In sign language and without subtitles, the film “The Tribe” plunges more than two hours during the spectator into the ruthless daily life of a Ukrainian boarding school for deaf-mutes, between villainous violence and raw sex scenes.
Grand Prize of the week of criticism at the last Cannes Film Festival, “The Tribe”, the first feature film of Ukrainian director Myroslav Slaboshpytskyiy, released in theaters on October 1, 2014 and will be broadcast in 26 countries, is a singular film, starring on stage a community that is not very present in the cinema. “The goal was to make a contemporary and realistic silent film, which would be easily understood without the use of words,” says the director, already author in 2010 of a short film (“Deafness”) on the deaf-mutes.
In “The Tribe”, Sergei, a deaf-mute teenager, joins a specialized institute where gangs of men dictate his law, from classrooms to dormitories. “Some see in the film a metaphor of the Ukrainian social system,” says the director, who said that “the film is based largely on his memories of school” but also on what deaf and dumb have told him. In the boarding school, Sergei is beaten and racketed, he takes the blows and imposes himself in “the tribe” to seduce Anna, a boarder who prostitutes herself to emigrate to Italy.Not located – the plot takes place in Ukraine – and almost out of time, the film is a succession of long shots – the director multiplies the back and forth between the dormitory, dark and sinister, and a truck parking, where Anna and a Another boarder sells their body at nightfall.The adults, who are almost absent from the film, are all accomplices in the massacre game orchestrated by the gang of teenagers.
Sobs and groans
Everything happens behind walls or at night. The negotiations between the boarders are incessant: we rely on expressions of faces and bodies to better understand what is being played. Faced with silence and the absence of music, the sounds of footsteps, creaking doors and slamming are exacerbated. Only a few cries of pain and brief ecstasy punctuate the 2:12 of the film. The tension increases in the last half hour: Anna undergoes a clandestine abortion. Four long minutes of sobs and groans, faced with the coldness of the metal instruments handled by an impassive “angel maker”. “The scene required a whole day of shooting,” says actress Yana Novikova, who plays Anna. “Shooting, sometimes in mid-winter, has been very tiring,” she says. Played by actors all deaf and dumb and non-professional, “The Tribe” succeeds the bet of captivating from the beginning to the end.