Life is heavy in The Weight of Elephants
by Valentina di Michele
10/02/2013 - The Weight of Elephants [trailer, festival scope], feature film debut for New-Zealander Daniel Joseph Borgman, winner of the Grand Prix during the Semaine de la Critique in Cannes in 2010 with his short Berik, was presented on February 9 at the Berlinale, in the Forum and Generation sections.
Inspired by novel Of a boy by Sonya Hartnet, the film follows Adrian, an eleven-year-old who was abandoned by his mother but now lives with his strict and cold grandmother in the countryside and has a problem-ridden but affectionate uncle, painter Rory. The heart-breaking story of the boy is constantly made worse by terrible details, seamlessly added on by Borgman. Three children disappeared in the city, and Adrian is terrified and upset. At school, Adrian falls prey to bullying and his one attempt to impress his classmates (capturing a rabbit from the garden) ends up going disastrously wrong. His uncle’s mental state is slowly deteriorating and his new neighbour, Nicole, lives with her little brother and ill mother in a devastating state.
The story’s gloomy desperation leaves onlookers with no way of escape, in an escalating atmosphere of pain which is reminiscent, due to its plot, icy pastel photography and blurry images, of Submarino [trailer, film focus] by Thomas Vinterberg.
The weight of the elephant from the title refers to the pressure afflicting the film’s main characters (children and adults) as well as the film itself. The only serene moment is when the uncle introduces the child to the sound of crystal glasses.
The director, a Lars von Trier admirer, moved to Denmark with Berlin-native Katja Adomeit, who produced The Weight of Elephants for Zentropa, in co-production with Severe Features (New Zealand), Zentropa Sweden and Film i Väst (Sweden), with support from the Danish Film Institute. NZ Films is taking care of international sales.
(Translated from Italian)