EUFF’s Concrete Night is well-made but uncomfortable to watch

A review by Brenda Daniels 

The film poster with its original film title. This 2013 film shows in cinemas in South Africa as part of the European Film Festival. Photo: creative commons

The film poster with its original film title. This 2013 film shows in cinemas in South Africa as part of the European Film Festival. Photo: creative commons

The 2015 European Film Festival celebrates women through the theme A Woman’s World. In Concrete Night, it is director Pirjo Honkasalo who is celebrated.

The film centres around a teenaged-boy named Simo who lives with his single mother and an older brother in a miserable-looking apartment block in Helsinki, Finland. Inner city shots, night filming, graffiti and grime, and relentless rain add to the depressing atmosphere of the story. It certainly belies the film’s given description which contains the words “beautiful Helsinki”. In fact, I caught myself thinking I wouldn’t live in Helsinki if I was paid to. But I think this is what Honkasalo intended: to create a setting that echoed the characters’ hopelessness.

The story takes place over the course of only one night and serves as a journey of sorts – Simo’s passage into adulthood. According to his brother, adulthood or future is one in which humans don’t matter, and one that is better lived without hope. Taken too literally by immature Simo, this advice has devastating consequences for the young man, and proves excruciatingly untrue for his brother.

Concrete Night is not an enjoyable film. It is strange and confrontational, and I found myself glancing at my watch hoping it would end. But the ending did bring the difficult elements of the story into sharp focus. I was left feeling depressed but with an appreciation that Concrete Night is a well-made film.

Concrete Night screens at Cinema Nouveau (in Durban) on Friday 15th May at 5.30pm.

Charlize Theron romps around the desert in Mad Max: Fury Road

A review by Brenda Daniels

Charlize Theron at the WonderCon in 2012. Photo: Creative Commons.

Charlize Theron at the WonderCon in 2012. Photo: Creative Commons.

Although not a fan of the 1980s Mad Max movies, I was nevertheless keen to see what a modern-day version of these well-known films was like. My verdict: Mad Max: Fury Road is a fun, wild, fairly pointless romp through the desert, featuring Charlize Theron as the well-rounded heroine, Furiosa.

The film is set in a future in which water is a scarcity and “green places” are a distant memory. Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne) controls a fount of water out in the desert and uses it to suppress and control the thousands of people in his remote empire. One tough woman, Furiosa (Charlize Theron), turns rogue and makes off in a huge modified truck in search of a green place. Her cargo: a group of breeders – young, beautiful, innocent-looking women who could produce offspring that would presumably spawn a new and better human race.

Along the way she meets up with Mad Max (Tom Hardy) who falls in with the fleeing group and helps them evade capture. They are pursued by a very weird conglomeration of modified vehicles, and human (both living and dead) enemies. Characters are killed off with wild abandon – even the good ones – and the action is relentless. Even, at times, seemingly pointless. Furiosa is looking for utopia, yes. But this meaningful part of the story is dwarfed by the wild, endless, bloody road trip.

Tom Hardy as Max is a tough, brooding presence who says very little for the duration of the film.  Charlize Theron is very good in her role as the adept, one-armed, feisty Furiosa who has ideals and a heart. I think she holds the film together. The climax of the film is pretty good and Furiosa and Max part with enough unfinished business for the Australian filmmakers to make a sequel.

Mad Max: Fury Road, which was filmed in the Namib Desert, opens at classic and 3D cinemas countrywide in South Africa on Friday 15 May 2015.