Friday, December 09, 2011

Hell and Opening Your Eyes to Film's Potential: An Analysis

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Director: Tim Fehlbaum.

Writers: Tim Fehlbaum and Oliver Kahl.

Cast: Hannah Herzsprung, Lars Eidinger, and Lisa Vicari.

Hell is an amazing film. Shot in Germany and France, this is a German language film that takes place in a future world wracked by solar flares. The temperature has risen ten degrees and so has the tension between characters and societal groups. In fact, certain families have turned against humanity entirely. And really Hell is a film about the positive qualities of humanity vs anti-humanity in a devastating and dangerous environment.

The humanity and the optimism comes from characters Marie and Tom. Marie is the sister to Lisa and she will do anything for her. Her loyalty is a positive quality of humanity and this characteristic is necessary when facing people who supplement their diets in unusual ways. Tom is a survivalist. He fights when it is necessary and he fights for what is right. When the young Lisa is captured by a roving band of raiders, he tries to set her free with ingenuity and finesse. These are also positive human qualities and both of these characters are fighting for humankind's future.

However, there are those who would stand in their way. A family of cannibals has set a trap on an isolated roadway for the unwary. Here, they take from travellers everything they own including their lives. This group is an example of anti-humanity as they selfishly destroy the innocent and the hopeful. A matriarch runs this group and viewers might be reminded of Shiva, the goddess of death, by her honeyed tongue and grim visage. She is out to destroy with lies and promises. Another character, Phillip, is also an example of the film's anti-humanity. He turns away from those who need help in a cowardly fashion, while selfishly looking out for himself. He succumbs to the void and the destruction of a world that places humanity on the brink of survival.

Both of these two groups conflict as one tries to overpower the other. Marie tries to escape from the cannibals' farm. She also fights off an attempted rape. Their is a power shift when other livestock or foodstuffs (humans) are released and viewers might start to get a sense of the film's synthesis or message. This is a film of optimism. In the most dire of situations such as a wasteland a person can see the worst and act the worst or hope for the best and achieve the best that humanity has to offer. The film's ending, which will not be revealed here, chooses hope and the positive qualities of humanity which is symbolized by a soaring bird that ends the film with positivity.

At the core of Hell is a very optimistic film that believes in humanity and on the surface, there is a lot to visually take in. Tim Fehlbaum has saturated the visual landscape with very bright hues when the sun is overhead. The scorched earth is horrifying and a true hell on earth. It is no wonder that this film has won awards for its cinematogrpahy (Stiges). As well, this film is emotionally evocative. The tense situations between Marie, Tom, Phillip and Lisa against a fallen family are frequent and sometimes difficult to watch. The musical tones match the breathtaking visual sphere and all of the film elements, including acting, work well together. This film is truly an artistic achievement.

This title has released in Germany earlier this year; however, there are no current plans to release Hell in North America and that is a shame. More film fans need to see this excellent film. So, call in your contacts, e-mail distributors and petition film studios to release this film where you are. Because, if you are a fan of science fiction, post-apocalyptic cinema or of cinéma vérité, then you need to see this film and its messages of humanity, anti-humanity and the will to survive.

Plot/story/writing: 9 (sub-plots abound, characters are well-written, the dialogue is efficient and terse).
Characters/believability: 8.5 (there are different motivations for each character, there is balance in the camera's attention to each, plenty of minor characters but the film stays focused on one or two).
Music/compositions/selection: 8.5 (the melodies compliment the film, both the visual and aural spheres work together to create believability, the soundtrack is alive).
Message/conclusion/use of themes: 8.75 (there is a great and uplifting message in the heart of the film, the message is interwoven directly and indirectly into the film's narrative seamlessly).

Overall: 8.6 (some European cinema continues to dazzle this reviewer).

A film clip from the film is available at Quiet Earth:

Hell Movie Clip at Quiet Earth

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