Director: Miroslav Slaboshpitsky
Stars: Grigory Fesenko, Yana Novikova
4 (out of 5) Globes
It’s not hyperbole to say the clinical Ukranian nightmare “The Tribe” is unlike any film ever made. It’s what they call that misleading, inaccurate term “pure cinema.” It has images and sounds but no words, neither printed nor said. The entire cast is deaf, and though they sign language up a storm, none of it is subtitled. (To put things in perspective, even F.W. Murnau’s “The Last Laugh,” a rare silent film with almost no intertitles, has one intertitle. This has zero.) There are sounds — including some witty plays with off-screen noises, such as ominously approaching footsteps — but some scenes unfold with the barest ambiance. The viewer is thus forced to do actual watching, not to let the mind drift to deciphering dialogue or to let the eyes zero in on words printed on the bottom of the screen. We stare head on, not given an excuse to look away, especially lest we miss one of the film’s sudden bursts of unspeakable horror.
Of course, you’re still using part of your attention to figure what’s going on. Plot in “The Tribe” isn’t always decipherable, and on purpose: The film, the debut feature of Miroslav Slaboshpitsky, wants to make us feel lost and out of control, much like (if nowhere near exactly like) its characters and actors. From what we can tell it deals with Sergey (Grigory Fesenko), a young man who shows up at what appears to be a school for the deaf, but may be something else entirely. (There’s one adult, who teaches woodshop, but even he seems nefarious.) Whatever it is, Sergey gets caught up with the bad kids, who aren’t just normal bad kids. They run a prostitution ring, and are prone to beatings and theft, in addition to their normal bullying duties.