Sunday, January 25, 2015

Sundance review: The Tribe - 3 stars

From the Sundance film guide:  

Sergey, a new student at a boarding school for the deaf, must navigate through the institution’s social hierarchy, led by a gang of students reveling in crime and prostitution. Initially shunned, he is eventually initiated into the crew, inheriting the role of pimp to two giddy best friends. After saving up money for a sexual encounter with Anna (notable both for its explicit nature and cinematographic restraint), Sergey begins to fall in love, risking the rest of the tribe’s wrath.

This movie is a unique cinematic experience.  A title card at the beginning prepares us:  there are no subtitles and no voiceover narration.  The characters communicate by sign language, and there isn't even a musical score.  So the movie is almost completely silent.  Even though we can't understand exactly what the characters are saying to each other, we start to understand what's going on.  

I admit there were times I would have loved subtitles to explain a few things.  I was a bit thrown when at first, the gang makes Sergey strip and give them his money, then all of a sudden he's friends with them.  And when the gang goes outside to rob and beat up homeless people, I couldn't help but be reminded of Alex and his droogs in A Clockwork Orange.  You would think that people would figure out that it's dangerous to walk by the school at night after several people were mugged there.

The movie did drag at times.  Ukranian director Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy likes long, unbroken takes and there were times where I wish he had done a little more editing.  I got a little tired of watching the characters walk from their dorm room to the outside, or watching the prostitutes and Sergey walk around the lot full of parked semi trucks looking for customers.  

It's not a movie I'm eager to see again, but it was a unique accomplishment and I'm glad I saw it.

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