The Tribe

 

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In a modern Ukrainian dystopia, a gang of deaf students acts out its rage against the world.

 

Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy's The Tribe does not go out of its way to seduce the mainstream viewer. There is no music, no voice-over, no dialogue and no subtitles. Set in a Kiev boarding school for the deaf, the film conveys all its communication in sign language, with the noise of the outside world dominating everything. Recalling the early oeuvre of Lars von Trier and Gaspar Noé, it is a fiercely original work whose ace card is its authenticity. Utilising genuinely non-professional deaf performers, Slaboshpytskiy goes to enormous pains to paint his grim world as realistically as possible. Many scenes require extraordinary commitment from the cast, baring all, doing everything. It’s a long shout from Children of a Lesser God and it would be fascinating to hear what the deaf think of it, as the director does not paint his characters in a favourable light. There isn’t a sentimental or gentle note in the film.

 

A sort of dumb Scum, the film stars Grygoriy Fesenko as Sergei, who turns up at his new school wide-eyed and wet-behind-the-ears, but who quickly takes to the life of crime spelled out to him. Much like Gus Van Sant’s Elephant, there is a lot of strolling down corridors and the inmates of the institution seem to be in a constant rush to get to their next illicit assignation. There’s a whiff, too, of The Lord of the Flies and If..., as if the students are hermetically sealed from the outside world, only colliding with it in order to scoop up another victim.

 

 The Tribe II

 Signing of the times

 

If The Tribe starts slowly, and is often as good as incomprehensible, it gathers momentum as we become accustomed to the characters and the fact that nothing will be spelled out. One scene in particular is quite startling – not because it is sexual or violent – but because it reveals real citizens speaking real Ukrainian. It is certainly a one-off and is unlikely to be forgotten in a hurry, whether or not one embraces its gimmickry.

Ukrainian title: Plemya.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON       

  

Cast: Grygoriy Fesenko, Yana Novikova, Roza Babiy.

 

Dir Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy, Pro Iya Myslytska and Valentyn Vasyanovych, Screenplay Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy, Ph Valentyn Vasyanovych, Pro Des Vlad Odudenko, Ed Valentyn Vasyanovych, Costumes Alena Gres.

 

Garmata Film Production/Ukrainian Film Agency/Hubert Bals Fund/Development of Ukraine-Metrodome.

131 mins. Ukraine/The Netherlands. 2014. Rel: 15 May 2015. Cert. 18.