29 November 2012 | ilpohirvonen
From Dawn to Dusk: A Deterministic Tragedy
Benedek Fliegauf's "Just the Wind" has divided its audience to lovers and haters. Some accuse the film for demagogy or creating black and white illusions while others praise the director's style and social sensibility. In all its simplicity, "Just the Wind" tells what happens to a Romani family during one ordinary day: the mother works as a cleaner in two shift works, her daughter gets bored at school bench, and her son skips school, building a safe house in the woods. The only way out seems to be the father of the family who already lives in Canada. The children are anxiously waiting for them to move, although there is really no reason to believe why things would be any better on the other side of the globe.
The film begins with morning sunlight sparkling through treetops into dim space. In fact, images of dawn, fields, woods, water and dusk do reign the visual world of the film. To my mind, it is astonishing how Fliegauf has managed to make everyday realism so utterly beautiful. There is even something neo-realist in the camera-work. But as the film dazzles with its aesthetics it also horrifies with its content.
The gloomy, dark-themed mood of "Just the Wind" isn't, however, merely due to the shadow cast on the remote village by racist murders but also a consequence of efficient sound design and long takes that are framed in a distressingly narrow fashion. With his documentary-like approach Fliegauf not only highlights the authenticity of the milieu (each scene takes place in natural setting and lighting) but also the fact that this has actually happened. In addition, the film manages to create such a tension which keeps in its grip and coerces the viewer into identifying with the bleak reality portrayed. The viewer must identify with the characters and experience, for an hour and a half, what they go through every single day. This mood which exhales misery is, at times, quite hard to bear but fortunately broken down every once in a while by lyric landscape shots which are both serene and soothing.
In the cinematographic depiction, created by hand-held camera and deliberately improvised composition, nature plays an integral role. It's an active part of the drama, and especially the colors of green and yellow are continuously recorded to the spectator's consciousness. As an essential element in the film's aesthetics, nature is, however, counterpointed with architecture of degradation which enhances the emotion of the beginning of an end. People live in shattered ruins where grown-ups are practically living dead. Trash, rotten food, cast-off objects and flat coffee infiltrate through the screen to the sense organs of the viewer. In "Just the Wind" only the children are capable of brief moments of joy in this stark environment but, at the same, adult-like responsibility is constantly required.
Noteworthy is also that Fliegauf doesn't idealize the Romani people, not to the least extent. This is not a one-sided portrayal. Fliegauf depicts a certain regression of alienation -- the final stage of exclusion where people have been divided into friends and foes. After this, guns talk. In a detailed manner, the film shows how the society has itself created such conditions and furthers the worsening situation with its disregard action. Hence, the darkness of the film is directly due to social reality and the circumstances emerging from it. The film doesn't answer nor preach. It only agitates and shows. The film asks why. As ominous elements culminate, the film begins to show its true deterministic nature: how the dark-themed drama inevitably leads to an uncompromising disaster.