Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
New NSFW, Extremely Graphic, Adults-Only Poster For Gaspar Noe's 'Love' New NSFW, Extremely Graphic, Adults-Only Poster For Gaspar Noe's 'Love' First Official Look: Jared Leto As The Joker In 'Suicide Squad' First Official Look: Jared Leto As The Joker In 'Suicide Squad' Joss Whedon Says He Earned More Making 'Dr. Horrible' Than 'The Avengers,' Weighs In On Marvel Vs. DC Joss Whedon Says He Earned More Making 'Dr. Horrible' Than 'The Avengers,' Weighs In On Marvel Vs. DC Tom Hardy Met Mel Gibson And Made Him A Bracelet, Says Michael Fassbender Was "The Sh*t" In School Tom Hardy Met Mel Gibson And Made Him A Bracelet, Says Michael Fassbender Was "The Sh*t" In School Native Actors Walk Off Set Of Adam Sandler's 'Ridiculous 6' Over Disrespectful, Insulting Script Native Actors Walk Off Set Of Adam Sandler's 'Ridiculous 6' Over Disrespectful, Insulting Script Watch: Johnny Depp Rages As Whitey Bulger In First Trailer For Gangster Tale 'Black Mass' Watch: Johnny Depp Rages As Whitey Bulger In First Trailer For Gangster Tale 'Black Mass' Gaspar Noe's 3D 'Love' And More Added To Cannes Film Festival Lineup Gaspar Noe's 3D 'Love' And More Added To Cannes Film Festival Lineup First Look: Johnny Depp Goes Gangster In As Whitey Bulger In 'Black Mass' First Look: Johnny Depp Goes Gangster In As Whitey Bulger In 'Black Mass' Watch: Tom Hanks, Leonardo DiCaprio, Anne Hathaway, Michael Fassbender And More Talk The Art Of Acting Watch: Tom Hanks, Leonardo DiCaprio, Anne Hathaway, Michael Fassbender And More Talk The Art Of Acting Review: Marvel’s ‘Avengers: Age Of Ultron’ Starring Robert Downey Jr. Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson & More Review: Marvel’s ‘Avengers: Age Of Ultron’ Starring Robert Downey Jr. Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson & More Watch: Quentin Tarantino, David Fincher, Christopher Nolan, And More Talk The Art Of Filmmaking Watch: Quentin Tarantino, David Fincher, Christopher Nolan, And More Talk The Art Of Filmmaking Christopher Nolan's Favorite Sequence From His Movies Is The Airplane Kidnapping Scene From 'The Dark Knight Rises' Christopher Nolan's Favorite Sequence From His Movies Is The Airplane Kidnapping Scene From 'The Dark Knight Rises' Joss Whedon Calls Edgar Wright's 'Ant-Man' "The Best Script Marvel Ever Had," Warns Of Serialized Moviemaking Joss Whedon Calls Edgar Wright's 'Ant-Man' "The Best Script Marvel Ever Had," Warns Of Serialized Moviemaking The 41 Most Anticipated Movies Of Summer 2015 The 41 Most Anticipated Movies Of Summer 2015 Watch: First Teaser For 'Star Wars: Rogue One,' Plot Details Confirmed Watch: First Teaser For 'Star Wars: Rogue One,' Plot Details Confirmed The 25 Best Films Of 2015 We've Already Seen The 25 Best Films Of 2015 We've Already Seen Best Of 2014: The 15 Best Movie Soundtracks Of 2014 Best Of 2014: The 15 Best Movie Soundtracks Of 2014 The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season From Worst To Best: Ranking The Films Of Hayao Miyazaki From Worst To Best: Ranking The Films Of Hayao Miyazaki

Sundance '11 Review: 'Position Among The Stars' Is A Grabbing, Slice-Of-Life Doc

Photo of Christopher Bell By Christopher Bell | The Playlist January 24, 2011 at 9:05AM

With a Sundance Grand Jury Prize all ready on his shelf (2005's "Shape of the Moon"), Dutch filmmaker Leonard Retel Helmrich returns to Park City with another strong cinema-vérité doc, the final entry in his trilogy about contemporary Indonesia "Position Among the Stars."
2

With a Sundance Grand Jury Prize all ready on his shelf (2005's "Shape of the Moon"), Dutch filmmaker Leonard Retel Helmrich returns to Park City with another strong cinema-vérité doc, the final entry in his trilogy about contemporary Indonesia "Position Among the Stars."

