Fantasia Festival 2020: Time of Moulting (Fellwechselzeit, 2020)

Time of Moulting (Fellwechselzeit, 2020)

Director (and writer): Sabrina Mertens

Cast: Freya Kreutzkam, Miriam Schiweck, Zelda Espenschied, Bernd Wolf

Germany in the 1970s. Stephanie is a lively child, enjoys board games, playdates with neighbours, and holidays with the family. But her life takes an increasing turn towards isolation at the hands of her absent, temperamental father and a mentally unstable, often bedridden mother trapped in world of her own making. Something is quietly rotting away under the surface of familial life, and soon, the days turn into weeks, the weeks into months, the months into years… bringing aging, clutter, decay, but no future in sight. Strange rituals abound and the outhouse – where the family keeps their boxes of memories and secrets – exerts a growing influence. So Stephanie retreats into a dark world of barbaric fantasies… – Fantasia Festival

Time of Moulting is a German drama film set in a series of still shots and moving interactions between the family over the span of two different age of the main girl Stephanie. The first is where she is a little girl and dealing with her family especially the bond with her mother while it jumps forward to the second part when she is a teenager in the vicinity of her home every single day and the change the grows in her.

Time of Moulting feels a little like a abstract character study of Stephanie. At the same time, its a film that is very experimental and slow-paced and requires a lot of reading between the lines as well as being incredibly patient to decipher all the is going on. There isn’t a lot of dialogue or interaction and its all watching some odd moments go on with Stephanie and the little things that carry from one scene to the next while also having other scenes as she interacts with her father who doesn’t really care too much and sits around watching TV a lot and her mother who is mostly unwell. The film takes place in the one setting of their home and the outhouse surrounded with clutter and mess as well as their cat.

The impression of Time of Moulting truly depends on how much of the abstract story it wants to tell is delivered to the audience. For myself, there is merit in the way it chooses to film it from the color tone of each setting to the different items that Stephanie uses even up to her scenes from a child to teenager where she starts doing some rather questionable things and making some odd decisions. It all moves straight to an even more abstract ending that almost doesn’t answer of the oddities from before and wraps up with ambiguity. Suffice to say that I’m not the audience meant for this film as the merit of the moments doesn’t add up to be greater than the shock of the ending and what might have happened leaves too many questions still in the air. Perhaps its one meant for discussion and would be interesting to see how others interpret this film, for myself, its on the same level as a previous movie that I had reviewed called La Version Nouvelle (review) which has a lot of similarities in how the film is executed even if the story is a completely different one.

I’m sure that there are people with deeper power of connection that might appreciate this movie for what its trying to present. There are some shocking moments that Stephanie does and the ending does have that sudden moment of revelation at one part that is fun. The cat parts throughout also was very fun (but when are cats not fun to see in movies) but this movie is a gloomy slow-paced story focused on a young girl going through some personal and psychological change which matches to the title of Moulting but what is “Moulting”? I have a lot of different theories right now but nothing that feels like I have a concrete answer because its a little too ambiguous and abstract for my own preference. However, if you do like these sort of experimental movie experiences, this is one to check out.

Festival du Nouveau Cinema: La Version Nouvelle (World Premiere 2018)

La Version Nouvelle (2018)

la version nouvelle

Director (and writer): Michael Yaroshevsky

Cast: Sophie Desmarais

A woman spends her days editing the film of an absent lover. – IMDB

Festival du Nouveau Cinema described this one as experimental and that is definitely the word that I would describe it as. The movie is obscure but there are bits that somewhat abstractly make sense. The story focuses around a girl played by our sole actress Sophie Desmarais as she edits a montage with things that her past or absent lover has left behind. Why is this person missing? No idea. Maybe its for travelling because of where the images come from. But its not important because the movie revolves around an undefined abstract Russian word and I suppose how her current state in life reflects it: solitude, loneliness, thought provoking.

la version nouvelle

La Version Nouvelle is extremely slow paced and voiced with interview montages and our actress only has voice over images and videos from travelogues. Cryptic and well meant to be deep and thought provoking. I saw this in a respectful way. I was confused on what it was trying to achieve but after a few days of reflecting and considering what the Q&A session from the director, I feel like a somewhat knoe what it was meant to do. The issue here is its abstract nature and its pacing and nothing really feels like it happens as we observe this girl.

While the story and the message could be executed better, there are qualities here. Maybe not enough yo redeem it as a whole but the framing of each shot is incredible with its depth as we watch this girl move around the house. Sometimes its at a distance and others she is off frame doing something else and oddly it works well. The travelogue images and snippets are also really beautifully done. While most of the time, I failed to have the depth that the girl feels towards it, they were visually stunning. At the same time, there was a lot of thought and detail in the sound design on the scenes and behind the snippets and images that elevated the scenes from the montage.

La Version Nouvelle

La Version Nouvelle is a hard one to talk about. On a technical level, its filmed really nicely but the movie is paced so slow and so abstract that it feels like everything is lost and might need to be paired with an ending Q&A to make sense of it all. Even then, my takeaway is the ambitious desire for the director to interpret a Russian word with such a uncertain definition is what makes it even harder to understand. If it means something different for everyone, the audience will be left feeling the same way and hence, I can only call this experimental. I am not at the level of deep thinking like the director so I don’t want to say its a bad film because its done well but there was a lack of enjoyment in its pacing and disjointed and emptiness for myself.