Rustling Landscapes

Published on: March 23rd, 2004

RUSTLING LANDSCAPES

6/10

Selestenje : Slovenia 2002 : Janez Lapajne : 90mins

An improvised study of a troubled relationship, Rustling Landscapes makes the most of its stunningly scenic locations in Bela Krajina, a secluded forests-and-rivers province of Slovenia. Recovering from an abortion, city-dweller Katarina (Barbara Cerar) escapes to her family’s remote farmhouse – where she’s soon joined by photographer Luka (hunky Rufus Sewell lookalike Rok Vihar), her boyfriend of seven years. Simmering tensions sparked by the abortion rapidly boil over into a vicious argument. And when Luka takes off, Katarina finds solace with Primoz (chubby, balding Grega Zorc), a soldier stationed nearby. Luka’s internal conflicts, meanwhile, are partially soothed by a long chat with Ana (Masa Derganc), who is holidaying in the area with her child and partner.

Lapajne’s strong suit is the evocation of atmosphere – he’s aided immeasurably by cinematographer/cameraman Matej Kriznik’s fluid hand-held digital-video images, and the director makes judicious use of a distinctive, very Slovenian-sounding zither-ish score from Uros Rakovec. As is usually the case with DV technology, the intimacy is at least as much a matter of sound as vision – the film is well-named, as we can hear every cricket and bird in this ‘quiet’ country retreat, providing a vivid background for the characters’ emotional ups and downs.

Rustling Landscapes thus slots into the honourable isolated-farmhouse Euro mini-genre occupied by the likes of Knife in the Water, Funny Games, Dragonflies, Harry He’s Here To Help and Mifune. But fundamental plot shortcomings mean Lapajne’s debut isn’t quite as satisfying as any of those forerunners. Iimprovisation, for all its advantages in terms of unpredictability and emotional rawness, shifts the burden of scriptwriting over to the actors. The results are seldom as coherent or satisfying as screenplays written by more conventional means – and Rustling Landscape often bogs down into lengthy domestic conversation scenes that sound like parodies of talky, Eastern European gloominess.

Lapajne can’t contribute much to these sequences in terms of visuals, so they end up feeling static and extremely theatrical, disrupting the much more engaging loose ‘flow’ of the external scenes. This isn’t any reflection on the four leads, however, who contribute three-dimensional characterisations that mercifully steer well clear of clich. As actors, they’re all fine – but what this movie really needs is a writer.


4th January, 2003
(seen on video, 3rd January)

by Neil Young
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