Friday, May 16, 2008

Cannes 2008 diary: ‘Lion’s Den’ and 'Three Monkeys'

Cannes 2008 diary: ‘Lion’s Den’ and 'Three Monkeys'

Geoff Andrew likes Pablo Trapero's 'Lion's Den', but loves 'Nuri Bilge Ceylan's 'Three Monkeys', both of which screened at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival


On the surface, the best film here so far for me – Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s ‘Three Monkeys’ – is only very superficially about incarceration, in that the story is quickly kick-started when a local politician facing elections persuades his driver to take the rap for him after the former knocks over a man with his car; in return he’ll pay his employee’s salary to his teenage son, and hand over a large lump sum when he emerges from prison after six months or so.

But if we actually see only a couple of prison-set scenes, when the son visits his father, that doesn’t mean that imprisonment isn’t a central, almost Dostoievskian metaphor for what happens to the driver, his wife and son, and the the politician. For that lie told to the cops is merely the first – and indeed the fount – of many more deceits that shape the increasingly twisted and dangerous interactions between the four protagonists, all of whom soon find themselves trapped like rats by their own fears, desires, doubts and suspicions.

This fifth feature is arguably the most ambitious film yet from the maker of ‘Uzak’ and ‘Climates’. It has the dry humour, assured pacing, astute psychological insights and sharp sense of moral and dramatic irony that has been conspicuous in all his work, but in many respects the film feels like an expansion upon ‘Climates’, not only in extending that film’s clear-eyed, unsentimental assessment of male-female relationships from a couple to a whole family and its acquaintances, but in exploring the rich potential afforded by digital technology; if you thought Ceylan’s photographer’s eye produced stunning images in ‘Climates’, ‘Three Monkeys’ pushes the envelope still further. It’s been bought for the UK, so when it turns up, see it – and marvel!

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