dikes were reopened for the shooting." Can't wait for the making-of.

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