“It is a time when this country is under a lot of criticism, rightly so, and I have found my place in portraying certain things, but showing them to you in a way that you get to make your own judgment. And so far, I have been very moved that people want to see the good of this country.”
If one of the principal powers and pleasures of cinema is its ability to momentarily suspend thoughts or cares about what lies outside the frame, then Zama can be taken an object lesson in manipulation. Every strenuously controlled moment and movement constitutes an irresistible entreaty to simply go blank and watch.
As Soderbergh, in his mini-mogul practice, endeavors to hack out new routes leading around the established economic order of filmmaking, his films depict men and women doing their best to negotiate contingency plans for the perilous environment created by a carnivorous economy on the prowl.
Depardon is not out to expose naked cruelty, neglect, and dereliction of duty, as Wiseman and Wang do in their films, but something much more subtly invidious: the revolving-door efficiency of the state apparatus, mechanized service behind a blandly humane smile.
The film thrives on translation, communication, and perception. Like the screwball comedies of yore, it revolves around a romantic conflict that its protagonist does not fully comprehend, though here this situation is reduced from the fanciful to the quotidian.
Berlin 2018: Loznitsa is an assiduous practitioner of observational cinema. One may even argue that his nonfiction filmmaking is to the study of spaces charged with political memory what Frederick Wiseman is to the exploration of institutions.