DIY Cannes 2013: Abel (Voyeur)

abelTo stave off the depression of not being at Cannes while everyone I follow on Twitter gabs about their new favorite discoveries, I’ve decided to take the opportunity and hold my own film festival. Every night, I’m going to watch a movie I haven’t seen by one of the director’s debuting on the Croisette. Thanks to the power of Netflix, so many foreign movies and older auteur classics are available for Instant Streaming. Who knows what discoveries I might find along the way?

And yes, I know it’s over, but 2 week long trips in the middle of this project set me back very far. I’m going to finish it up anyway BECAUSE I CARE. Or I’m still unemployed.

Movie #8: Abel (Voeyur) (1982)

Director: Alex Van Warmerdam

His Cannes 2013 Movie: Borgman

When I went to look up Abel on Netflix, it was described as emotional and scary. Oh boy! I ended up watching about 2 minutes of the Spanish language Abel directed by Diego Luna until his title card came up and I realized it was the wrong one. Whoops!

Alex Van Warmerdam’s Abel (pronounced AH-ble for the pretentious out there) is anything but emotional or scary. In this bizarre dark esoteric comedy, the eponymous Abel, played by the director is a thirty-something living at home with his parents, Dove (Olga Zuiderhoek) and Victor (Henri Garcin). The catch is that he has literally never left his house. Ever. It’s unclear if it’s because his parents keep him there or if it’s by his own choice, but it’s most likely some combo of the two. Either way, all hell breaks loose when Abel asks for a TV.

This is one of those rare films where the plot was wholly unimportant to my enjoyment of the movie, but I am hesitant to reveal anything else about the story. I can say that I it is purely unique in tone. I don’t really have words except to say imagine Dogtooth but as an 80s comedy in Dutch. Everything looks like it cost about $80 to make and all of the “city” shots are shamelessly just cardboard boxes against a colored backdrop. But that’s okay. In fact, that all makes this movie way more fun. From awkward dancing to his ingenious method of killing flies (cutting them in half with scissors!) each very bizarre character makes his or her own mark on the film.

I am almost certain that there is some kind of Cold War analogy to be made here, but I think it would be a disservice to the film to talk about it when there are themes that still ring true 30 years later. Now with laptops and iPhones people never need to leave their houses. How will we experience the world? Will we end up like poor disinterested Abel? And what is the role new technology should play? Certainly a filmmaker would have a difficult time condemning television and movies, and Van Warmerdam never even pretends to do so. Abel might make you ask these questions. But more likely it will just make you want to annoy your parents. And that’s okay, too.

 

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