TIFF [Transylvania International Film Festival) has got its viewers used, ever since its first edition, to a special section called ‘Shadows’, partly because the imaginary many foreigners still associate the region to is one close to horror, greatly due to the popularity of the literary myth of the vampiric Dracula. As a matter of fact, those who appreciate the horror genre have also multiplied locally, the demand exceeding the semi-clandestine stage, so that a genre deemed as little honourable before has gained a condition close to a trend of an unexpected success. Of course, psychologically speaking, sociologists and other theoreticians still debate in contradiction the consequences – good or perverse – of violence and cruelty exhibited in screen. Anyway, today’s’ spectators may not invoke ignorance to a new phenomenology of violence with the help of which culture reflects contemporary reality. One of the most interesting films presented during this year’s edition was ‘Marchland’, directed by Alberto Rodriguez and rewarded with multiple Goya awards in Spain this year. It is an equally historic and crime movie, in this case a successful combination with regard to the evaluation of the capital of violence of a political regime. In this case it is the age of Franco, coming after the denouement of the Spanish civil war. A war that, beyond the customary violence of military campaigns, brought an exacerbation of the logic of opponent cleansing-outs. On both sides of the barricade. Many were killed, some even tortured, just because they happened to be priests or monks, for example, for because they were wearing hats – an item with too ‘bourgeois’ connotations in the opinion of some. Reprisals were just as brutal and often irrational also on the part of Franco’s opponents, especially since it followed a victory. Naturally, explanations for this build-up of paroxystic violence could be searched for, but something that cannot be ignored is the huge derailment of inhumanity.
But this is not what ‘Marshland’ primarily speaks about. The case treated here is one of serial crimes with a sexual substratum, but the relations between the two detectives sent into the field show a dormant political tension. One of them had even been punished by the superiors for too much initiative in favour of democratisation – the epoch that marked the passage from Franco’s authoritarian regime to the restoration of a new constitutional monarchy. The other one, in exchange, had a more tenebrous past with the ‘political’ branch of the law-enforcing bodies, therefore suspected of repressive acts of violence. Now, they both act to resolve cases of common violence, but their relations with the general atmosphere of the time and the impact of politics are not missing. However, apart from references to specific social situations – such as the perverse ramifications of the economic boom into the life plans of young ladies in rural communities – the most incisive is the more substantive meditation to violence and its ambiguous legitimacies.
Such meditation has been also tempting the Austrian Ulrich Seidl for quote some time, too, another constant presence to the TIFF editions. A documentary called ‘In the Basement’ was presented this edition. Exploring the basement of homes, he chooses a few ‘occupations’ specific for such places hid away from the yes of others. Among other things, it’s a kind of Nazi museum set up by a common contemporary follower of the ideology, sometimes serving as a meeting place for a small group of nostalgic – equally common instrumentalists playing in an orchestra. Obviously, what shocks about Seidl’s films is the relationship between less common actions and their psychological integration. For example, sado-masochistic practices are illustrated by shocking situations to a majority of viewers, however related by the protagonists as the most common possible everyday gestures. Creeping into such obscure regions of human behaviour no longer suscitates horror or trouble, it seems extremely ‘normal’. Naturally, the director wants to intrigue by this ‘deformation’ of common view, he wants to make us think.
Anyway, meditating to violence is often the same thing as walking into a maze, and hasty answers are often deceitful, for they do not consider the complexity of relations among the various human actions.