A still of ‘Loveless’.
A still of ‘Loveless’.

Habitat International Film Festival: Feast your eyes

Our pick of five visually arresting films at HIFF 2018

One of the few opportunities Delhi cinephiles are afforded to watch world cinema on the big screen, the Habitat International Film Festival is back for its second edition (23 March-1 April, at the India Habitat Centre). This year’s lineup is a robust mix of the much-awarded (Loveless, The Square, On Body And Soul, A Man of Integrity) and the lesser-known, rounded off with Christian Schwochow and Ingmar Bergman retrospectives. Many of the films in the line-up are visual tours de force—here are five we’d recommend:

A still of ‘The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki’.
A still of ‘The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki’.

The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki

Any black-and-white film about boxing will inevitably be compared to Raging Bull, but The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki sidesteps this neatly, partly by being as lightfooted as Scorsese’s 1980 film is heavy, and also by working out a distinct (and equally impressive) visual style. Juho Kuosmanen’s film, about a real-life Finnish boxer, Olli Mäki (Jarkko Lahti), who falls in love as he prepares for the 1962 world featherweight championship, was shot by cinematographer Jani-Petteri Passi on 16mm. It looks like a lost Truffaut film: grainy, off-the-cuff and wondrous.

A still of ‘Reset’.
A still of ‘Reset’.

Reset

The closest competition to Wim Wenders’ Pina for the most stunning dance documentary of recent times is Thierry Demaizière and Alban Teurlai’s Reset. The film follows dancer and choreographer Benjamin Millepied (best known outside the dance world for his work on Black Swan) as he negotiates his role as artistic director of Paris’s Opera Ballet. The performances are unsurprisingly breathtaking, and Teurlai, as cinematographer, makes every pirouette seem grounded and miraculous.

Ai Weiwei’s Human ‘Flow’ is fiercely beautiful.
Ai Weiwei’s Human ‘Flow’ is fiercely beautiful.

Human Flow

A documentary about refugees isn’t where you’d normally look to find some of cinematic year’s most expansive images. Yet, from its opening shot of a lone white bird seen from above flying over a Prussian-blue sea, Ai Weiwei’s Human Flow is fiercely beautiful. Whether its eye-catching imagery distracts from the film’s exploration of the international refugee crisis or help make a 140-minute film on a difficult subject palatable is up for debate, but there’s no denying that Human Flow is an intensely cinematic experience, more deserving of a larger canvas than a dozen franchise blockbusters.

Jonas Carpignano’s ‘A Ciambra’ is a verité drama about a young boy that finds its power in the intimacy and spontaneity of its visual aesthetic.
Jonas Carpignano’s ‘A Ciambra’ is a verité drama about a young boy that finds its power in the intimacy and spontaneity of its visual aesthetic.

A Ciambra

Film visuals don’t have to be pretty to be arresting. Jonas Carpignano’s A Ciambra is a verité drama about a young boy that finds its power in the intimacy and spontaneity of its visual aesthetic. Tim Curtin’s rough-hewn camera work draws us into the hardscrabble life of the 14-year-old Romani protagonist.

A still of ‘Fanny and Alexander’.
A still of ‘Fanny and Alexander’.

Fanny and Alexander

Though just about any Ingmar Bergman title will offer up a singular visual experience, my pick is a late-period masterwork, Fanny and Alexander. Working with his long-time collaborator, cinematographer Sven Nykvist, Bergman conveys all the mystery and pain of childhood through a series of unhurried, unforgettable images. Note how the rich reds and browns of the Ekdahl household give way to greys and whites as the colour literally fades from the young protagonists’ lives.

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