Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Cannes 2013: Death March Review

Director: Adolfo Alix Jr.
Writers: Rody Vera
Starring: Sid Lucero, Zanjoe Marudo, Sam Milby, Jason Abalos
Synopsis: An abstract take on the horrific “Death March” in Bataan 1942, where thousands of Filipino and American soldiers were forced to walk for 55 miles in the sweltering heat with little water and food.
For the first 30 minutes of Gasper Noé’s Irreversible there is a background sound of 28Hz employed to create nausea and unease for the audience. It was an effective ploy and something that feels oddly comparable to the sound of groaning soldiers nearly all throughout Death March. The reason to add this consistent moan may well be there to underline the horror of the Bataan “Death March” but it’s a sound you cannot bear for the full 90 minutes. Noé had a clear purpose using that sound effect, but Adolfo Alix Jr. seems to have inadvertently made his audience suffer by adding a version of prolonged noise.
Death March‘s main theme is sickness and struggle – comically reflected with the audience’s experience (the Cannes screening had walk-outs throughout).  The disorientation that is shown through the slow-motion and long takes (along with mock sets that act as backdrops) works to explore some of the soldiers’ mindset – never knowing what is real, and never experiencing time during the march. It should be an artistically refreshing take on a war story but it never once engages you.
As well as painted and artificial staging, the acting also appears tawdry. Never quite seeming decent, nearly every actor struggles to accentuate the horror of the POW treatment. In the end, the fake aesthetic takes over, leaving the film with nearly no credibilty.
 Death March was competing in Un Certain Regard Selection at Cannes 2013. Also posted on LiveForFilms

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