Landmine Goes Click

***

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Landmine Goes Click
"The spectre of the war looms large in a film that explores the origins of violence, feuding, and the enactment of men's aggression toward one another on the bodies of women."

Chris, Alicia and Daniel are hiking through the hills in Georgia when Chris steps on a landmine. The landmine goes click. Chis stays very still as they discuss what they should do next.

It's a simple, high concept premise for a film that's actually about something else entirely. Since the war between Georgia and Russia in 2008, over 1,700 mines have been removed from Georgian soil, but there are still large areas that are too dangerous to enter and there's always the risk that occasional mines have been overlooked elsewhere. The spectre of the war looms large in a film that explores the origins of violence, feuding, and the enactment of men's aggression toward one another on the bodies of women.

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Early scenes here are reminiscent of those in the Hostel films. The brash young Americans are so cheerfully callous that it's easy to dislike them, but it's also easy to understand just how young they are, how clueless and therefore how vulnerable, wandering about in this bruised country. Although Dean Geyer, who plays Daniel, is a weak link (in a clumsily written role), the other two leads do a good job of retrieving some sympathy once things start to go wrong. This is important because there's a lot to go wrong and, although the film has strong ideas, several aspects of the plot feel forced so we need to connect with the characters in order to say with it. The balance between Chris and Alicia is also important as he, whilst rooted to the spot, is deprived of agency and she, a physically active character (though curiously unable to dig a hole in the ground, perhaps another swipe at American effeteness), finds that hers is not respected in a cultural (but not just national) landscape where women are still perceived only as virgins, mothers or whores.

The biggest difficulty with what the film is trying to do is that in order to comment on the treatment of women as objects whose purpose is to channel male honour (in cinema as much as in life - everything from Death Wish to Taken) it needs to start by portraying the sort of abuse that goes with that. In fact, this makes up most of the film, and many people will find the misogynistic humiliation and violence involved just too unpleasant to watch. Balancing this, later in the tale, is a structurally unnecessary but tonally important scene between a local mother and daughter, neither of whom is subtitled. It's the only scene of real, convincing affection in the film (Elene Bezarashvili, who plays the daughter, is superb) and it illustrates a different way of approaching life that prevents us slipping into that comfortable cinematic space where vision is narrowed so that there really does seem to be only one solution to a problem.

The landmine didn't go click just now. That happened some time ago, Chris is told, invited to look at life as an inevitable chain of actions and consequences. One man betrays the trust of another. A nation invades its neighbour. Is there never any route out into that alternative, warmly lit world?

Landmine Goes Click is a tremendously ambitious film. It falls down in the execution, but there's enough going on upstairs to make it well worth a look regardless.


Landmine Goes Click is available on Digital HD and VOD from Frightfest Presents, from 7 March.

Reviewed on: 04 Mar 2016
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When a young American steps on a landmine in the remote Georgian countryside, he knows that if he takes his weight of it, he'll die.

Director: Levan Bakhia

Writer: Levan Bakhia, Adrian Colussi, Lloyd S Wagner

Starring: Sterling Knight, Spencer Locke, Kote Tolordava, Dean Geyer, Nana Kiknadze

Year: 2015

Runtime: 100 minutes

Festivals:

Frightfest 2015

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