EIFF Round-Up: Part One – Exit Elena, One. Two. One & Berberian Sound Studio

The Edinburgh International Film Festival ended around a week ago, so here’s my first of three round-ups detailing one American, one Iranian, and one British film respectively.

Exit Elena

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Shot in 4:3, there’s something incredibly intimate and also unnerving about Exit Elena, the story of a young live-in carer made to feel a little too welcome by Cindy, the matriarch of the house.

Elena is tasked with looking after Gert, Cindy’s almost immobile mother. However, her difficulty comes not in trying to do her duties as a nurse, but in trying to get the balance right between professionalism and familiarity in her first-ever job as a carer.

The film is small on budget, scale and location, giving a sense of claustrophobia that is both very funny and very cringe-inducing. With a sense of humour that will be familiar to fans of The Office or Curb Your Enthusiasm, this is a film which loves to grasp the truth of situations. The results are often funny but also insightful.

If there’s a complaint to be made about Exit Elena, it’s almost that its situation is so well-defined, it could just as well be a documentary as a drama. In the Q&A after the film we learned that all the characters play versions of themselves. Cindy, for example, is the director’s mother. As such you could argue this is a film high on truth, but low on imagination.

One. Two. One.

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The middle of Hunger sees a long dialogue between the films protagonist, Bobby Sands and a priest. In a film dominated by silence, it’s an incredibly affective scene, not least because the ten minute scene was shot without cuts. This gives it a sense of urgency and reality as both characters are unable to escape the difficult questions they ask of each other.

One.Two. One is a whole film of such conversations. Set in Iran, it sees its main characters coping with the aftermath of an attack by an ex-lover a woman which has left her with scars over her face.

Each scene lasts around ten minutes and does not contain any cuts. It sees characters in a variety of every-day locations (a bank, beauty salon, cafe, etc.) mainly conversing about the aftermath of the attack.

The unusual nature of the film takes a while to get used to. However, once I got in tune with its rhythm I found it very rewarding. Everything about the film is incredibly carefully constructed, meaning a look or a word can carry a lot of emotional depth.

The film certainly won’t be for everyone, it is possibly more on the side of experimental than wholly engaging. Nevertheless, for those who can get into its ebb and flow quickly, the performances, dialogue and unique use of long takes offer a creative and insightful cinematic experience.

Berberian Sound Studio

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Dun dun. Dun dun. Dun dun dun dun dun dun…..

Sound matters. Especially when it comes to horror movies. Imagine Jaws without the music. It would just be a camera moving gracefully through water. In many ways Berberian Sound Studio is a celebration of sound. Especially when it comes to horror movies. Italian horror movies to be precise.

Gilderoy (Toby Jones) is a British foley artist who has been got a job on his first horror movie. More used to making British nature documentaries, there’s a clash of cultures as his unfussy British ways collide with the Italian passion and flair of his colleagues.

The film gives an insightful and funny insight into the world of post-production sound. Vegetables, high heels and frying pans are used to make all sorts of weird and wonderful noises. None quite so weird and wonderful, however, as those who must impersonate goblins and witches. Unsurprisingly the unusual effects produced provide some of the most hilarious moments in the film. Especially as no shots from the film-within-a-film are ever shown. Director , Peter Strickland, knowing the audience’s imagination is far more powerful than whatever grotesque image he could have shot to match each sound.

As the film nears its conclusion the often claustrophobic film starts to get stranger and stranger. Gilderoy starts to find it harder to keep it together as he finds himself listening to effects in his flat one moment, then without realising it finding himself at work the next. The sound of the film remains the same as before, but the images that accompany it start to seem out of place.

The ending of the film is unusual enough to be quite jarring and a little unsatisfying. Nevertheless, the film is brave, unique and funny enough up to this point for it not to matter too much. For lovers of film, sound and Italian horror in particular it is surely a must-see.

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