By Anthony Kaufman | ReelPolitik May 9, 2013 at 9:15AM
There's nothing like the world's most prestigious film festival to take the pulse of our collective consciousness. And if you look closely at this year's films, the results are downright brutal, with themes of violence, collapse and destruction dominating at least half of this year's competition films, most notably Nicholas Winding Refn's latest study in human cruelty and quasi-redemption, "Only God Forgives," starring Ryan Gosling as an American fugitive who runs a fight club in Bangkok, and Takashi Miike's "Shields of Straw," a violent story of vigilante justice. But even auteurs not normally associated with tales of savagery are getting into the act.
Here is a rundown of some of the devastation on display:
Arnaud DES PALLIÈRES's "Michael Kohlhaas": In the sixteenth century, somewhere in the Cevennes, Michael Kohlhaas, a prosperous horse merchant, leads a comfortable and happy family life. Victim of an injustice, this righteous and honest man raises an army and plunders cities to restore his right.
Alex VAN WARMERDAM's "Borgman": Borgman’s arrival in the tree-lined avenues of an exclusive residential area is the beginning of a series of unsettling events around the carefully constructed facade of a wealthy couple, their three children and their nanny.
JIA Zhangke's "A Touch of Sin": Four people, four different provinces. A reflection on contemporary China: that of an economic giant slowly being eroded by violence.
Jim Jarmusch's "Only Lovers Left Alive": Set against the romantic desolation of Detroit and Tangier, an underground musician, deeply depressed by the direction of human activities, reunites with his resilient and enigmatic lover. Their love story has already endured several centuries at least, but their debauched idyll is soon disrupted by her wild and uncontrollable younger sister. Can these wise but fragile outsiders continue to survive as the modern world collapses around them?
Amat ESCALANTE's "Heli": Estela is a 12 year old girl who has just fallen crazy in love with a young police cadet who wants to run away with her and get married. Trying to achieve this dream, her family will have to live the violence that is devastating the region.