A scene from Kékszakállú by Gaston Solniki.

There is a funny viral video doing the rounds at the moment of a young boy cracking open a bottle he has found on the beach.  Excitingly, it has a message inside. The message inside turns out to be from a pissed up coke-head and there’s a lovely moment where the kid says, dead-pan, “Beautiful” – “Not a treasure map”.

I expect this is an appalling comparison to make, but I think that video has something in common with a film I saw last week at the New York Film Festival.  It’s called Kékszakállú, by Argentinian director Gaston Solniki.  There is something moving about the everyday loss of innocence and transition to adulthood, and that’s what the film is about.

It starts slowly, with leisurely scenes of children and teens caught in private moments – hesitating at the brink of the diving board, or casting furtive glances at older peers.  A teenage boy buttons his shirt the wrong way two times which I found particularly touching.

I enjoyed the film more as the pace picked up a little, and we began to get snatched narrative, combined with surreal touches. Kékszakállú means Bluebeard – a reference to the one-act opera Bluebeard’s Castle, by Béla Bartók. The score punctuates the film although the reason for this reference is somewhat opaque to me.  In the opera Bluebeard’s wife forces Bluebeard to open doors in his castle, which reveal his shameful secrets so perhaps it reflects the vulnerability of the young people as we observe their intimate moments.

There’s an ensemble of characters; the girl who confidently has her first flat share and prepares meals for her girlfriends, the girl working in a factory, and the rich and beautiful teenagers who have nothing much to do but arrange parties and steal kisses.

As the film progresses we begin to follow one girl in particular.  Berated by her father for running up bills, she is pushed to leave the nest.  The trouble is she has no idea what to be.   She investigates studying at college but can’t choose a course, factory work bewilders her, and she’s out of step with the rich kids.  She prangs her car and cries like a child, not knowing what to do. A young mother with a baby causes her to smile momentarily but the only real plan she harbours, of leaving the country on the ferry is met with stark advice from one of the few adults that she can’t.  She just can’t.  The ferry doesn’t go where she thinks it does.

The film is a cinematograph’s delight and very beautiful to watch.  Every single scene is art – from the girl walking along the side of the building (as pictured above) to the factory turning out polystyrene, and the cyan and mint green swimming pools.

I feel the speed of my own children’s transition out of innocence and, whilst they appear largely unbothered, it induces in me a kind of temporal travel sickness and I worry for them.  I suppose this is why I found the film oddly comforting.  The conclusion of the film is uplifting and hopeful.  I am reminded to be hopeful too.


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