Lise Lyng Falkenberg's Point of View

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Maze Runner

Last week I was invited to the Danish premiere of Wess Ball’s film “The Maze Runner” and I brought along my teenage daughter who fits right in with the young adult target audience.

Usually when I’m going to a premiere I do a bit of research in advance, but I didn’t this time and that was a huge mistake. You see, when entering the cinema, I didn’t know that “The Maze Runner” is based on the first book in the young-adult post-apocalyptic science fiction trilogy by James Dashner and thereby had no ending, and that was a great disappointment for me.

Anyway, “The Maze Runner” tells quite an exciting story about the teenage boy Thomas who wakes up in a glade with no memory of his previous life. Here he meets the Gladers, other teenage boys who arrived in The Glade in the same way as Thomas, some as long as 2 years ago, but now they live in a community where they farm the land of The Glade.  The Glade is situated in the middle of a giant maze, and some of the boys called “Runners” explore the maze during daytime in order to find a way out. However, at nightfall the maze closes its doors to The Glade and no one is able to survive a night in the maze when it is roamed by giant robot insects called The Grievers. Thomas, who has strange dreams about a mysterious organization known as W.C.K.D, wants to become a maze runner and at one point, the first and only girl turns up in The Glade and sparks off the action.

Thomas is brilliantly played by Dylan O’Brien and worth mentioning are also Aml Ameen as the Glade leader Alby, Blake Cooper as Thomas’ friend Chuck, Ki Hong Lee as the maze runner Minoh, Will Poulter as the broody Gally and especially Thomas Brodie-Sangster as the second in command Newt. They are all very talented, but the maze itself is a bit disappointing, as I had hoped for different scary creatures and things to happen and not just Grievers. Furthermore Thomas’ background and the post-apocalyptic story behind the plot is a bit flimsy and easy to figure out and frankly a bit of a disappointment when you’ve waited to get out of that maze for 113 minutes (the audience) or 2 years (The Gladers), whatever seems the longest.

I really liked “The Maze Runner” up until the last 15 minutes or so as they were very disappointing, and I felt cheated when I left the cinema. However, I do realise that it is partly my own fault for not knowing that this was a “Part 1”-film, but then again it’s the fault of the film too, as the maze was just too boring! I’m not sure if I’m going to see part 2 and 3, so for now I’m just going to give part 1 three out of three stars: ***

