The Tribe

The Tribe ★★½

Cinematic World Tour 2016: Destination 120 (Ukraine)

I just can’t make up my mind about The Tribe and indecision isn’t something that lends itself well to review-writing, but here goes:

I can’t decide whether its treatment of its rather horrific subject matter is genuinely arresting or overly sensationalist and deliberate, as though Slaboshpytskyi is so keen to be taken seriously that he’s needlessly shoved in as much horrible violence as he could in the belief that tackling difficult topics is what makes you a great director. This said, I can see its value as a character study in which a man is gradually corrupted by his peers and becomes morally ambiguous in an increasingly complex way. Most of this becomes apparent only at the end of what is an overly long film, but it is an arresting ending nonetheless and changes your perception of the surprisingly dull stuff that’s come before.

I also found the central gimmick of not subtitling it for foreigners very irritating and unnecessary, leading to a lot of extended, boring scenes where you have no idea what’s going on and far too much repetition of essentially the same thing over and over, presumably to get the message across in a rather clumsy way. I can, however, see the point of shifting our view of the world from a primarily audiovisual one to an entirely visual one in the way experienced by deaf people. Whilst I’m not sure that allows for enough plot-building and could still have been done with subtitles, it is an interesting idea and I don’t feel able to entirely write it off as stupid as yet.

What I can say for sure is that it’s very ill-disciplined and poorly directed. There are so many unnecessary scenes, so many shots that get held for too long and far too much repetition that becomes very numbing. It’s also far too long and not tactful enough in the way it builds plot and character to justify its exasperatingly slow pace. It is very flawed but it’s also very bold and I honestly don’t know whether I like it or not. Hmm...