Thessaloniki International Short Film Festival

Euroman

Watching Euroman as part of TISFF was especially interesting since Tzafka is a Greek filmmaker who lives and works in Denmark. It is a simple, often minimalistic, stylish film with a brilliantly integrated soundtrack and a delicately satirical humour. Every bit of music during these twenty-two minutes seems to fit but then again, it doesn’t. It ignites those controlled explosions that interrupt the story, it accompanies it while also ‘mocking’ it. If viewers with synaesthesia were watching, they would surely see random saturated colours popping through the grey, structured world of Copenhagen, where Frederik, the main character lives, both literally and figuratively. That is actually what happens to Frederik as well. He is overjoyed to be a young, successful businessman and his parents’ favourite son. He is in control, in shape, in high-end suits, in for a treat on web-dating and as it turns out, also in a shiny, self-constructed bubble.

Gabriel Tzafka, carefully and quite efficiently sticks a pin in that bubble, using all available means, from the voice of Maria Callas and a vibrant, Danish version of “Bella Ciao” to a cup of coffee that was never served. It feels as if the protagonist is the proud owner of a posh, peaceful and cosy  place, except someone keeps “knocking on the door” to remind him that the rent is months behind.

Katusha

Katusha is the director’s latest short film after 2013’s Helium, which won him his first Academy Award. Previously, Walter also made 9 Meter, a highly acclaimed short that might have been even more touching and original than his Oscar-winner. Both screened at last years TISFF in which the director was also invited. In fact, 9 Meter is about a boy who decided to achieve the impossible, hoping that the energy he’d put to it would somehow keep his beloved mother alive. In this year’s entry Anders Walter presents us with a similar story. Young and talented Katusha (Sarah-Sofie Boussnina, The Absent One) is determined to sober up her alcoholic father for one night at least, so that he can listen to her playing on the violin the song she has written for him.

It is a beautifully photographed and well-edited piece, but the performances and the music are the obvious highlights. Søren Malling (Borgen, A Hijacking) is exceptional as the father who completely abandoned himself and his role in his child’s life, lost in the pain and despair caused by the loss of his wife. Through the duration of the short, he portrays a man who submits alternately to two powerful masters; addiction and love for his daughter. The first is inflamed and fortified by surrender and hopelessness, the second has always been there, repressed under the rest, too weak to take him over. That is exactly what Katusha hopes to change, even if just for a brief moment. Being a gifted musician, she is determined to follow her dream, realising that her father’s situation is unlikely to change. However, she goes through her own emotional ride, which Sarah-Sofie Boussnina embodies convincingly. She delivers a concrete, loud reminder that regardless of the outcome, we can never truly give up on the ones we love. Music is Katusha’s means of expression as well as an important part of the film’s beauty, while the score is actually composed by no other than Rasmus Walter, the director’s twin brother and a well-known singer-songwriter in the Danish music scene.

Second Encounters

This short deals precisely with what its title suggests. Katja (Anna Berentina) and her boyfriend Janus (William Salicath) are about to order dinner at their usual restaurant, when another couple walks in to disturb this finely tuned evening. Simon (Christopher Poll) and Katja share a story, except now he is there with his girlfriend Simone (Biljana Stojkoska) and with all four of them seated at the same table that story can’t be remembered, told or relived. Or perhaps it could.

The premise of a ‘second encounter’ or even the awkwardness of the situation do not come as particularly original, but they look convincing. What is interesting is the confusion Katja and Simon go through, the conflict between their feelings and actions. “Can you repeat the past?” the official description of the film asks, transporting us for a second to the universe of good old Gatsby. One could say that the real question is how would the past feel if you repeat it? Does it all depend on what has changed in you and around you in the meantime between past and present?

This film by Marianne Hansen is actually meant to be the second part of a trilogy on the stages of love through ones life; first love, heartbreak, marriage/divorce.