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Wednesday, 18 April 2007

Frozen Days (2006) Danny Lerner

I was lucky enough to catch this Israeli film on the big screen as part of the Phoenix Film Festival, where it won Best World Director for Danny Lerner. I was really impressed, especially as this was originally made as a student film for the University of Tel Aviv with first time actors, especially the lead, a young lady called Anat Klausner, who is rarely off the screen and carries much of the film on her own shoulders.

She's a small time drug dealer, who lives out of empty apartments that she breaks into and whose life is entirely conducted via mobile phone or chatroom session. In fact we never learn her name, merely her chatroom handle, as befits her lack of real identity. She's also having a really bad day. Her first client persuades her out of a hit without paying for it, her motorbike gets stolen, her supplier won't talk to her and a friend fails to appear at the mall to meet her. Of course, 'friend' in this film means someone who she's only ever met in a chatroom. Finally she goes to his place, but the power dies so their encounter takes place during the anonymity of darkness and when light returns she heads quickly out of there. They are about to meet up again at a club but a suicide bomber hits it and knocks her senseless.

When she comes to, she quickly discovers that her 'friend' is the bandaged and comatose victim in the hospital to whom the nurses can put no name. She identifies him through his mobile phone and visits him every day. In the meantime she moves into his apartment, and through a combination of choice and circumstance begins to take over his identity. His name, Alex Kaplan, is suitably asexual and nobody seems to have met Alex in person. Unfortunately the more time passes the more she begins to lose her grip on her own identity and take on his.

The ending is strange and unexpected, to say the least, and I'm not yet convinced that it makes a huge amount of sense. This is definitely a film to watch more than once. However it's beautifully and powerfully told, through expressionistic and minimalistic black and white visuals (and one colour sequence for an acid trip) that not so much betray the lack of budget that director Danny Lerner had to play with but highlight just how inventive he was without it and how little the ephemera of modern life is really needed when telling a story.

It's also no bad thing that there be more than one way to read a story and its outcome. While I'm not sure that I'm reading things as Lerner intended, it made as much sense to me as something like Donnie Darko, for instance. It's powerful, original and thought provoking and I look forward to seeing it again on the Sundance channel. I'll also watch out for Danny Lerner and Anat Klausner in the future.

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