20 April 2008

Kaos (2): response and review

Superb. A masterpiece. A masterclass in arthouse movie making.

(There is so much to write that it will take me weeks to construct this weblog posting.)

Kaos is the name the Taviani brothers gave to this movie homage to the writings of Luigi Pirandello, partly because a corruption of the word is the name of the place where Pirandello was born, partly because chaos is what Pirandello feared: the void, the abyss, nothingness, desolation. The movie exudes nothingness in which the characters and actions exist. The nothingness is as tangible as the stones in the barren fields, and the rock on which the houses precariously perch. The roaring silence and blank canvas give a perspective that is almost intolerable in the twenty-first century. People are leaving for the United States every week because of the grinding poverty and the emptyness.

The movie is made up of several short stories, linked by landscape and culture. Reading some of Pirandello's short stories, it is easy to recognise that the Taviani brothers have translated them well from page to screen. The movie starts with a prologue that makes little cognitive sense, but introduces themes important to the movie, such as landscape, human purpose, narrative, the brutality of life, transcendence. The crow of this prologue, a bell round its neck, flies over the landscape between stories, providing a visual and auditory connection between episodes. The movie ends with a Pirandello short story about being called home to talk to his long-dead mother.

Little happens in any of the stories: Kaos is not an action movie. Neither is it a drama, or any other obvious and popular genre. However, tension does find resolution. Kaos reminds me of Tarkovsky's Stalker, and Kurosawa's Rashamon. The style of acting does not belong to Hollywood, it is much more theatrical (like Fiddler on the Roof), which seems fitting as Pirandello is best known as a playwright.

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