Limitless Cinema in Broken English

January 15, 2008

MY FEELINGS FOR “FROST” (1997, FRED KELEMEN)

Filed under: Uncategorized — celinejulie @ 1:24 am

This is Filmsick’s new short film: MY MOTHER AND HER DARKNESS (2008). Somehow this film makes me smile and feel sad at the same time.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t_PX16nlFD4

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This is my reply to Noel Vera in my blog:
http://celinejulie.blogspot.com/2008/01/filmsicks-review-of-fate-1994-fred.html

Yes, I just saw FROST this November. There was a Fred Kelemen’s retrospective in Bangkok in November, showing KALYI, FATE, FROST, NIGHTFALL, and DESIRE (a videotape recording of his stage play), while his latest film–FALLEN (2005)—was shown in the World Film Festival of Bangkok in late October. Kelemen’ retrospective is certainly one of the best things ever happen in my life. Kelemen also came to the retrospective to talk with the audience.

I’m glad you call FROST a masterpiece. I think it is, too. In my opinion, I think FROST is more accessible than FATE. Though FROST is much longer than FATE, seeing characters moving across a vast landscape in FROST is hardly anything boring for me. Maybe it is because I like images of vast landscape. The story of FATE happens in a town and gives a much more claustrophobic feeling than FROST. As for comparing the different feelings I get from watching FROST and FATE, I think it is a little bit similar to the different feelings I get from watching the first three hours of HEREMIAS and watching the youth-drug scene in the eighth hour of HEREMIAS. FROST is a little bit like watching the first three hours of HEREMIAS—slow, but very comfortable. FATE is a little bit like watching the youth-drug scene in HEREMIAS—depressing and very uncomfortable.

Kelemen is also a director whose films are beyond my ability to describe. Though I love his films very much, I find it is too difficult for me to describe the feelings I get from his films. I hope some great critics would write about his films as much as Bela Tarr or Chantal Akerman.

One thing I like about FROST very much is the ending. In most films, the characters try to improve themselves and have some progress in the end. But in FROST, we cannot escape from the fact that some people may try to improve themselves, but they will never succeed. It is sad, but true. While most films try to evade this sad truth, FROST, along with many of Claude Chabrol’s films, dare to show us this truth.

I was very glad that Kelemen gave a Q&A after this film. His talking made me realize that there were many things I overlooked while watching FROST. For example, in the scene in the church, the boy screams out loud and runs away. Some audience and I didn’t know why the boy acts like that. Kelemen explained that it is because the boy mistook the figure of Jesus Christ on the cross as a real corpse. The boy is frightened because he thinks he sees a real corpse. And that indirectly shows the background of the boy. It shows that the boy is raised in an atheist family (we know that his family comes from East Germany), and has no education, or else the boy would have known Jesus Christ.

The characters in FROST give me some ambiguous feelings, which is a good thing. I don’t know if I should love or hate this mother and son. I can say I hate the father in this film, though he shows some warmth in the opening scene. As for the mother and son, I think FROST gives me some unresolved feelings. I ask myself if I were the mother, what would I do? I think I may do the same thing as her. I would leave my husband immediately. But how can I avoid her tragic fate? I don’t know. In most films, some characters make a mistake, and the audience know that we can avoid the tragic fate of those characters if we don’t make the same mistake. But in FROST, the mother meets her tragic fate, but I can’t figure out how to avoid her tragic fate. It is another sad truth in this film. Some people really don’t have many choices in life. They have done the best things they can do, but our universe, our world, our society may not let them escape from their tragic fate.

As for the boy, his obvious mistake is that he calls his father near the end of the film. If he hadn’t called his father, everything would have been much better. But it is not the kind of mistake resulted from evil. The boy decides to call his father not because he has some evil desires, but because of other reasons. Therefore, what the boy does gives me ambiguous feeling. I feel bad that the boy calls his father, though I can’t hate him just because he makes this mistake.

