Wednesday, April 6, 2022

Chamber Piece with Thousands Stories

The Girl and the Spider (2021) - Zürcher Screen Shot 2022-04-02 at 10.00.52 AM Screen Shot 2022-04-02 at 10.05.43 AM Screen Shot 2022-04-03 at 12.37.41 PM Screen Shot 2022-04-03 at 12.42.15 PM Screen Shot 2022-04-03 at 12.33.45 PM Screen Shot 2022-04-03 at 12.23.05 PM Twin siblings Ramon and Silvan Zürcher's second film, after enigmatic The Strange Little Cat (2013), is yet another chamber piece as a microcosm of people's inner yearning and desire to connect in the modern society. And The Girl and Spider is just as ambiguous and non-conclusive as the former, if not more so.

The plot is pretty simple - one of the two roommates (who seem more than roommates), Lisa (Liliane Amuat), is moving out and getting her own flat. Mara (Henriette Confurius) with striking dark blue eyes, with herpes on her upper lip prominently displayed, is the one who is left behind. Like their debut feature, Zürchers concentrate on the indoor flat settings with a camera firmly fixed on the confines of the flats with several characters crammed in, squeezing by one another, making the places claustrophobic and devoid of any room for privacy. There's Lisa's mother, their friends, flirty neighbors, a handyman and his son, a cat, a dog, rowdy kids and of course, a hefty spider from the title who usually sits on the corner of the ceiling and makes unannounced appearances from time to time. Also like their previous film, The Girl is a very wordy film. Everyone has a story to tell, whether it falls on deaf ears is not as important. No communication is direct, no one would blurt out that they want to sleep with each other, or being extremely judgmental or cruel. Our society is too polite for that. It's in the slight touches on the shoulders and glances.

The human relationships are fickle; there are a lot of missed opportunities, one night stands, jealousy, yearning and desire that are not fulfilled - all these are happening around Mara, our static figure on the sidelines. She's not immune to be the object of desire, as she gets attention from both sexes. Is she taking a break from the sinewy human connections because of the STD? Or is she somewhat autistic the way talented people are (she sketches gorgeous portraits of people around her). She is also capable of cruelty. Does the spider which gets passed on from Mara to others and back, signify a disease or desire or both?

Only solvable mystery is the case of missing cat. It was the neighbor upstairs- a lonely old lady who took the cat in to her apartment. Does she need our scorn or empathy? Therefore, however complicated we see ourselves to be, do we need to be scorned for our jealousy, desire and cruelty or do we need empathy? Everyone, in Zürcher's films, imagined or otherwise, like the shop girl at the window, the chambermaid who left the piano in their apartment and went on to work at a cruise ship, even inanimate objects - plant, drawings, styroform cups, feathers, paint, have a story to tell and needs to be heard and deserve our empathy.

Stylistically original, but The Girl and the Spider reminds me of the ending of Kieslowski's Red by way of Schanelec in its enigmatic storytelling and it's wonderful. I can't wait for Zürcher's The Sparrow and the chimney as they conclude the trilogy.

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