The Tribe 18
A long Ukrainian film that's entirely in sign language with no dialogue or subtitles can be accused of the height of pretension but Miroslav Slaboshpitsky's ability to let the film communicate in broad strokes allows The Tribe to tap into the universal. The story might lack plausibility and can't fully escape its allegorical overtones but there's no doubting that The Tribe is a magnificent achievement and heralds the coming of a major new talent in Miroslav Slaboshpitsky.
A teenage deaf mute – we'll call him The Hero as we're not given names - arrives at a boarding school for the deaf and immediately falls in with the gang that run the school. This is no lunch money-grabbers, though: the gang is an organised crime syndicate with all earnings – from pimping out two teenage girls to truck drivers and mugging passers-by - kicked upstairs to The Boss, the oldest and biggest teen. As The Hero falls for The Girl, one of the prostitutes, he makes steps to move away from the gang...
But, and this is important, the film never questions his behaviour. He never realises that this is wrong. He just goes along with it because this is the system, this is the way things are and always will be. And this is the depressing thought that's meant to stay with you. The universal that Slaboshpitsky taps into is that this planet is a cesspit. He says as much in the opening shot: a shy young kid asks directions at a bus stop and near the edge of the frame is a burnt out car. The corruption of innocence is inevitable.
With is allegorical tale of the breakup of society, a society that relies on might and cruelty, Golding's Lord of the Flies will be the popular touchstone but the influential gang here is more akin to the amoral mob that scare the students and faculty in Class of 1984. Class of 1984 filtered through the arty lens and long takes. Slaboshpitsky's refusal to cut away from the horror makes The Tribe a gruelling viewing - those attacks, rapes, and murders unfold in real time. While the elongated abortion scene is difficult to sit through it remains defensible, but the same can't be said for the drawn out sex scenes. It's all a bit Alan Clarke in its teen-on-teen violence. It's all a bit Gasper Noe in its defeatism. It's all a bit much.
But not to take away from what will be the most memorable film of the year.
Review by Gavin Burke | 16:32 | Tuesday 12th May 2015 | Movie Review