The Richter Scale: Mellow Mud + United States of Love

The Richter Scale: Mellow Mud + United States of Love

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Mellow Mud

Official Selection International Feature

Dir. Renars Vimba

GTO | Wednesday 27 | 16:00 hrs | Juárez Theater

The Richter Scale says: Being underage is frustrating because your whole life depends on the decisions that other people make. If your parents abandon you, someone has to take care of you because the law says you can’t take care of yourself. Raya (Elina Vaska) will be 18 in the fall, but everything is happening to her now and she needs to find a way to take control of her situation and that of her little brother Robis (Andzejs Lilientals). When their grandmother Olga (Ruta Birgere) diez, Raya decides not to tell Social Services about it and to take her of herself and her brother while she wins a trip to London to find her mother, but taking care of a child so close to adolescence is harder than Raya thought it would and more when she’s distracted by first love with her English teacher (Edgars Samitis).

Even with all these melodramatic elements to the story, this Latvian film is very subtle in the way it presents it story, with performances based on silences and expressions, cinematography that drains out the color and a direction that creates impact by skipping strong moments, trusting that the suggestion of these events is stronger than actually seeing them (a style that is very common in Eastern Europe). This storytelling method gives the performances a lot of weight, particularly the one given by Elina Vaska, a young lady that says a lot with just one look. She carries the story on her shoulders and there are moments where that burden is noticeably heavy, but she manages to sustain it with a character that doesn’t always make the right choices and often makes some very selfish ones that harm other people (particularly her brother), but even with the distance that the character keeps from the audience, Raya is very endearing specifically because she’s not begging the us to love her.

Latvia is not a country we see on the big screen so often (because very few films from that country arrive to our neck of the Woods) which is why it’s interesting for us to see that part of the world. The script’s structure is solid, with a very clear character arch and a resolution that focuses on the growth of our characters rather than solving every issue presented. One leaves this film with the idea that no matter how old we are, we’re all figuring life out. Some people may have responsibilities that go beyond what the rest have to deal with and others may choose to abandon their responsibilities out of fear or ego, but no matter how old we are or the situation we’re in, we’re all figuring things out and improvising our part to play in life. We invite you to see how Raya figures this one out.

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United States of Love

Official Selection International Feature

Dir. Tomasz Wasilewski

GTO | Wednesday 27 | 20:00 hrs | University of Guanajuato Auditorium

The Richter Scale says: A woman will do anything for love. That’s what’s been said and if that doesn’t necessarily apply to all the women in the world, it certainly applies to the four protagonists of this Polish film. It’s 1990, the Berlin Wall has already been torn down and it’s the first year of freedom from the Soviet Union. Agata (Julia Kijowska), Iza (Magdalena Cielecka), Marzena (Marta Nieradkiewicz) and Renata (Dorota Kolak), four women of different ages and connected in some way, each live their own love story. Agata is trapped in a marriage in which the love disappeared a long time ago and she tries to get it back. Iza has had an affair with a married man for years and now that said man’s wife has diezd, she wants a more serious commitment. Marzena (who, as it turns out, is Iza’s sister) waits for her husband to return from Germany, while Renata, who is Marzena’s neighbor, becomes obsessed with her (she’s evidently attracted to her).

Polish cinema always creates a distance between the spectator and the story, showing characters not as people with whom we have the right to get involved with, but as people with lives of their own that we’re watching for the time that some force is allowing us to (though it does allow us to intrude on very intimate moments). Though it’s shot in color, the cinematography by Oleg Mutu (who worked on 4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days) uses natural lighting to give the locations a gray, depressing film, highlighting how uncertain this new post-communism is. As is customary there is little dialogue and a lot of silence for the characters to express what they must without speaking (ocassionally with unusual gestures), allowing the audience a little window into the characters, not big enough to connect with them completely so we’re still able to be objective about them.

Anny connection achieves with these characters is because of the actresses on screen. Renata is probably the most endearing, since her story exposes the purest expression of chasing after something unreachable (and she’s fron and center in the film’s most memorable moments). Iza is probably the most active of these protagonists and much of what she does is deplorable, but thanks to a profundity that both the screenplay and the actress achieve, we understand where her actions are coming from and while we may question whether we want her to get what she wants, we’re interested in the consequences of what she does. The film’s structure divides all the stories, which means we follow each woman by herself until her story reaches its climax (or a point that looks like one) and we go to the next story (with the previous protagonists somewhere in the background) but it’s all connected by the idea that no matter what these women may be doing, at the end of the day it’s all for love.