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

OFF14 – Odense International Film Festival

Usually I review the annual Odense International Film Festival (OFF), but this year I don’t feel equipped to do so. You see, in the past couple of years it has been increasingly difficult to get to get a seat at the free festival screenings because schools and kindergartens were able to pre-book seats whereas other people were not. Then when you turned up at the cinema, all the seat were already taken, and you could just leave again. This year, however, everybody were able to pre-book seats, but contrary to the intention, it just made things worse. Now everybody pre-booked, so when I tried to pre-book too 2 weeks before the festival, almost all of the seat were taken. I only managed to get one ticket to one competition screening out of twenty. That’s just not good enough, but at least I managed to get tickets to 3 different non-competition screenings as well.
Even though the slogan of the festival is “Expect the unexpected”, I didn’t expect not being able to get a seat, but because of this, I can’t review the short films, documentaries and animations of the competition as I only saw 5 of the 100+ entries. I can bring you the names of the winners, though, and they were:
The international Grand Prix: “Soft Rain” by Dénes Nagy (Hungary)
The international Artist Award: “Habana” by Edouard Salier (France)
The international Storyteller Award: “The Runaway” by Jean-Bernard Marlin (France)
The Danish Grand Prix: “Growing Pains” by Tor Fruergaard (Denmark)
The Danish Talent Award: ”Mini” by Milad Alami (Denmark)
The Animation Grand Prix: “Brothers in Arms” by Cav Boegelund (Denmark)
The Boerge Ring Award: “Life with No Tricks” by Anne-Laure Daffis (France)
Special Mention: ”Growing Pains” by Tor Fruergaard (Denmark)
Children/Youth film Award: “Helium” by Anders Walter (Denmark)
The Audience Award: “Helium” by Anders Walter (Denmark)
As you can see, all of the winners were either Danish or French apart from the Hungarian international Grand Prix winner. I have no idea why. Of all the award-winners, I’d actually seen two at the single screening I was able to attend, namely The Boerge Ring Award winner “Life with No Tricks” by French Anne-Laure Daffis and the Children and Audience Award winner “Helium” by Danish Anders Walter. The first one was a ha-ha-funny animation that made fun of the death of Princess Di (this would never have won anything in the UK!) and the second a brilliant, warm and magic film about a dying child. I’m sure you can hear where my sympathies lie and I was one of the many who voted for “Helium” to get the Audience Award.
Anyway, the non-competition screenings this year were of a much higher standard than usual and I was happy to attend three of them. The first was called “Magic Unfolding” and here the audience met Danish directors Michael Wikke and Steen Rasmussen as well as Danish animation expert Jacob Stegelmann for a 1 hour discussion of the work of the Japanese master of animation, Hayao Miyazaki, followed by the screening of Miyazaki’s last film “As the Wind Rises”. As a huge fan of Stegelmann, Wikke & Rasmussen AND Miyazaki, I was thrilled to get a seat in the crowded “Pejsestuen”-venue and the discussion was funny, intelligent and enlightening. However, half of the audience as well as Stegelmann and Wikke & Rasmussen left before the screening of the film, and for us who sat through it, it was clear why. “As the Wind Rises” is far from Miyazaki’s best; at least you have to love airplanes, war and tragic endings a lot, if you are to like it. I don’t and I would rather have seen “Spirited Away”, “Howl’s Moving Castle” or even “My Neighbor Totoro”.
The second off-competition event I went to was the screening of six of the best films from Copenhagen’s Buster Film Festival for Children and Youth. These films were aimed at kids 8+ so the huge “Magasinet”-venue was packed with school classes. I guess that of the 200+ seat, only 5 or 6 had a bum in it that didn’t belong to a school kid, so I was glad that one of them was mine. The films were brilliant, especially the aforementioned “Helium”.
The last of the off-competition events that I managed to get to was the screening of six films made by the 2014 animation director graduate students from The National Film School of Denmark. Most of them were remarkably good, especially William Reynish’s “Whole” and my personal favourite “Recording Louis” by Kristian Nordentoft. Also the history driven puzzle adventure game for iPad, “The Last Day at the Plant” by Dennis Nielsen seemed very interesting. Four of the young directors were present during and after the screening so you were able to ask them questions and the whole event was moderated by the very entertaining film expert Ulrich Breuning. This was a lovely surprise as I had missed him moderating the annual “Old Theatre” screening of old silent films, as I couldn’t get to the venue due to lack of public transportation in Odense city after 4.30 p.m. The screening of the graduate films were during daytime, though, and in the small “Studenterhuset” venue where some of the seats were actually empty!
Well, considering that I hardly saw any films, I’m surprised that I managed to write an OFF14 review anyway. To sum up, this free film festival is brilliant, but it has outgrown its physical limits as the audience is rejected even before it reaches the door. If OFF doesn’t want to move to bigger venues outside the city centre, they should at least hold separate screenings for schools and kindergartens, thereby giving the rest of the audience a chance to get a seat. This is after all not a film festival for children and youth, although one of its competitions is in the children/youth category. At least it is safe to say, that unless OFF has more room for reviewers next year, this is sadly going to be my last Odense International Film Festival review.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

H. C. Andersen Festivals, 2014

Last year I wondered if the H. C. Andersen Festival here in Odense, Denmark, would be a one-off, as it was sponsored by local businessmen and had a lot of “teething problems”. Now I know that it wasn’t, as this year the festival returned from August 17th to August 24th, even with an “s” in the end (Festivals), but unfortunately the problems returned, too.
Like last year, the festival(s) was squeezed in between the Odense Flower Festival and the Odense Film Festival OFF in August, making it a bit overwhelming if you want to attend all three festivals. Again there were no big screens at the big events, so people standing in the back couldn’t see anything. Worst of all, the city centre was once more closed for public transportation during the festival making it difficult to get from one venue to another and impossible to live an ordinary day to day life if you happen to live in Odense.


