Text by: Rebecca Rizzi
Distressing, scornful, provocative: the short films presented so far at the 22nd edition of Milano Film Festival push the viewer out of his comfort zone, telling urgent, uneasy stories, parodies of desperate, raging humans (or representations of humans) with a hint of irony to sugar the pill.
Whatever it takes
Mouse (USA, 2016) directed by Celine Held and Logan George, is downright revolting, painful to watch. Two ruthless cocaine addicts find a dead mouse in a can of beans and you find yourself gagging as they purposely swallow a piece of the decomposed rodent to maximize the damages and consequent settlement- “We’ll sue the company and make millions”. A prospect that dissolves with an uncontainable burst of vomit.
The camera hovers onto the actors, revealing a human condition of helplessness, prostration, hunger. In A drowning man (Denmark/ Great Britain, 2017) by Mahdi Fleifel, a broke young Palestinian in desperate need of food and cigarettes resorts to a sex act with a stranger for money. He finally devours his souvlaki, the shame and bitterness only half hidden beneath his cap.
Don’t be fooled by these cute cartoons
The same palpable despair is common to Niki Lindroth von Bahr’s The Burden (Sweden, 2017), unsettling cartoon rendition of modern society. Indoctrinated into a promise of ideal happiness, sinister sardines, humanized rats and monkeys chant a monotonic litany, enacting lifeless choreographies as they slave away in call-center cubicles and fast-food stores.
Manivald (Estonia/ Croatia, 2017), by Chintis Lundgren, shares a similarly disturbing story line masked by innocuous cartoon figures, scaled down to a family of two. The common erotic fantasy of the plumber sets the scene for a homosexual liaison, ending in heartbreak and deceit. If you can’t trust your own mother, who can you trust?
Absurd is the new black
One is left to wonder if we inhabit nonsense, or on the contrary, nonsense inhabits us, oppressed by our external existence. In the Finnish production Katto (The Ceiling, 2016) by Teppo Airaksinen, Special Mention of the Jury at Cannes Film Festival 2017, Olavi is convinced that his imminent divorce caused his ceiling to come down. When his friend Tuomas accuses him of mental insanity, the ceiling restores its usual height, leaving Tuomas bewildered and lost.
The absurd becomes grotesque in Ratzinger is back (Original title: Ratzinger vuole tornare by Valerio Vestoso, ITA, 2016). How to promote the German ex-Pontiff’s comeback? A group of Benedict XVI enthusiasts considers a strategic media plan which includes commercial telesales, a cover in Vogue Magazine and a cliché-dispensing Political Apathy Machine. Bruno Lauzi’s melancholic Ritornerai serves well to evoke the underlying impossibility of change and ultimate indifference of the people most affected by it; E quando scoprirai che nulla è cambiato, che sono restato l’illuso di sempre, riderai- and when you’ll find that nothing has changed, I’m still as delusional as ever, you’ll laugh. The essence of Italy, in a nutshell.