1 April 2019 | MOscarbradley
Beautiful but very tedious.
Sometimes even the act of escape, from a prison or country, can be boring, mundane or routine. Bresson knew that, just as he knew that the act of stealing something from someone's pocket largely went unnoticed. Today refugees are crossing borders everywhere and are risking their lives in doing so but for a lot of the time, all they are doing is just walking or sitting by the roadside or eating or sleeping. The final hours, the sea journey, the race across the wall to escape the guards, that is where the 'excitement' comes in; that is where film-makers milk the situation in order to give audiences a buzz.
Fabrizio Ferraro, however, takes a different route in his remarkable and austere film "Les Unwanted de Europa", shot in stark black and white, in which the French philosopher Walter Benjamin is just one of many attempting to escape the threat of Nazism by illegally crossing the Pyrenees in 1940. Capture could mean death or imprisonment but mostly he and his companions just walk, silently, perfecting the art of the mundane.
Ferraro is another art-house director who, like Bela Tarr, believes in long-takes in which nothing very much happens; life and time just pass. Of course, this won't be to everyone's taste. Some will find it like watching paint dry but here the paint is in monochrome rather than in colour. No-one on screen 'acts'; they simply 'are', set down in this time and place. It's a beautiful looking film but like the act of escape shown here is mostly tedious and mundane. Action and excitement are for the multiplexes and the moguls; this is as it is.