September 29, 2022

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Continuing and emerging trends

We are now well into the 2022 year for cinema, and we now can see some of its themes emerging, some of them continuing trends present in the last few years, others announcing new ones.

Among the continuing trends, especially in films outside Western Europe and the United States, the theme concerning the globalization of our economies, and its challenges, is an enduring one that can be seen in such films as Lulana: A Yak in the Classroom (2019/2022), where a young man from Bhutan is torn between continuing his work as the only teacher of a small village of his country and his ambition of being a music performer in Australia. The film seems to remind us of this type of challenge that was seen in films of the recent past (2021), in Hive and Luzzu, for example.

Among the new or evolving themes in recent films, they are more easily found in films from Europe. The perils of aging constitute an example in films such as She Will and Vortex, both films listed as 2021 films, continuing the theme set a little earlier in Coda: Life With Music (2019/2022).

Still in Europe, what can be described as social themes can also be found there. Bullying at school or between children are themes that are present, as in the French-Belgian film Playground and the Scandinavian film The Innocents, produced in Norway (see our more detailed treatment of this film in our main section). French films have taken on other delicate subjects, such as abortion, in the film Happening, and mental illness in Les Intranquilles.

In the United States and Europe, a contemporary theme is the continued advancement of women in the larger society, outside the family, and a recent example of these trends can be found in Where the Crawdads sing (2022).

A few trends, country by country

With all the attention that is given in 2022 to analyzing Russia, it is interesting to look at a film telling the story of a Scandinavian female traveler in contemporary Russia, in Compartment no.6. The impression given from the film is that things do not run very smoothly in Russia, yet some things appear to be working, but only as far as there is a kind of personal initiative to make them effective. In sociological language, institutions seem weak.

Earlier, in 2014, the Russian classic Leviathan had given the image of Russia as a corrupt society, dominated by undeserving and stealing elites who plunder public goods. Here again, there seems to be a definite weakness of institutions, to say the least. Earlier in this century, a film called Taxi Blues offered a view of Russian everyday life that is quite bleak.

In Iran, a recent film of 2022, Hit the Road tells, again, a story of problematic and complex contractual arrangements (here, a complex deal to find a way out of the country), much like the 2021 film A Hero, about the difficulties and tribulations of a prisoner who wants to pay his debt to get out of prison. Both these films remind us of another Iranian film on a similar subject, the earlier classic The Client. The reasons for the presence of this theme of contractual difficulties are not entirely clear, but the theme is nonetheless very present, even quite obvious.

We have already touched upon recent French films earlier in this entry. Let us just mention the 2021 film Lost Illusions, where strong controversies and dirt digging in the French newspapers of a previous historic period, well before the twentieth century, may say something about our current controversies and attacks on the web and on the Internet. Another French film (commented upon in the main section of our site), Mrs.Harris goes to Paris, is a charming story and comedy, but one that suggests very interesting and enduring differences between British culture and French culture. An unpretentious comedy can be quite revealing.

Less meaningful films for The Movie Shrink

The Movie Shrink tries to find themes and social meaning in films, but that is not to say that we succeed every time. Some films are simply quite straightforward, not revealing much else than what is presented explicitly. They can say something, but nothing that needs interpretation.

Such is the case with 2022 films such as The Lost City, The Northman, and Elvis. Of course, even with those films, we can still ask why those films are presented at this time, and there may still be a meaning to that. But we would have to dig pretty deep to answer in all those cases.

Other films have a message, sometimes criticism directed towards a social phenomenon or reality, but it is done quite explicitly, as in the case of Official Competition, a story that is quite critical of the film industry itself.

And then, there are films so charged with symbols and allusions that we cannot see how these elements are tied together in any socially meaningful way. Such is the case with 2022 films such as Nope, Bullet Train, or Everything Everywhere All at Once. There may be some unity in each of those films, but it is hard to grasp, at least for The Movie Shrink, or, then again, there may be no social resonance at all, but only personal stories, action, or aesthetic qualities.

With those cases where The Movie Shrink “strikes out”, as it were, we say to you: good viewing for the rest of the year!