“I started to wonder if love’s capacity to cross time and space was the unofficial theme of this less social, more quiet TIFF [Toronto International Film Festival]. Even films with pre-pandemic origins — such as Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s odd, haunting drama Memoria and Mia Hansen-Løve’s layered and brilliant meditation on desire and art-making, Bergman Island — deal in the elusive quantum strands of emotion, longing, fear of loss, and care for one another that are woven into the universe and tie us all together.”
Source: Alissa Wilkinson, Vox
AT A GLANCE:
Vox writer Alissa Wilkinson reflects on the 2021 Toronto International Film Fest, which returned in hybrid form this year following 2020’s all-digital edition, and where many of the in competition seemed to share a common theme.
The global pandemic has had an undeniable impact on the films screening at this year’s festival, “and given how long it takes to shoot and finish a film, we’ll be seeing its effects on screen for years,” Wilkinson writes.
Films like Jane Campion’s The Power of the Dog and John Michael McDonagh’s The Forgiven, both of which were interrupted in mid-production by lockdown, “have all the hallmarks of a COVID-era production,” says Wilkinson.
“The Forgiven bears striking resemblance to the recent pandemic-shot HBO show The White Lotus — it’s also about terrible wealthy white people exploiting and objectifying local workers while living lavishly,” she notes, while The Power of the Dog, filmed in New Zealand but set in the American West, “is for most of its runtime confined to the big ranch that Phil and George (Cumberbatch and Plemons) own and operate.”
But for Wilkinson, these intimate films with very few characters makes the focus on human interaction feel natural. “There are no allegories for grand geopolitical concerns or timely events ripped from the headlines here; the modest scope instead prompts directors and actors to dig into characters’ psyches, illuminating and probing the twisted, tricky dynamics that power human relationships. These are movies about hate, and fear, and connection. Which means they are really about love — even when it’s bent out of shape,” she writes.
She calls Kenneth Branagh’s Belfast an “unabashedly sentimental dip into his youthful memories of strife during the Troubles in Northern Ireland,” noting how the family drama told from a small boy’s perspective moves from black-and-white to color to remind us that “The stories we watch on screen… are a vibrant reminder to truly live in dark times.”
Antoine Fuqua’s The Guilty “is a breakneck thriller set in one room,” with Jake Gyllenhaal’s 911 operator Joe trapped between his anger and truly caring for people in yet another reminder of the emotions that have come to light because of COVID.
Wilkinson’s favorite film at TIFF was Petite Maman, from Portrait of a Lady on Fire director Céline Sciamma, which she calls “a gemlike film, clocking in at only 72 minutes, and as pristine and poignant a reflection on the bonds that tie us to one another across time and generations as one can imagine.”
As more films enter production during this time of change and loss, there are bound to be others that tie into these same themes. Wilkinson shares how she felt the art of the films flip something in her chest. “I missed feeling woven into the world’s big tapestry. If these movies are any indication, I’m not alone. That feels like grace.”
Head over to Vox to read the full story.