Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Four Minutes, or On Excellence

There’s a bizarre morality at work in Vier Minuten: the film at once idolizes the notion of “natural talent”, and compartmentalizes it away from the rest of its troubled characters’ defining attributes.

Fetishizing this abstract notion further, the movie then posits a series of scenarios in which its leads can be mean-spirited, weak-willed, even violent; but ultimately redeemed by what seems a hazily-defined, worryingly impractical conception of Genius.

For while the pic restricts itself almost totally to the one (almost intensely-unphotogenic , yet pleasantly idiosyncratic) metropolitan prison location, the division here isn’t between good people and bad, officious and industrious; it’s between those who Have this mysterious spirit and those who Haven’t. “Talent” becomes a clear analog for the beauty in truth, the truth in beauty.

Where this doesn’t matter, of course, is in the doing: for the film’s two-hour duration, these rules work perfectly. Its leads, carrying the picture’s weight ably, are tasked with a difficult sell: providing well-rounded characters animated by a higher purpose, a search for this quizzical elixir.

If this were to go wrong, it could be the same picture as any number of cloying, unengaging, the-answer-was-within-all-you-all-along anodynes. Where the picture doesn’t just redeem but elevate itself to a higher strata is in just how utterly this sell is made.

In the film’s best moments, there’s an energy at work that can only be called sublime: a persuasive anima infusing performance and tone alike with exactly that which the picture would have us grudgingly embrace.

A notion, once again, of Genius as it’s literally defined: the act of moving with a higher, purer spirit, one that elevates and redeems narrative and character alike.

That is to say, Vier Minuten is actually even better than Big Doll House.

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