Mpls./St. Paul International Film Festival Week II: See No Daylight

Just when you thought it was safe to go back to the multiplex...

 

Private Confessions

While there's no confessional ritual in the Lutheran Church, there is the "confessional" tradition of the Ingmar Bergman film--a tradition with which this Liv Ullmann-directed drama keeps faith. Written by Bergman as a sequel to his earlier Best Intentions, Private Confessions continues the story of his parents: the high-born Anna (Pernilla August) and the intensely rigid preacher (Samuel Froler) with whom she falls out of love after 12 years of marriage. Seeking salvation, Anna instigates a romance with a theology student and family friend (Thomas Hanzon), and then confesses the whole situation to the older pastor (Max von Sydow) who once confirmed her. Self-effacingly filmed by Ullmann, this is an intimately staged drama about spiritual doubts and the fine line between determination and egotism. It's also a two-hour condensation of a 200-minute television miniseries, and it shows: The plot proceeds through a series of five dialogue scenes shot in closeup, with two characters each. Still, it's well-written by the wordy Bergman's standards, and, as Anna, August proves herself to be a sensitive actress who's full of more subtle surprises than we can expect her to reveal as Darth Vader's mom in The Phantom Menace. (Anderson) Bell Auditorium, Tuesday at 7 p.m.

 

Rivers of Babylon

Set in an unnamed, post-Socialist city in the first years of 1990s "liberation," this dark comedy from Slovakia touches on a few of the ironies covered earlier in Kieslowski's great White: Communism is gone, trust is open for grabs, and the one man who has any real power is the guy who controls the heat. He is Racz (Andrej Hryc), a hotel employee who becomes a metaphor for brutish opportunism as he trades his coveralls for a slick suit and a new life as a gangster entrepreneur. With his shaven head, guttural voice, and questionable prior career, he's a little like a certain governor we know. But the movie isn't into subtlety or even satire of the finer sort, as Racz's story is told by a supporting character--a greasy black marketeer/pimp (Vlado Hajdu) who appears to have higher standards but doesn't quite survive by them. The film is a noisy, raunchy, and none-too-convincing examination of anger over a free-market economy gone nuts; most revealing about its style is the near-fetishization of such material goods as Scotch whiskey, German cars, and Swiss watches. Even though this high-gloss junk expresses the main character's utter selfishness, it seems to be something the filmmakers would like to wallow in as well. (Anderson) Bell Auditorium, Tuesday at 9:30 p.m.

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