Another thing which makes me feel very ambiguous for the boy is that his existence seems to cause his mother great suffering, though it is not his fault. It is just the fact that he exists. If the boy doesn’t exist, his mother would have been much happier. One scene that makes me feel very strongly about this is the scene in the church. In that scene, I feel a great pity for the mother. She has walked for a very long time. She is extremely exhausted, and really needs a place to rest for a while. She finds a church. She just wants to rest in it by pretending to be one of the churchgoers. But then the boy ruins everything. His scream and his running away from the church means that the mother cannot rest anymore. She must keep on walking. If I were the mother in this scene, I think I may just lie down on the snow and decide to die. I don’t have the strength to walk any more.

I think the presentation of the boy as the unintentional cause of great suffering for his mother is a very interesting thing for me. This thing doesn’t make the boy gain much sympathy from me, and lets me look at the boy with some distance, instead of making the audience love and care for him very much as what most filmmakers will do. At the same time, I cannot hate the boy, because he doesn’t do anything wrong at all. The great suffering of his mother is caused by the mere fact that he exists. FROST doesn’t make me love the mother and son, nor does it make me hate them. FROST just lets me look at them in a much more truthful way than in most films.

A film which should make a great double bill with FROST is THE POLICEWOMAN (2003, Joaquim Sapinho, Portugal, A+), which is also about a mother and son traveling in an extremely hostile world. However, I think it is much easier to sympathize with the mother and son in THE POLICEWOMAN than in FROST. The mother and son in THE POLICEWOMAN don’t give me as many ambiguous feelings as in FROST.

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–Writing about FROST just reminds me of one song I like. It’s WHEN IT’S COLD I’D LIKE TO DIE by Moby. The song doesn’t have anything to do with the film. It just mentions coldness.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H3cSmny-3CI

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15 Comments »

  1. Thanks for posting this now. I was just wondering today who was this Fred Kelemen mentionned in The Guardian article you posted at Unspoken Cinema. I had never heard of him before I must admit. Now I know. 🙂

    Comment by HarryTuttle — January 15, 2008 @ 7:02 am

  2. I loved this short video (MY MOTHER AND HER DARKNESS), really interesting. Especially the shot of the insects in the light is beautiful. 🙂

    And thanks for your thoughts on Kelemen

    Comment by HarryTuttle — January 19, 2008 @ 7:44 am

  3. –I’m glad you like MY MOTHER AND HER DARKNESS. I will tell Filmsick about it. I also like the shot of the insects in the light very much. It is interesting that something which is very irritating in real life can turn to be very beautiful when it is presented in film.

    I don’t know if this kind of insect thing happens abroad or not, because I have never been abroad. But I find it very annoying when these insects (I think it is a kind of moth) gather around fluorescent lamps in my apartment. It is very annoying because after they gather around the lamps for a few minutes, they will drop dead. And I have to get rid of their bodies. Sometimes they gather around the lamps above my bed, and then their dead bodies will spread all over my bed. When this kind of insect thing happens in my apartment, I must switch off the lamps in my apartment very quickly and switch on the lamps outside to draw the insects away from my apartment.

    MY MOTHER AND HER DARKNESS makes me feel a little bit sad, though that may not be the intention of the filmmaker. I feel sad because whenever I see these moths, they remind me of something which can live for a very short period of time. These moths remind me of the transience of life.

    In my personal opinion, I think MY MOTHER AND HER DARKNESS can be a part of an unintentional trilogy. The other two parts of this unintentional trilogy are THIS AND MILLION MORE LIGHTS (2003, Apichatpong Weerasethakul) and WAR OF FLUORESCENT (2006, Nontawat Numbenchapol, 8 minutes). THIS AND MILLION MORE LIGHTS focuses on a fluorescent light and a boy who is hesitating to jump from a springboard in a swimming pool. WAR OF FLUORESCENT is a documentary about the director’s fight with the moths in his house. What makes MY MOTHER AND HER DARKNESS stands apart from these two films may be Filmsick’s love for his mother. In this film we can hear his mother talking to him in Thai, showing her care for him. (I’m sorry that his mother’s talk is not subtitled in English.)

