Red Lorry Day 02: Perfect Days' charm, Sulis 1907's revolt, and The Girl in the Trunk's horror

Karishma Jangid
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Red Lorry Day 02

Perfect Days is a poetic celebration of everyday life, while Sulis 1907 depicts a revolution by mine workers in Norway. As for The Girl in the Trunk, well, the title speaks for itself.

Who knew that documentation of a toilet cleaner’s life could be this poetic? Salute to Wim Wenders; 'Perfect Days' is refreshing and how! It's like a minimal yet mesmerizing painting that reminds us of cinema's artistic essence, even in today's commercialized world. The film documents the life of a public toilet cleaner Hirayama (Kōji Yakusho) who has a set routine. He does the same thing over and over again every day. He drinks the same coffee every day, eats at the same place, and takes his job pretty seriously. I know that this sounds rather monotonous. But the film doesn’t make you pity him, it makes you envy him. 

While Hirayama's life may seem sad, it's actually quite peaceful. He spends his days listening to his beloved old songs on cassette tapes, enjoying the company of his favourite tree, and exchanging smiles with a mentally ill stranger. He soaks in a hot bath, and reads until he drifts off to sleep. Perfect Days celebrates the beauty found in the mundane without romanticizing struggle. The film takes our worst fear- loneliness in old age- and demonstrates that solitude can be surprisingly serene. In a world where constant hustle is praised, the idea of a quiet, solitary existence is often stigmatized. However, Perfect Days gently and poetically challenges this notion.

Also Read: Red Lorry Day 01: Exploring Life through the female lens via 'Tatami' and 'Black Tea'

Hirayama rarely lets his emotions show. Throughout the film, he barely speaks; there's hardly any dialogue. In fact, we only learn his name after the first half-hour. However, the movie meticulously depicts Hirayama's daily routine, immersing you in his world. It demands patience, occasionally stretching beyond necessity. Yet, it's rewarding because Perfect Days doesn't focus on presenting the protagonist with a crisis to solve. Instead, it weaves a tapestry of emotions that quietly charm you. Before you know it, you're drawn into Hirayama's life, falling under its spell.

Additionally, Yakusho's portrayal feels so genuine and effortless that it's impossible to look away. You experience everything through his perspective, which is truly captivating. The music, too, feels like a character in itself, adding to the film's charm. The melodies linger in your mind long after the credits roll, much like Hirayama's smile whenever he admires the trees. Perfect Days is cinematic poetry that leaves a profound impression on your soul.

After the serene experience, I was up for some revolutionary fierceness with 'Sulis 1907,' also known as 'The Riot.' When a director carries the weight of being an 'Academy Award nominee,' naturally, expectations for his movie soar. That's why Nils Gaup's Sulis 1907 falls short of what it could be. At first glance, the storyline seems simple enough: there's a good guy and a bad guy, they clash, and the good guy triumphs. But delve deeper, and you'll find it's a tale of rebellion among mine workers in Sulitjelma, Norway. The story kicks off with 10-year-old Konrad Nilsson (Otto Fahlgren) being auctioned off like a piece of property. Fast forward to when he's 16, he lands a job at the formidable Hanken mine. However, trouble brews when a new mine director imposes exploitative and dangerous policies.

The movie disappointingly sticks to a simple storyline: The hero triumphs initially, faces tragedy, encounters complications, and ultimately emerges victorious. Adding to the letdown, most of the actors deliver average performances that lack conviction. So, what's the redeeming factor? The film's message. It sheds light on the struggles of workers—low pay, long hours, and dangerous work conditions under capitalism's gaze, where profit often outweighs human rights. It examines how capitalists sabotage worker unity. At first glance, this might seem like a preachy documentary or communist propaganda, and it's tempting to brush it off as a tale of a bygone era. However, its relevance to today's world is striking. Economic inequality, exploitation, and worker suffering are our reality, with the rich growing richer while the poor struggle. Also, attempts at resistance often lead to unemployment. The ages have changed but greed is constant. Hence, even though formulaic, the film is worth watching for its revolutionary essence.

One film, though, that might not be worth watching, especially for those who are easily scared, is Jonas Kvist Jensen's 'The Girl in the Trunk.'  I understand that most movies need to push the main characters through tough situations for them to grow. But there's a fine line between making things intense and just being repulsive. Unfortunately, The Girl in the Trunk leans too heavily towards the latter. It starts off with Amanda Jennings (Katharina Sporrer), a young American woman, getting kidnapped after fleeing from her own wedding. Now, she's stuck in the trunk of a rental car she needs to return. On top of that, there's a serial kidnapper, some daddy issues, and a fiancé she's not too keen on. 

Despite its intriguing elements, the movie becomes overly fixated on tormenting the main character, neglecting other aspects. It feels like an endless cycle of torture, which, while gripping, can also be repulsive. The film stretches believability more than necessary, sometimes straining the audience's willingness to suspend disbelief. At times the film delves into the loneliness that leaves a gaping hole in Amanda’s life due to her resentment against her father and fiance. Some redemption, right? However, the treatment of their complex relationship is rather unconvincing. Despite Sporrer's efforts to breathe life into the character, the shortcomings of the script are plenty. The superficial end, too, marred my experience of the film. No matter how promising the film may seem, without strong storytelling, it fails to fully entertain.

Perfect Days, The Riot, and The Girl in the Trunk were premiered in India at BookMyShow's Red Lorry Film Festival.

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Perfect Days Sulis 1907 The Girl in the Trunk