Monday, August 29, 2016

AFS Screening: Grand Central

With the AFS screenings, I choose classic movies which I have never seen before. I broke this rule because of this movie's cast: Tahar Rahim was in A Prophet, one of the best crime films I've seen in years, and Lea Seydoux has been in lots of great things (and some not-so-great things).

The story is about a ne'er-do-well (Rahim) who gets a job working in the bowels of a nuclear power plant. While he has to worry about the dangers of radiation exposure (known ominously as 'The Dose'), he finds distraction in the arms of a workmate's wife (Seydoux). 

This movie is a skin-crawling experience. The nuclear power plant is no backdrop to the action -- it powers (haha) the entire experience of the movie.

The dangers of contamination and sterility are constantly evoked. Many shots feature the power plant looming over the action like some powerful, apathetic god, and it quickly becomes clear that it is literally the most important character in the film. 


When the central lovers are together, it's not erotic or romantic -- it just feels like two frail, insignificant organisms. Their affair would be the most important part of a drama like this, but co-writer-director Rebecca Zlotowski forces it into the background. Her use of slow motion and the discordant music by Robin Coudert saps the non-work-related sequences of life. It is as though, even when they are not on the clock, the power plant is sapping them dry.

The movie is very existential and depressing -- what is the point of drinking, or having fun, or sex, or living, when you know you are slowly being poisoned to death?

Grand Central is a strange, unsettling experience. I can't say I didn't enjoy it however.

The story is always engrossing, the actors are all believable and understated, and Rebecca Zlotowski's direction is extremely imaginative -- she manages to balance moments of extreme, visceral reality and strange, poetic passages of silence. 

It might not be to all tastes, but Grand Central is a very engrossing watch, that seeps into your brain and stays there. 

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