    –I love Fred Kelemen’s films very much, though I think what I wrote doesn’t represent the real greatness of his films. I can write about my opinions for his characters and his stories, but I think the real greatness of his films may not be the characters or the stories, but something which is beyond my ability to verbalize. I wish Fred Kelemen’s films are released as DVDs soon, so that some great critics can have a chance to see his films and write worthy reviews of his films.

    Comment by celinejulie — January 19, 2008 @ 11:28 pm

  4. I’ve never seen this type of insects in France, we have some annoying “mini-flies” (moucherons) too, but I guess it’s nothing compared to a tropical country.
    You have a point there. Cinema turn this disturbance into something beautiful, because it abstracts only the image, without the noise, without the physical contact with these insects in our hair, eyes, nose, bumping on our skin. So the image image becomes tolerable. And we can safely enjoy it’s pictural beauty.

    This short reminded me of a short film by Apichatpong too (Worldly Desire i think, I can’t remember which one), where there are long shots at dusk in a house near water.

    Yeah I was wondering what the mother said. Is it meaningful or is it just mundane rambling? But afterall, it’s the repetitive sound of her “lament” as the cameraman looks away (not paying attention) that matters, to signify her presence in the dark nearby.

    Comment by HarryTuttle — January 20, 2008 @ 12:10 am

  5. It is just mundane rambling. Even I don’t understand totally what his mother says, because she talks in Thai Southern dialect, with which I’m not familiar. 🙂

    Comment by celinejulie — January 20, 2008 @ 12:24 am

  6. thankyou very much for your comment it was the first comment i’ve got for my moving images sorry for my broken english !!!

    i made MY MOTHER AND HERDARKNESS accidentally (as sames as every moving images of mine) at first i want to capture the moment that my mother have to stay alone in the darkness because when th moths comes out she has turn allthe lights out about half hour or more to let the moth come outside and it was alotof them come often in the summertime and it means my mither always have to stay alone in the dark i just want tocapture this moment but while i was shooting my mother startedto say what you’ve heard on this movie it was accidentally and for me it was the magic moment i just want to keep that

    sorry for no subtitle becazuse i made this movies by using the video mode in cheap digital camers and i edited it on WINDOW MOVIE MAKER program in my pldies compute because it was the only program that my commputercan support until now i stilldon’t know how to put a subtitle into this movie so it decided to make HANDMADE subtitle for two of you thankyou veryvery very very much foryour comments it was helping me much!

    1. the moth scene

    : the tourist are looking at you

    2. the moth and the light

    : auntie are calling she ask me why telephone is not available?

    3. the door seen

    : we are lucky cause we finished dinner before it comes , wecouldn’t eat in the dark

    you still don’t dump the garbage out don’t leave it if the aunite come shee will blame me and it stinks

    : iwant to eat that youknow, curry stuffed fish buy the fish and clean it put the gut out then umade up curry mix with coconut then stufed it in , stuffed it in fired and eat with rice itwas smell good it was called curry stuffed fish

    the door scene

    : it will makeyou itching

    : turn on TV close the door before u go and the u can go anywhere you want

    after that

    repetitive of this verse

    : iwant to eat that youknow, curry stuffed fish buy the fish and clean it put the gut out then umade up curry mix with coconut then stufed it in , stuffed it in fired and eat with rice itwas smell good it was called curry stuffed fish

    Comment by filmsick — January 21, 2008 @ 11:05 pm

  7. Thank you very much for your translation. Reading what you wrote somehow makes me feel hungry. 🙂

    Comment by celinejulie — January 21, 2008 @ 11:20 pm

  8. you can see the subtitl with images here
    http://filmsick.exteen.com/20080113/my-mother-and-her-darkness

    Comment by filmsick — January 21, 2008 @ 11:31 pm

  9. Hey, if you are in film school there is a great contest on UTube for Valentines Day. The contest is to create a video for the holiday. Actually its two contests, one is to recall your great love and the second is to actually do an online video proposal called “Will You Marry Me?” Here’s the URL http://www.youtube.com/greatestlovestories?cm_cid=twb8. If you’re in film school you’ve got a leg up.

