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Tribe (Plemya) [AFI Fest 2014], The
Other // Unrated // November 7, 2014
List Price: Unknown [Buy now and save at Fandango]
With The Artist making its rounds at the Academy Awards back in 2011, it has been proven that the art of silent filmmaking isn't dead. There is a built-in audience for this style, as well as a variety of viewers who have not experienced the silent picture. Writer/director Miroslav Slaboshpitsky takes that idea in a fascinating direction, as he displays that words are not required for an audience to connect with a film. In fact, we don't even need title cards in order to inform us of the emotion that is occurring on the screen. The Tribe is a bold piece of experimental filmmaking that manages to succeed in numerous unexpected ways. This is a movie entirely in sign language without the use of any subtitles.
Following deaf-mute student Sergey (Grigoriy Fesenko), the young adult is going to a boarding school. He quickly gets involved with a violent clique, which is headed by a hustler who prostitutes two of his female peers (Yana Novikova and Rosa Babiy). When a terrible accident changes the entire plan of their operation, Sergey rises to the occasion and takes control. He continues to fight for dominance within the circle, as he begins to fall in love with one of the girls that he must prostitute out, named Anna.
From the first encounter that Sergey has with the gang, one can easily identify that he isn't like the rest of them. There's something underneath the surface of this character that we don't necessarily comprehend quite yet. Since the majority of us won't be able to understand a single word of the dialogue, it can take a while to grasp the roles, their intentions, and what they're supposed to bring to the overall plot. This might sound like a negative comment, but it's exactly the opposite. The Tribe consistently asks for us to think and truly pay close attention to the relationship dynamics. What starts as a subtle entrance into a boarding school soon turns into a tense look within the gang, as Sergey continues to fall deeper into the group's antics. Prostituting the two young women to older truck drivers is only the start, as they violently mug unsuspecting individuals. As our lead's confidence continues to grow, as does our concern for where he's headed. The overall tone begins to shift, as the tension continues to build to a point of no return.
While the crime elements are an integral part of the picture, there's also a love story at play here. The Tribe doesn't shy away from graphic sex scenes, as this romance begins by displaying the differing concepts of what sex is from one person to the next. Just as Sergey tries to kiss Anna, she stops him and assumes that he desires the certain aspects of the act that other men have enjoyed, not realizing that Sergey has developed real feelings for her. Writer/director Miroslav Slaboshpitsky displays that words aren't what make a successful love story, rather the chemistry and the power between the two individuals are what craft something truly impactful. If action speaks louder than words, then this film is ear-splitting. Even despite all of the errors in their ways, we still want to see them end up together in the end. As their relationship continues to get a little bit more rocky, we're provided with a couple of the more disturbing sequences in the film. The Tribe is in no way an upbeat movie, as it constantly wants us to feel as if we just had our hearts ripped out of our chests. It thrives off of keeping audiences feeling uneasy, as it continues to push the envelope further by the minute.
By the time that we reach the final act, Slaboshpitsky maintains a steady hand. His restraint is rather impressive, as he somehow manages to keep the film's unnerving tone without going over-the-top with it. Rather, he allows the tension to continue building, until it simply cannot stack any higher. The Tribe holds a certain amount of narrative power that is difficult to put into words, as it becomes so much more than just a moviegoing experience. We begin to suspect where the plot might be going, but we fear the direction that Sergey and Anna must go in, as the light at the end of the tunnel continues to dim. The graphic sex and violence aren't uncalled for, as they truly pull us into the gang's world. It's utterly relentless, as we're presented with what just might be one of the most shocking endings of the year. Once the credits start rolling, you'll be in a state of disbelief, unsure how to react. It's a brilliant finale that is best appreciated in silence.
Perhaps one of the most impressive elements of The Tribe is writer/director Miroslav Slaboshpitsky's visual design. The camera has a sense of movement that involves the audience, making us feel like one of the members of the gang, providing the "fly on the wall" effect. Nearly every shot is an establishing one, allowing the actors to incorporate genuine energy into their body language when expressing themselves through sign language. Many of the scenes have incorporated a small amount of movement, often giving the effect that we're looking at a beautifully epic painting with a wonderfully controlled color palette. The long shots and lack of many cuts in the editing room allow us to truly get lost within the world that this film places us in the middle of. There isn't a score to speak of, allowing room tone and small ambient sounds to drive the power of a sequence. This is truly a visual accomplishment to behold.
Few filmmakers are bold enough to pursue something as daring as what writer/director Miroslav Slaboshpitsky has managed to accomplish. While it suffers from some pacing hiccups, this is largely an intense motion picture that gets under our skin and emotionally affects us. It proves that showing has a much more powerful impact than telling us, which should serve as a model for any film that isn't willing to trust audiences to have an intelligence. Even though we don't understand any of the dialogue, Slaboshpitsky utilizes his visual design and the talent of his actors in order to drive many of the plot elements. Such a massive amount of tension is generated throughout this picture, which is held together with a great amount of restraint. If the finale doesn't make your blood run cold, then you're already dead. The Tribe is unnerving, innovative, and wonderfully complex. Hopefully this inspires a new style of filmmaking. Highly recommended!
The Tribe will be playing at AFI FEST 2014 presented by Audi on November 7 and November 8.