This movie had no element with depth or integrity enough to uphold its flimsy moral.
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There has been a surge in gritty dramas set back in the woods and trying to give you a solid sense of place: the best is Wind River (although a slight back-look would bring Winter’s Bone, the exemplar, to view); the most highly acclaimed, Three Billboards. Braven follows their lead, and signals the cementation of a niche in film. Frankly, it is formulaic and uninteresting except to show that the genera is now established enough to have a formula.
The film is short, only 90 minutes, but could have readily been cut down to a happy 40 if you would be content with watching a logger, Joe, defend his family by repeatedly neglecting the gun near at hand and wielding instead a burning ax, or a winch, or a bear trap. Some movies are the survival by your wits type; Braven makes you wonder if Joe can survive the onslaught of his wits.
If you are not the sort to be so contented, perhaps watch the opening credits which at least will not disappoint you. The best scene of the movie is the felling of a tree just before the predictable 50 minute character build-up, or pile-up, begins. It was nice to see the absence of a troubled past replaced by the presence of a troubled old man who mistakes the present for the past and causes trouble. Other than that, and the slightest deviation of musical score, we are looking at a man who works, who expresses his deep love for his wife by horseplay and teasing, who is followed, even in restful moments, by a camera man who needs to cut back on the coffee and a director who needs to cut back on the cutting. I don’t know if the advent of drone technology is to blame, but it seems you can’t have a car drive down a snowy road these days without the camera peeping over the top of the trees and looking for an epic shot.
Buster Keaton never shot the same stunt twice, if it didn’t work he found another; a scene lost life when filmed again. Braven tried to mimic shots already produced and then when dead shots was all that it had, it tried to bring itself to life by imitating the musical score of the living members of its genera.
This movie was going to be called ‘Rebellion’, but the producers thought it would be more enticing to American audiences if it included the word ‘Samurai’. Knowing that, it is not as surprising to watch the movie and see no fighting until the last ten minutes. This is not a martial arts flick, but a family drama, and the situation into which the father (Mifune, who is most famous as the fool in Seven Samurai) is placed is one in which he is only concerned with holding the family together though dishonor and death might come. Again, as in Kobayaski’s other great film Hara Kiri, those who insist on holding to the hollow forms of the Samurai code must in the end see the form ring hollow as they confront a powerful warrior dedicated to those he loves.
There is a beautiful visual effect toward the beginning of the movie where a story within a story within the story is being told, and the story tellers and audience are sitting in such a way that the camera is able to move seamlessly back and forth between each storytelling in such a way that all are woven into the same emotional tapestry.
This is a great movie, and worth re-watching.
I don’t know another movie which does what Siberiade does so well, but then again, I don’t know another movie that even tries to portray the relationship between two families over a span of eighty years.
What did the rise of Soviet Russia mean to Russians? A big enough question, one that doesn’t have a tidy answer—is an answer even attempted? The little village of Elan which the story revolves around is full of Dostoievskian characters who must face folks straight from ancient fables: a man endlessly cutting a straight road through the forest to reach a star births a man who becomes a war hero and a vicious soviet puppet; the character billed as ‘the eternal old man’ hovers around a young dandy with a fixation on discovering oil and giving earthy reason to the cutting of the forest road by his lunatic grandfather; an axe murderer and a chorus of old-believers lend context and surreal aspect to the final dramatic scenes.
Interest in the characters was furthered by having known their ancestors, and was not dissipated by the somewhat brief encounters with them that such a movie demanded.
Although this movie is over 4 hours long, I’ll give it another viewing.