    Comment by Flowers — January 31, 2008 @ 10:36 am

  10. Thank you very much for telling us. Filmsick and I are not in film school, but I think some students in film schools may be reading my blog, so this information may be useful for them. The project looks interesting.

    Comment by celinejulie — February 1, 2008 @ 10:18 pm

  11. Thank you very much for your great text on FROST, celinejulie. It’s my all-time favourite movie. FRED KELEMEN is great.

    ‘I think the presentation of the boy as the unintentional cause of great suffering for his mother is a very interesting thing for me. This thing doesn’t make the boy gain much sympathy from me, and lets me look at the boy with some distance, instead of making the audience love and care for him very much as what most filmmakers will do. At the same time, I cannot hate the boy, because he doesn’t do anything wrong at all. The great suffering of his mother is caused by the mere fact that he exists. FROST doesn’t make me love the mother and son, nor does it make me hate them. FROST just lets me look at them in a much more truthful way than in most films.’

    Honestly I think the son is to blame for calling his father. If I were him, I wouldn’t call. And of course he is one hell of an IDIOT when he destroys EVERYTHING in the END.

    Comment by Patrick B. Rau — February 4, 2009 @ 5:50 am

  12. Yes, if I were him, I wouldn’t call either. Anyway, I’m very glad to know that someone out there likes FROST and Fred Kelemen. I hope his films are more available, or at least as available in DVD format as Bela Tarr’s films. 🙂

    Comment by celinejulie — February 5, 2009 @ 12:02 am

  13. Well, I’m afraid they aren’t available at all. Fred himself doesn’t like the DVD format very much:

    ‘In watching a film on video or DVD on a television screen we are simply receiving information about a film. It’s like looking at a postcard showing a reproduction of a painting. Anyone who has seen one of Van Gogh’s original paintings, anyone who has followed the brushstrokes and thus the hand and rhythm of his painting and thinking, will have had an experience that looking at a postcard of the same work can never give. There’s a big difference between making a piece of clothing out of a fabric of high quality and that’s best-suited to the pattern and making it out of polyester or plastic.
    Watching a film on video or DVD is like watching a plastic version. Film’s essential parameters – time, rhythm, light, colour, sound, texture – are only maintained by projecting it as a film on to a screen. Squeezed into a television screen, these elements are no longer recognisable and thus vanish, which amounts to the film’s heart being stolen. The perception of time is completely different on a television screen, whose surface can be taken in at a glance, and on a metre-wide screen. Time, film’s essential element, is simply extinguished on a television screen, because it can’t be experienced. This is one reason why I view a film projected on to a screen again and again during editing. The same goes for nuances in the image’s sound, in its light and darkness and in its colour.’

    I know that a DVD of Fallen exists, Fred borrowed it to me in 2007. But I don’t think you can buy it anywhere.
    Last april I was talking to him and he mentioned something about a possible UK release of his films on DVD. Maybe one day I’ll hold a FRED KELEMEN – COMPLETE WORKS – SPECIAL EDITION DVD-Set in my hands, but I’m not that optimistic.

    Comment by Patrick B. Rau — February 6, 2009 @ 6:23 pm

  14. –I understand Fred Kelemen’s viewpoint. That makes me think about the rumours I heard about Alain Robbe-Grillet. I have heard that he did not want his films to be avaiable as DVDs, too. I will wait and see if more of his DVDs (apart from LA BELLE CAPTIVE) will be available or not after he died.

    –It’s interesting to notice that different people like different films of Fred Kelemen. You like FROST the most. I like KALYI — AGE OF DARKNESS (1993) the most, while my friend Filmsick, who saw FALLEN, KALYI, and FATE, likes FALLEN the most.

    –I saw THE SKY, THE EARTH AND THE RAIN (2008, Jose Luis Torres Leiva, Chile) last year and think that something in this film reminds me of Fred Kelemen’s films.

    Comment by celinejulie — February 7, 2009 @ 10:09 pm

  15. Thanks for your tip. I haven’t seen THE SKY, THE EARTH AND THE RAIN yet. I’ll put it on my list. 😉

    Comment by Patrick B. Rau — February 7, 2009 @ 11:43 pm


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