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NZ Film Festival Special: Festival Theme Spotting

NZ Film Festival Special: Festival Theme Spotting

Every year at the festival, certain themes just seem to be in fashion.

Above: The Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivet

Doubles, doppelgängers and alternate realities pop up in several films where the most fun is to be had in watching actors out-act themselves. Academic meets thespian in the psychically weird, double-Jake-Gyllenhaal fantasy Enemy. It’s based on the experimental Portuguese Nobelist José Saramago’s novel The Double, which is not to be confused with Richard Ayoade’s film The Double.

Almighty Johnsons fans might prefer the mysterious Michelle Langstone in REALITi, a sexy new head-scratcher from novelist Chad Taylor and writer-director Jonathan King, shot in Wellington. In Ari Folman’s satire The Congress, Robin “Princess Buttercup” Wright doesn’t waste time playing against herself. Instead, she makes a Faustian bargain to sell off her immortal likeness to a virtual future and never act again (don’t worry, House of Cards fans, it’s just a movie).

The hypothetically wondrous perpetual motion machine (an impossible, indefinitely continuous contraption of one sort or another) has starring roles in Snowpiercer and The Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivet.

If you have to choose between the two, know that the former is directed by Bong Joon-ho (The Host). It’s Frozen meets Titanic, with way more menacing baddies, and Tilda Swinton for good measure. The latter, meanwhile, is the latest piece of whimsical adventure from Jean-Pierre Jeunet, who gave us Amélie and Delicatessen. There are trains in this one, too, but on wide-open American prairies instead of a frozen hinterland. Impressively, Helena Bonham-Carter appears to have been ageing backwards: with her unkempt hair tucked away, she uncannily resembles her younger self from her E.M. Forster days.

What is art good for? The answer, it turns out, is memory. Two American documentaries explore the ability of art to prod memory once Alzheimer’s has set in. Alan Berliner profiles his mentor and lifelong friend, the poet Edwin Honig, in First Cousin Once Removed, while in Alive Inside, Michael Rossato-Bennett features rock-star neuroscientists, including the great Oliver Sacks, in a film about social worker Dan Cohen’s crusade to get music-laden iPods into the hands of dementia patients. Songs to bring back the past.

Film & TV