by Jörn Weisbrodt, published on September 17, 2015|
I was in town for the opening weekend of TIFF. I’ll miss the rest of the Festival as I am on my way to Athens, currently sitting at the airport and thumbing this latest blog post on my blackberry (yup, I am seriously unabashedly old-fashioned). I saw films by directors who have been dear to me for a long time and have become, one of the many wonders of moving to Toronto, dear friends. I had a busy weekend with Deepa Mehta's Beeba Boys which I had seen twice before as Deepa invited me for earlier screenings; Atom Egoyan's Remember; and Patricia Rozema's Into the Forest! I have to say I was blown away by all of them. Yes, they were created by my friends, but I was not blown away by every film I saw — for example by the opening night film. That’s not to say that I did not like Demolition but I thought that the director just wanted to put too much into it: criticism of capitalism, love, the war in the middle east, gay and even transgender issues (the latest truly hip subject of the film industry). The only thing that was missing was environmentalism and global warming. But back to my friends.
And the third one — which was maybe the biggest surprise as I knew the least about it — is Patricia Rozema's Into the Forest. It is about two sisters who live in the B.C. forest, 30 minutes away from the next village with their father, when the entire North American power grid collapses. No explanation needed why that happened. Rozema concentrates on what happens with this family, what happens to who people are, to friends, to siblings. No images of collapsing bridges, panicking masses, but three people trying to cope with this situation that is basically an exercise in rescuing our humanness.
The two sisters, played by Evan Rachel Wood and Ellen Page, are the Thelma and Louise of the environmental age. What is interesting I think is that Rozema has taken them into a different landscape, and therefore also completely into a different field of meaning. "Thelma and Louise" was about the wide openness, the endless skies, the plains, individualism, basically the landscape of the American Dream where the sky is the limit. It was interrupted by a rift in the earth, the Grand Canyon which stands for a rift in society: women cannot be independent. The forest is a completely different cultural landscape. It is more introspective; facing your demons, it is more analytical, more psychological, the landscapes of Grimm's Fairytales which are basically all about family, about altruistic things, about how we relate to each other and how we live with each other, about overcoming our ego. The openness of the desert is about individuality and about fulfilling your ambition. The forest teaches co-existence — especially these amazing Northern Rainforests of B.C. What Rozema seems to say is that the landscape of today is the forest. The age of individualism should be over. You have to live with the forest, within it; you cannot live against it whereas in the desert you have to live in spite of it. You live against nature, you defeat nature. If you live against the forest, you destroy it.
The film quotes Antichrist by Lars von Trier but also his Melancholia which I think is one of the greatest films ever. Antichrist completely demonizes the forest whereas Into the Forest is the movie for everyone to fall in love with the forest again. What Rozema created is the image of a welcoming forest, of the possibility of a retreat and a new beginning, the beginning of a home. Forests were the beginnings of civilization. Once people left the caves they started to build shelters/homes with wood. When they hit the deserts, they invented monotheism (think of all the prophets who have their visions in the desert) and air-conditioning, the ultimate rebellion against nature. These two women take the next step that we all have to take sooner than later. Thank you, Patricia, for tying our laces!