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TIFF Day 4

Film Recommendation / Lions for Lambs (2007)

‘Lions For Lambs,’ is a film which only really comes into its own when viewed according to a process. Up front it’s fairly simple. It’s when we grab hold of the film’s story as an object, as a whole, that we see it’s complexity. Held in the palm, considered, turned and assessed, turned again, ‘Lions for Lambs,’ doesn’t reveal itself, unfold, or present a universal truth. Instead, we find common planes, angles and lines. By some standards (and in spite of the figurative grabbing-hold I just described), we can think of it as holographic — a structure made of light presenting a layered, three dimensional image. In a clever bit of synchronicity, the term holographic also has a meaning related to creation, to writing.

The film’s title is a reference to a quote by German Artillery officer, Max von Gallwitz. After the Battle of the Somme, commenting on the quality of the enemy he wrote, “Never have I seen such brave lions being led by such lambs.” It’s a deep, enduring criticism of torpid, entitled leadership and its use of power.

Mise-en-scène is the touchstone here. I’m stretching it beyond the most conventional use of the term, to be sure, but it works. Typically, mise-en-scène is a quality of presentation, an aesthetic unity of elements, visuals and sound. Here, ‘Lions for Lambs,’ does well in it’s traditional expression of the element, and then goes farther. It so cleanly interlinks conceptual qualities, layering them into our experience of the narrative that we begin to feel a little cramped, trapped, perhaps spurred to action. That’s remarkable given the form and pacing of the film.

Given the power and the opportunity to do anything, why do this?

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