Chances are that many, like us, won't be familiar with his previous two entries "The Eye of the Day" and "Shape of the Moon," all which follow the same family through a period of twelve years. Familiarity would without a doubt enhance the experience, but the filmmaker designs 'Position' as a stand-alone piece commenting on modern Indonesian society, one that depicts increasing Western material influence on younger generations, poor living conditions, and an ever-widening income gap. The three leads include Rumidjah (the grandmother), Bakti (her son), and teenager Tari (his neice). We observe them in their everyday lives, with Tari gearing up for college and Bakti's new position as "neighborhood manager." With enough on his plate already (including setting up welfare for every member of the community), the man visits his mother in the country and begs her to return to the city for an extra hand in raising the soon-to-be high school grad, who he claims to have no morals and a penchant for ignoring her studies. Rumi agrees and her reentry into the home gets the "narrative" going. The filmmaker monitors their lives leading up to the teen's graduation, and in-between he follows Bakti as he struggles to maintain a good life for his family while also trying to help the less fortunate in his area.

Capturing the most realistic moments possible with his signature "Single Shot Cinema" technique (get all available coverage in one take), Helmrich picks up a smorgasbord of varying moments, from the small charming instance of the grandmother picking out her son's grey hairs (he berates her when he sees a strand of black between her fingers) to the poignant, affecting scene of the teenager in a religion class daydreaming during a lesson and avoiding her teacher's eye contact. These people -- likely used to the director's presence after twelve long years -- avoid looking or even talking to the camera as if it's not even in attendance, their lives unfolding naturally.
Even the ugliest human behavior is caught, actions evoked out of raw emotion without thinking of consequences. At one point, Tari is at the market with a boy, enjoying a fireworks display and his company, something her uncle notices and mulls over until he sees her later at their abode. Bakti goes off on her with anger rising over her free-spirited teenage ways, something that is not only new and baffling to him, but to their entire culture. Foul language and face slaps give the argument a wincing quality, prompting an uncomfortable, look-away-from-screen reaction. Eventually the scene dissipates, and with all air let out of the balloon the irate man rambles on about his disappointment in her, lists how they have given her what she wants, and laments her seeming disinterested in her future. As the fight plays out, a friend of hers, who called earlier, sits by idly and speechless, much like us. This kind of moment could have easily been manipulated to varying degrees, pushed for dramatic effect or even amplified to make Bakti a villain. Helmrich defies this fakeness, instead displaying it in a more truthful form, thus enabling an unfiltered reflection of the occurrence for the audience and subjects alike.
Due to their low income, prospects of higher-education dwindle as the film progresses. Thankfully, in another understated scene, Tari's grandmother opts to sell her country house in order to send her granddaughter to school, a gamble which eases everyone's worries and provides a heart warming and promising closure to the flick. Only one question remains: is the director really done with this family? There's enough emotion and intrigue to make frequent "7 Up"-esque successors, following the subjects' various exploits and lensing the ever-developing Indonesian society. These are the kind of untouched examinations that never go stale, so long as you're up for giving time to a movie devoid of infused melodrama and streamlined narrative. Maybe it's a little on the long side, but that's a small price to pay for a unique experience. Will Helmrich find himself with another award next week? If Bong Joon-Ho is sober, it's very likely. [B+]

This article is related to: Review, Leonard Retel Helmrich, Position Among The Stars


The Playlist

The obsessives' guide to contemporary cinema via film discussion, news, reviews, features, nostalgia, movie music, soundtracks, DVDs and more.


E-Mail Updates