Monday, March 7, 2016
#766: Here Is Your Life
How you respond to Here Is Your Life will largely depend on how much you believe film should reflect the natural rhythms of reality. As a conventional piece of cinematic storytelling, Here Is Your Life is a crushing bore. But that's primarily because the film is more interested in the simple and identifiable (not through other cinema but through IRL) experiences of growing up, struggling to find a calling, and awakening to the responsibilities and conflicts of adulthood. It's a pretty fascinating approach considering the film was the debut feature from its director.
The two Criterions that came to mind while watching the film are extremely different, but get at the respective flaws and strengths here. Berlin Alexanderplatz is another direct adaptation of a novel that features a great deal of internal dialog that is lost in translation, resulting in an aimless and undistinguished plot. It's very easy for nothing to happen in a book because the prose and characters' internal thoughts can make anything interesting if done well enough. In film, the routine and unremarkable nature of everyday life becomes excruciatingly dull. Though Here Is Your Life is thankfully one fifth the running time of Berlin, it still drags on for a difficult three hours that will be brutal for any but the most dedicated of slow cinema fans. The beautiful imagery (especially in the opening logging sequence) can go a long way, but at a certain point the returns on the investment of time become negligible.
The other film that Here Is Your Life reminded me of is I Am Curious (Yellow), one of the worst films in the Collection. Made a year after this infinitely superior film, I Am Curious (Yellow) followed a similar coming of age political and sexual awakening, though the later film gained notoriety because it was about a(n occasionally naked) woman, while this film languished in obscurity until Criterion released it last year. Both movies however represent a conscious cinematic jump from earlier Swedish film, though Here Is Your Life does so in a more subtle and appealing way.
I wish I liked Here Is Your Life more than I did and can certainly respect viewers who are blown away by the film's leisurely pace and quiet confidence. I actually quite liked Everlasting Moments, the first Troell film in the Collection that snuck in thanks to the IFC deal, and I'm very much looking forward to The Emigrants. But Here Is Your Life felt more like a movie to be endured than an epic to savor.