A deaf teenager enters a specialized boarding school where, to survive, he becomes part of a wild organization - the tribe. His love for one of the concubines will unwillingly lead him to break all the unwritten rules within the Tribe's hierarchy. Written by
At the time of writing (October 2014) this is on release in France but not the UK or the US so I'll write this for the benefit of audiences elsewhere in the world who might be wondering whether to go and see it or not. When not extorting money from other students at a boarding school for the deaf in the Ukraine, the 'tribe' of thugs in the title spend their time robbing train passengers, people in the street or, with the help of their teachers, pimp each other at a truck stop. New kid Sergey arrives and falls for one of the young hookers...which is about all the synopsis you need. There's no dialogue, or subtitles, all the communication between the characters is through sign language. Along with a total absence of incidental music this has the paradoxical effect of heightening the sound...the sounds of footsteps, lorry engines revving for example becoming sinisterly effective. It's not difficult to follow the narrative at all, so don't be put off. The bleak surroundings of the institution combine with a dreary landscape of crumbling apartment blocks, supermarkets at night time in a bitter, dirty grey winter, to heighten the feeling of an amoral universe, a dog eat dog world where everyone is out only for themselves. There's no compassion, the one intimate relationship which develops seems to be motivated by lust, carnality and characterised by opportunism on either part. There doesn't appear to be any real tenderness there. Is the closed institution an allegory for the Ukraine, or human societies as a whole? The Tribe is a unique piece of cinema and inspired me to write, I've seen nothing in the last few years quite so extraordinary, but be warned it most definitely is not for the faint hearted. The violence is sickening, stomach churning, and made all the more shocking by the use of sound and absence of music since even if averting your gaze you remain all too aware of what's happening on screen, with no music to distance or make things ironic. The Tribe forces you to gaze, unblinking, into the abyss of total human depravity.
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