Eye For Film >> Movies >> Lions (2012) Film Review
Reviewed by: Michael Pattison
Comprising fewer than 20 takes across a slim 82 minutes, Lions (Leones) is, on an aesthetic level, a succession of plush and often intense roaming Steadicam shots wandering behind a quintet of teens through a mysterious and seemingly unnavigable forest. Quoting Hemingway, playing a game of syllable-counting, listening to a cassette recording of their own interaction and miming a game of volleyball, this central five appear to be in search of some house, though when they leave the frame only to re- enter it from a geographically unlikely angle, the fact that they’re going in circles doesn’t seem to bother them. Soon enough, it becomes clear that all is not what is seems. In fact, reality itself – or more specifically, our clan’s material existence – might be in doubt.
Though narrative clarity is effectively reined in – it takes most of the film to figure out who’s who, even though names are repeated often – there are enough hints at some kind of unfortunate accident which will befall (or has already befallen) our youthful protagonists. Isa’s fresh scar on the back of her neck appears to get worse as the film goes on, while the tape recording listened to constantly by one of their members carries audible suggestions of a car crash or worse.
Teenagers suspended in the carefree moment: are they trapped in some kind of purgatory? These semi-obnoxious Godardian ciphers are an intellectual bunch, certainly, but they’re also juvenile, adolescent, reckless, and… dead? In arguably the film’s best scene – which carries all the foreboding of a last-act epiphany – a tearful episode in a smashed-up BMW turns into an ominous exploration of the surrounding environs, which culminates with a sudden and effectively executed thunderstorm. Whether such on-the-nose elementalism is irritating or intense is down to personal taste.
Though this collective meandering pilgrimage is beautifully rendered by Matías Mesa’s fluid photography and aided by Julia Huberman’s rich sound design, writer- director Jazmin López’s debut feature is in narrative terms a bit too foggy to sustain one’s emotional engagement. The film resembles Gus Van Sant’s Gerry (2001) in style and Last Days (2005) in setting without adding variation to the schema – whereas Van Sant at least reworked Alan Clarke and Béla Tarr into a new mise-en-scène. It’s a pity, as the camera work for such takes tends to be predictably hypnotic if purposeless marches are your thing.Reviewed on: 26 Apr 2013