At the moment the entire Odense City centre is being turned into a huge pedestrian zone, so there is just one bus route left through town, and it only operates between 11 a.m. and 4.30 p.m. but not during weekends. This way you can’t go to town during evenings and weekends unless you are able to walk long distances, and I for one am not. During the festival, this bus route was even closed, so you couldn’t get there at all, and personally I had to rely on friends, taxis and long-distance coaches just to get near some of the events. Most of them, especially the ones during evenings I just had to skip.
Like last year I had picked three things that I wanted to see:

1. The big light show at the town hall facade made by "We Create Magic"

2. Theatre Gyda's Pink People street theatre performances

3. Italian acrobats eVènti Verticali’s performance on high walls

I’d seen all three of these last year and been VERY impressed by them, so I couldn’t wait to go again, but even before I got out of the door, I had to cancel my attendance to the eVènti Verticali performance. No one could take me and as the show was rather late in the evening, I would not be able to get back on my own. I was SO disappointed, as I’d waited a year to see the talented Andrea and Luca Piallini brothers, so please, please, if you return in 2015, get a slot during daytime!!! Anyway, I had to pick a new number 3 and I chose the 3D street art by Dutch artist Leon Keer.
The lightshow by “We Create Magic” had been amazing last year with 3D photos and animations screened onto the town hall, making it come to life. At one point the town hall had been smashed by a giant and at another it had sprouted legs and walked away. I had never seen anything like it, it was pure magic, so although the performance was at 10.30 p.m. with no public transportation, I had persuaded my sister to take me. We arrived an hour early and found a good place to sit (most of the town square is standing room only) and at 10.30 p.m. some nameless musicians performed for 15 minutes, after which the show started. If you have never seen this kind of 3D light show before, you’d probably be impressed, but if you saw it last year, you wouldn’t. It only lasted 10 minutes instead of 30, where the town hall changed colours a few times, some small “clips” from “The Little Match Girl” and “Silly Hans” (“Jack the Dullard”) were shown and most impressively: Hans Christian Andersen himself went in and out through the walls. The whole thing ended with a single live trumpeter standing in the spotlight on top of the town hall, playing the song “Denmark, my Native Land” with lyrics by Hans Christian Andersen, the audience expected to sing along. It was rather kitschy, so I can only give the entire show 4 out of 5 stars: ****
Luckily the Pink People street theatre was as good as last year. Once again the stereotypical Pink People marched all over town from one venue to the other under the strict guidance of a pink policewoman and stopping from time to time to applaud the shops and the pedestrians. I only watched them perform as a choir this year, though, as I was unable to attend their theatre shows, but they were still amazingly good. This year it was the transvestite, who impressed me the most, though, as he was hilarious. 5 out of 5 stars: *****
My “replacement” 3, the 3D street art by Leon Keer, was very impressive as well. Keer did a painting of The Little Mermaid, and I saw the work both in progress and as a finished painting. The 3D effect was amazing, so when you stood on the marked viewing point, the figures just popped up from the street. Again 5 out of 5 stars: ***** (on the left photo you can see the artist Leon Keer standing next to his painting).
Despite the lack of transportation, I managed to catch five other events. One of the best was the “HCA’s Stories”, which were animated short films with laser and smoke effects, but I only managed to see the daytime show, as I couldn’t get to the “darker” evening screenings for grown-ups. Another great thing was the “H. C. Andersen bus and train storyteller raid” where storytellers raided busses and trains during daytime and told Andersen fairy tales. I managed to hear “What the old man does is always right” and I truly enjoyed it. Very enjoyable was the Habengoods Street Stomp too, where the Habengood boys played songs and beats on everything but drums! Very funny and talented. I’ll give them as well as the storytellers and the short stories 4 out of 5 stars.
 The last couple of events I can’t rate that high. One was the censored art exhibition in the Art Exhibition Building that was just as awful as last year. The other was the art street with only very little art including the exhibition in Gallery Rasmus that showed paintings from last year’s exhibition among other things. 3 out of 5 stars to the art street, but only 2 to the censored art exhibition.

I would like to point out that there was a lot of shows and performances I would have loved to see, but they were all during the evening, so I couldn’t go. I’ve heard amazing things about “The Nightingale” shadow show, “The Little Mermaid” international artists show. The outdoor theatre play “Ole Lukoeje” (“Mr. Sandman”) and the ballet “My home is the Universe”, but unfortunately there was no way I could get to them. All in all there were not as many different shows and events like last year, though, as last year there were 270, this year there were about 60, which were repeated over and over again several times a day, each day. On the other hand, most of the events this year had something to do with Hans Christian Andersen. They hadn’t last year. To sum up: I didn’t find the festival(s) as interesting as last year, but it was okay except for the lack of public transportation. So dear festival makers and public transportation planners, please get together and sort this out before next year!