London Film Festival’s most pretentious previews

    5 September 2016

    The London Film Festival (LFF) gets bigger and more glitzy with every passing year, and the trend is continuing with the upcoming 2016 edition. Films tipped for Oscar success, including La La Land, The Birth of a Nation and Snowden, will all be screened at LFF, which runs from October 5-16, while Hollywood stars Nicole Kidman, Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner and Lupita Nyong’o are all set to make red carpet appearances.

    Yet, despite the glamour, LFF is still at heart an art-house festival and the release of its programme always provides plenty of entertainment. From categories that include ‘Dare’, ‘Sonic’ and ‘Journey’, the blurbs for the scheduled films provide enough pretension and waffle to keep Pseuds Corner busy for months. Here are five of the best…

    1) ‘A man traverses the beautiful Bhutanese landscape before donning a large mask’ in Hema Hema: Sing Me A Song While I Wait. ‘A group of masked people surround him and he is led deeper into the jungle. He soon arrives at a gathering that takes place just once every twelve years: part spiritual retreat, part boot camp for the soul.’ Here ‘strict rules are laid down’ and ‘wild impulses and sexual desires are enacted with no fear of reprisal.’ As a result, ‘a tension fills the air and the cumulative effect is very strange indeed.’

    2) The Space Inbetween is ‘a bold and unsettling plunge into the unknown’ featuring the ‘inimitable’ Serbian artist Marina Abramović who ‘has long been fascinated by Brazilian mystical traditions’. ‘Seeking out methods of personal and emotional healing, she embarks on an introspective journey deep into the Brazilian interior in order to further push the limits between the physical, the spiritual and the arts.’ Abramović is ‘utterly captivating as she recounts her fearless and often jaw-dropping experiments at the hands of various mediums, crystal healers and shamans, culminating in a beguiling Ayahuasca ceremony.’

    3) The Ornithologist tells the story of Fernando, who is left for dead ‘after a kayaking disaster’. The film is ‘one man’s spiritual and metaphysical journey through sprawling, often psychedelic woodlands,’ which also features ‘two Chinese women on a trek to Santiago de Compostela’. ‘Like a queer companion piece to Ciro Guerra’s Embrace of the Serpent, João Pedro Rodrigues’ pastoral meditation on landscape, ethnography and personal transcendence is a visually ravishing, profoundly hypnotic experience.’

    4) Terrence Malick’s Voyage of Time: Life’s Journey is the director’s ‘project of a lifetime’ which has been ‘brewing in his mind and work… since the late 1970s’. ‘This film is a resolutely personal venture – a spectacular trip through the origins of the Universe, our present time and beyond.’ It’s narrated ‘by the meditative tones’ of Cate Blanchett’ and ‘will leave you in a state of awe and wonderment’.

    5) Oliver Laxe’s ‘North African odyssey’ Mimosas might ‘seem eerily familiar… because the process of its shooting was glimpsed in Ben Rivers’s recent The Sky Trembles and the Earth is Afraid and the Two Eyes Are Not Brothers, in which Laxe starred.’ This is ‘an enigmatic quest story influenced by the tradition of Sufi narrative’ which begins in a Moroccan city, ‘where a strange young man named Shakib – possibly mad, certainly a born storyteller – is given the job of ensuring that a dying sheikh reaches his destination on a journey through the Atlas Mountains.’