An ex-convict helps a bank employee through the dark moments that follow the suicide of a bank customer who was denied a loan. Vince takes Fredrik on a risky path of thrills and action to help him escape the trauma.

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Freedom fighter flies solo in eloquent anti-war drama.

Amongst the fascinations to be found in the study of film history are the trends of similar themes popping up in movies all over the world in brief clusters of time. Be they the sword ’n’ sandal epics of the 1950s or Hollywood’s recent insistence on having two films about terrorists taking over the White House, it is interesting—if not often financially viable for the producers—to watch different filmmakers take on similar themes in different ways and in different cultures.

ravishingly beautiful, provocatively constructed

The thought occurred most recently following the Adelaide Film Festival competition section screening of Turkish writer-director Reha Erdem’s ravishingly beautiful, provocatively constructed anti-war meditation Jén, which was eventually awarded Best Feature Film by the international jury headed by long-time, all-around Man of Cinema Al Clark.

In logline terminology, the story of the titular teenaged Kurdish freedom fighter (the name literally means 'woman’ in that language) and the desertion from her unit that throws her into the lush but often harsh countryside after which she encounters both man and beast, the film is the most recent—and most politically charged—entry in a new sub-genre of protagonists alone against the fates.

Though a coincidence, Jén screened just down the hall from commercial showings of Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity in the cozy Adelaide multiplex where the festival is centred, intrepid moviegoers will be struck by the basic similarities of the stories: one woman, largely alone in an unforgiving environment, perseveres for as long as possible.

When the Adelaide festival announced a surprise screening of J.C. Chandor’s All Is Lost, the synchronicity was complete: Robert Redford’s nameless protagonist, alone on the high seas, is the spiritual kin of Jén and her aimless but determined journey to—what? Redemption? Safety? It’s hard to say beyond the quietly eloquent portrayal of the basic human instinct to survive.

A pair of new Australian films share the same thematic concerns as well: John Curran’s Tracks, which opened the Adelaide festival, tells the true-life story of a woman who walked from the centre of Australia to the Indian Ocean, whilst writer-director Aaron Wilson’s Canopy, which premiered at the Toronto festival, follows a young fighter pilot downed in the Singaporean rainforest during World War II.

In the not-too-distant future, an intrepid repertory programmer will have a field day with this.

But back to Jén. As she makes her way across the rugged terrain, she encounters, in the inverse of Life of Pi, a series of benevolent animals including a large stag, a falcon who ceases its screeching just long enough for Turkish soldiers to pass, an amiable bear, and even an intrepid turtle. The CGI work in these passages is at first undetectable, then sublime, building to a shattering coda.

Throughout her journey, the ominous yet tranquil silence is shattered by the sounds of war: bombs raining down, the chattering of gunfire, the hoarse shouts of offscreen soldiers. This element gives the film a political charge for those looking for commentary on the Turkish-Kurdish conflict.

Yet, in the end, Erdem doesn’t seem to be as interested in this thread as the cruelty of mankind to himself as well as the world around him. Jén paints a seductively pretty picture to a point, but in the end, the harsh realities of the world win out over one young woman’s yearning for freedom from conflict.

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