A film festival is always a chance to get better acquainted with actual issues of the world. When the festival is dedicated exclusively to the comic genre, the perspective might seem limited, deprived of the excessive tragism surrounding us. Paradoxically, comedy may often be a more accessible path in depicting the dramatism of human condition. It was proved once again by some of the films presented at the recently ended edition of the Comedy Cluj Festival.
A suprise came from the directorial debut (and script-writing debut, too) by young Welsh actor Craig Roberts. “Just Jim” stars a humiliated and terribly lonely teenager. He is misunderstood by his parents, ignored by girls, mocked by classmates, even his dog disappears. The comic aspect of situations only increases the inexorability of a status that seems unsolvable.
Suddenly, a neighbour appears in his life – to play for a while the role of a guardian devil. By lies, striking changes in the appearance and threats, he gains for a short while a deceiving aura that helps him be less ignored. Nonetheless, in the end, he returns to his initial status as an unremarkable person, gaining plenty of frustrations in the meanwhile. Frustrations that may cause, as the devil who had attempted to manipulate him points out, unpredictable outbursts of violence. Isn’t this actually the main reason why so many teenagers in the USA and in other Western countries suddenly become murderers, and their favourite targets are their colleagues and teachers, in their school environment? The usual malice of students and teenagers, combined with the force of conformism and the prestige of the culture of success frequently lead to discrimination and marginalization. They have tragic effects at psychological level, and they sometimes find a tragic outcome in terrible outbursts of violence.
Another preferred field of exploitation for various combinations of tragedy and comedy is the family. “An Italian Name”, the adaptation of a French play in a specifically Italian context, turn a banal family dinner into a “moment of truth”, as well hidden secrets surface and mutual reproaches seem to overthrow the cohesion of friendship and family relations. A soon-to-be father proposes jokingly that his son due to be born in a short while be named Benito, an obvious challenging hint to Mussolini. From the perspective of a family of Jew roots, with obvious left-wing preferences, it seems a blasphemy. An entire age of hypocritical ideological debates is satirized from the perspective of a concreteness of a life that is much less bombastic than its ideals.
Crossing a marital crisis, one of the characters, a loyal adept of the left wing, is advised by his brother-in-law, who offers him an aphrodisiac if he votes from now on with the right wing that, besides corruption and supposed connections with the Mafia, it has the virtue of virility – an ironic implicit characterization of Silvio Berlusconi’s age. Another adaptation of a play that also refers to the complicated entwinings of family relations is Patrice Leconte’s film, “Do Not Disturb”. Adulteries, unclear fatherhoods, generation gaps that transcend ideological issues, betrayed friendships, old parents forgotten in asylums, all of these are painful truths sweetened by increasingly fast gags. More focused on couple – related issues, presented in the wider perspective of an extended family, is the film by Alvaro Fernandez Armero, „Sidetracked”, that starred actress Candela Pena who actually won the Award for Best Female Performance at this edition of Comedy Cluj. The approached topic is the start of the middle age crisis: divorce, professional doubts, the burden of celibacy, professional reconversion, futureless love affairs, fertility issues. Even romantic comedies can be extremely harsh. “Plan Bart” by Belgian director Roel Mondelaers treats a highly serious issue: couples falling apart because one of them does not want any children. This time, even if the respective person has changed her mind in the meantime, it is already too late. The next exchange of replies shows a lucid pragmatic phylosophy: “Are you sure?” “No, but I have made my choice.” Besides convictions, there are choices that lead to actions. Convictions and choices are not definitively separated, but at the same time, they have their own, relatively autonomous paths. Decisions are finally based on choices, even if they were made in a state of relative confusion.
The audience of this edition also loved Florian Mischa Boder’s comedy, “A Hitman`s Solitude Before the Shot”, an adorable parody of films with spectacular secret agents. After eight depressing years of wait, an agent is sent to kill a colleague, who intended to publish a revealing book about the uselessness of the respective group. We are dealing with a brand new perspective to the already classical satires that refer to Western security-related obsessions and European bureaucracy. Security or bureaucracy – the two seem to undermine each other mutually. Yet, perhaps the most creative comedy was signed by Gabor Reisz, “For Some Inexplicable Reason”, which also won a special mention from behalf of the jury. The universe of people in their 30s saw through the demystifying ones of one of them, depressed after a painful split, and lacking any professional future. The protagonist, who frequently – and symbolically – plays dead seems to be, paradoxically, the most alive of his comrades caught caught in an early wave of conformism. It is important to run in any direction, even if you will run in the opposite direction afterwards. An inextricable bitter-sweet vision. Just like life.