Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Mon Dec 14, 2020 8:15 am 
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Meditations, speculations and lovemaking in a summer on a Danish island

Danish director Anna Sophie Hartmann in the enigmatically titledGiraffe, delivers a cool but enticing slice of beautiful color photography, meditation, and summer love. At the center is Dara (Norwegian star oLisa Loven Kongsli of Force Majeure), a 38-year-old woman somewhat at loose ends (and at the moment unattached) on the Danish island of Lolland, where a tunnel connecting Denmark to Germany is being built that will wipe out farms and houses. She is working as an ethnologist preparing a generational history of the region that's going to be demolished, ruminating over and reading diary entries from years past, in particular those of a librarian named Agnes Sørenson. Meanwhile Polish construction workers are extending big fiber cable lines, and Dara meets one of them, young Lucek (Jakub Gierszał), who has a soft, disarmingly accentless voice in English. They make love. And it goes on for a while. Kongsli and are great together.

The director blends these actors with real people, some of whom are used in staged scenes, some interviewed. The effect is to show fiction as moments of dipping into lives as the film surveys past and present. There are farmers about to give up their farms to be turned into asphalt or a tunnel, whose family has been there for three generations and were hoping to continue for four or five. Others are younger, newcomers, and not concerned. Lucek just wants to stay working there till the autumn so he can be with Dara. Dara wants to find someone who used to know Agnes Sørenson. And I just want to look at the images by dp Jenny Lou Ziegel,, which at times have some of the unexpected beauties anthologized in Sally Eauclaire's landmark 1981 New Color Photography. It's almost 40 years later, but one realizes that the color images in movies rarely have the beautiful simplicity of those still photographers who revitalized color in the late seventies. Color photography can still be fresh. The use of middle distance and classic golden rectangle aspect ratio with doors, windows, and clear summer light create one delightful effect after another. The images have an openness and limpidity that reinforces the meditative, relaxed feel of the film, making the love story and the revelations of people's lives come naturally.

There is another character played by an actor, Käthe (Maren Eggert), who works on the ferry, and somewhat like Dara, but as a hobby, likes to review lives, looking at people standing on the boat and imagining what they do and who they are.

This mixture of land, history, and people seen in layers, led Peter Bradshaw, in his Guardian review, to connect this film with Sebald's The Rings of Saturn, which combines a walking tour of Suffolk with meditations prompted by places and people encountered along the way. That works. But Sebald didn't have these visuals. Or a sexy love affair.

Giraffe, mins., debuted at Locarno Aug. 2019, showing at half a dozen other international festivals including Hamburg, Vienna, Thessaloniki and the delayed virtual pandemic edition of the 2020 New Directors/New Films series, where it was screened for this review in Dec. 2020.

©Chris Knipp. Blog:

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