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The Tribe is a new Ukrainian film in which all the characters are deaf and speak in sign language (and not just any ole sign language, but a particular Ukrainian dialect of sign language, which means, from what I understand, that of those of you who can read western European sign language, only 20% will be able to understand it).
But as presented by writer/director Miroslav Slaboshpitsky, it is also a movie in which there are no subtitles. Which means, most of you will probably never really know exactly what anyone is saying.
In other words, The Tribe is a silent film without intertitles. The only sound, in fact, is that of the ambient kind (I can’t even recall the use of music in the background). Slaboshpitsky even exaggerates this sound of feet shuffling down corridors, body parts slamming into each other while having sex or conversations, doors creaking; one might go so far as to say that the ambient sound used here is, well, extremely ambienty.
At first, I found this to be an interesting aesthetic exercise. And people have reacted very positively to it. When I first heard about it at AFI last year, people were very excited and kept recommending it. It has won some very prestigious awards (including three at Cannes). And when I saw it in Los Angeles at the Cinefamily at the Silent Movie Theater, it was a sold out crowd on a Sunday night.
At the same time, other AFIers expressed certain doubts about the film and I fear I must be honest and say I also have some of those selfsame reservations. Continue reading →