Only CloudsMove the Stars directedby Torun Lian
Passingoff a canard as insight, Vincent Canby in the March 25 New York Timesslapped Steven Spielberg with this backhanded compliment: "He has a child's-eyeview of the universe. He demonstrates an uncanny appreciation for children'sfears and fantasies... To hail him as an Eisenstein is to mislead him and thepublic." This insistence on regarding Hollywood's most accomplishedfilmmaker on an innocuous, childish (rather than seriously artistic) level ispart of the non-thinking that denies legitimacy to movies. Canby's suggestionthat a film about children cannot pertain to the fears and fantasies adultshold (or that the best Hollywood craftsmanship has no purchase on intellectualideas) derives from the hoariest, anti-intellectual condescension. But ratherthan argue Spielberg's case once again before a court of fools, I offerOnly Clouds Move the Stars, showing April 7 at the Film Society of LincolnCenter's Norwegian Film Festival?a film about children that is alsoa serious work of art.
Rusten, a serious-seemingredhead, resembles a prepubescent Julianne Moore shifting between awkwardnessand grace while Kristoffersen, a latchkey jester who jokes about his own isolation("Don't I look like Eddie Murphy?"), exhibits the most prepossessingboyish charm since Anton Glanzelius in My Life as a Dog. Lian followsthis pair through an absolutely limpid countryside and quiet streets. Lian isn'tquite the nature poet Jan Troell is (Troell's monumental Hamsunstarring Max Von Sydow?one of the decade's highpoints?was featuredin the 1997 Norwegian film program), but she's much interested in depictingharmony between the emotions of the characters and the landscape?the earthlyexperience?they inhabit. Her storybook compositions pare each scene toexistential essentials. The mood isn't Bergmanesque but the implicationssuggest a springtime Wild Strawberries. Through Maria and Jakob, Liansearches for the meaning of both suffering and living. Lian's title offersa practical moral, but like Spielberg her faith in the significance of childhoodexperience emphasizes the hard work involved in human understanding. Maria'sagony is no different from her parents' but Lian trusts that the littlegirl's perspective distills a universal dilemma. When Maria and her fatherwatch Jakob sleep in the bedroom Pee Wee left behind, their uneasiness recallsthe finest movie depictions of complex emotions: Satyajit Ray's, VittorioDeSica's, Robert Bresson's and Spielberg's. Lian achieves a childlikefearlessness about facing the world; that makes Only Clouds Moves the Starsa revelation.
The Dreamlifeof Angels