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Silent Land / In a Violent Nature / Don’t Look at Me That Way

Silent Land

A seemingly perfect couple from Poland vacations in an idyllic coastal town in Italy, only to find the pool at their rental home empty upon arrival, unaware of the fact that the island has been facing a water shortage. After some pushback from the couple and their refusal to accept a discount on their stay, the landlord hires a migrant worker to fix the pool, setting off a chain of events that will profoundly affect their lives.

What do you do when tragedy strikes? We all like to think we'd spring into action, but this film explores the moral foundations of those who freeze. "Silent Land" by Aga Woszczyńska is sparse in dialogue and it’s perfectly patient pacing, yet heavy on aesthetic beauty and emotional depth. It's a film best experienced rather than explained, requiring attentive viewing. If you give yourself over to it, the experience is quite exciting, sometimes disturbing, and ultimately beautiful.

Initially, the film feels cold, but it's anchored by powerfully subtle, layered performances from Dobromir Dymecki as the husband and Agnieszka Zulewska as the wife. The narrative delves into the complex and often conflicting emotions inherent in humans, both as individuals and in their closest relationships. At its core, the film is an exploration of marriage and how an unexpected event can make you question everything you thought you knew about your relationship. It achieves this without resorting to pedantic exposition or moralizing the characters' actions. Although there is a sharp critique of bourgeois vacationing, it is handled with nuance.

"Silent Land" leaves space for viewers to form their own opinions, utilizing cinema's greatest assets: the marriage of sight and sound, combined with a well-crafted script and a director brave enough to let the film speak for itself. The images linger, drawing you into the space. It’s ultimately a drama, but it leaves room for palpable tension, reminding me a bit of the films of Michael Haneke, but with more warmth at the heart.

I deeply loved the this film and I cannot wait to give it another watch, and I encourage you to see it as well.

Silent Land is now streaming on Film Movement + at and on Film Movement Plus through Amazon Prime Video.

In a Violent Nature

What would Friday the 13th be like from the perspective of Jason Voorhees? Or Halloween from the perspective of Michael Myers? These emotionless villains who stalk their prey, always moving forward toward the next victim. The new Shudder original film directed by Chris Nash, In a Violent Nature, seeks to answer this question.

Described by some as ultra-violent yet ambient horror, the film intrigued me. The idea of ambient horror or an art film slasher appealed to my love of minimalist and slow cinema and my soft spot for 80s slasher films like The Mutilator, Prom Night, or Slumber Party Massacre. Unfortunately, it just didn’t work for me as a whole.

Many will likely dislike this film because of the long steadicam shots, apparently inspired by Gus Van Sant's “Elephant”. However, this homage seems more aesthetic rather than substantive. For me, the film falls short by abandoning its initial concept early on, relying instead on exposition and flashbacks marred by some of the worst acting I’ve seen in recent years. The exception is Andrea Pavlovic, who delivers the film's most effective scenes, but is unfortunately underutilized in the first half.

There are moments of genius in the film, which makes my feelings complicated. The effects are impressive, and it doesn’t hold back on gore, with some of the funniest and most creative kills I’ve seen. I appreciate the big swings and the desire to try something new, but I wish there had been more fortitude to stick to the original conceit, or use some of those stronger actors a bit more throughout.

Ultimately, I think this film is worth a watch for horror fans, as it offers glimpse into a wholly unique experience.

In a Violent Nature is now showing at The Alamo Drafthouse is La Vista.

Don’t Look at Me That Way

In the 2015 film “Don’t Look at Me That Way”, which is just now getting a U.S. DVD and VOD release from Film Movement, Iva is struggling to raise her 5-year-old daughter on her own, navigating relationships that lack genuine connection, and dealing with complicated feelings toward her estranged father. Her life takes a turn when she meets her new neighbor, Hedi. From their first encounter, the connection between them is palpable. Hedi defies typical ideas of decorum—she is outspoken, often abrasive, but always intriguing.

This micro-budget film punches above its weight, captivating from the opening moment. I found myself deeply invested in the characters and their evolving relationship. Hedi, played with bravery and depth by writer-director Uisenma Borchu, initially comes across as deeply unlikable—a quality I love in a character. However, as her actions become more questionable, a profound sense of compassion and brokenness emerges. Catrina Stemmer matches Borchu's performance with equal depth and intensity as the deeply in-love Iva.

I don't want to reveal too much about the plot, but this film exemplifies the power of independent cinema. With a small cast and limited locations, it delivers an emotionally charged, beautifully rendered story with some of the best performances I've seen in years, especially remarkable given that both leads are self-proclaimed non-actors.

I would place this film in the canon of all-time great micro-budget films, on par with the best of Cassavetes.

Don’t Look at Me That Way is now available on DVD and VOD from Film Movement.

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Joshua LaBure is a documentary filmmaker, radio producer and podcaster based out of Omaha, Nebraska. His experience includes having directed and produced several short films, two narrative features and two documentary features, with his works featured at the Lone Star Film Festival, The Bureau of Creative Works and other filmmaker showcases. His most recent documentary had a sold-out premiere and received a standing ovation at the Benson Theatre. Furthermore, he founded the Denver Filmmakers Collective, which hosted local filmmaker showcases, has served on jury for major film festivals and has hosted countless film screenings.
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