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ISSN 1213-1792


Jan Čulík


Karel Dolejší


Michal Panoch, Jan Panoch

Grafický návrh:

Štěpán Kotrba

ISSN 1213-1792
deník o všem, o čem se v České republice příliš nemluví
4. 7. 2005

Karlovy Vary Film Festival:

American Indie Films Deal with the War on Iraq, but Fail to Convince

The main feature showing on Sunday evening, Homecoming, (USA, 2004) was preceded by another American film of the same year, The Confession, which was directed by a man, known only as "Ash", and extremely enthusiastically introduced by one of the film's co-producers, a fashion designer by trade, Manny Mashoud. The film sees a young and (tragically) handsome soldier confess his ruthless torture of an Iraqi man to his (tragically) beautiful young wife during her conjugal visit to the prison. Of course the short had good intentions. Unfortunately, it glamorised the situation and stripped it of any sincerity, expressing itself through stale phrases and clichés."I did what I was trained to do... I would do it again."

The film benefitted much from its brevity, lasting 15 minutes, which prevented it from appearing anything more than slightly unconvincing. Homecoming directly followed.

Released last year, every part of the film's creation was done by John Jost. The story follows a family in Newport, Oregon, of which every member is deeply troubled. The son, Chris, is unemployed, and suffers criticism on every side. His Christian, good-hearted mother, Mattie, is disappointed with him and also riddled with worry about her second son, Steve, who is serving in the army in Iraq. And Steve's father, who is also Chris's stepfather, is highly dissatisfied with Chris.

As the film progresses, the life of each of them significantly worsens. Chris's admittedly half-hearted attempts to find employment inevitably fail. His (surly and plain) girlfriend Jamie cut him off and out her house where he has been living, directly after which she is seduced by the male psychiatrist he is obliged to see, apparently by order of the court.

And then it transpires that his brother has died in Iraq, which, of course, is a terrible blow to the mother, who, as we discovered earlier, has been taking solace in glasses of whisky.

Even the stepfather, the materialistic Jeff, suffers great misfortune. Before the crushing blow of the loss of his son, his business loses fifty thousand dollars when his wife, who is also his secretary, forgets to post the papers for sale of a property.

By the end of the film, each character has been stripped of anything they had, however, none of them invokes any sympathy in the viewer. For example, Chris has his share of troubles, however his unwillingness to take advice, extreme sloth and his cruelty to those who love him create feelings of dislike that are only slightly lessened by the end of the film.

Only the women are not actively dislikable, but they are not sufficiently likeable for us to care enough about their problems. The mother, Mattie's strife at the loss of her son is never portrayed in any particular detail and thus we do not feel her suffering. The film lacks credibility in general. The supposedly serious exploration of the effect of the Iraq war on small-town America at times caused the whole cinema auditorium to laugh and applaud. Overly long scenes that test the patience caused the viewer to lose involvement in the story. Shots of road surface, bushes, signs, follow each other in succession and appear throughout the film, as do very long shots of pairs of characters staring silently into space, not looking at each other (there are a few of these in the film).

We unfortunately do not respect the characters and thus during these moments, they appear only to be staring blankly rather than being fraught with inner torment, caused by the painful situation they are living in.

When at the end, Chris throws himself off the cliff, after being rejected finally by his girlfriend, it seems not tragic, but rather the cherry on top of the amassment of troubles that Jost has piled upon him.

The film aims at the sublime, but falters and lands rather in the ridiculous. Reactions to the Iraq war have been invariably strong in their nature. A few artists have successfully dealt with it without seeming overly trite or sentimental. Unfortunately, Jost here is not one of them and neither is "Ash".

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Filmový festival v Karlových Varech - 2005 RSS 2.0      Historie >
4. 7. 2005 American Indie Films Deal with the War on Iraq, but Fail to Convince Ema  Čulík
4. 7. 2005 Americké nezávislé filmy o válce v Iráku nepřesvědčily Ema  Čulík