Those Who Are Fine

****

Reviewed by: Andrew Robertson

Those Who Are Fine
"Taut, tense, perhaps less constructed than engineered."

In a film where letters and numbers are important because they represent the codes and practises of bureaucracies and financial instruments that are all and part of certain existences, the presence of Handel's Concerto In B Flat Major Op 4 No.6 HWV294 is as indicative as a form of fraud involving the impersonation of grandchildren and a moment where a cup of internet is borrowed from a city gardener. There are mentions of music in a film that has almost none, discussions of film that are as much frustration as frustrating ("You don't know which film I'm talking about.").

Cyril Schaublin writes, directs, fixes the camera such that every scene suggests surveillance. Even when we are in motion in vehicles the lens is locked. There is a checkpoint of armed and armoured police outside some functional building, anonymously clad outside the anonymously clad. Schaublin's pedigree in shorts (this a d├ębut and so far still only feature) perhaps informs the episodic nature - there are intersections here, perhaps none as compelling as a pedestrian pentacle, a junction near the end that summons and binds. There are stark moments - a card-controlled access point and its attendant door are obfuscated by a figure who disappears leaving behind something shapes and intent, an RFID Rothko. The banter of a stop and search is less riotous than the uniforms of those involved. A grandmother repeats digits in order, fiduciary and not nursery.

Suspense is created by detail and observation - as with Plot Point, Incident By A Bank, opening and closing with conversation about how something resembles films and our training as an audience means that we are looking. Rewarded too in detail - subtitling gives us 'Private Bank' beneath one sign, chilled glasses in the fridge indicate a particular kind of customer service, all the information we're deemed to deserve is contained in 'translating into Russian'. This is a world of Jabra and Plantronics, distinctions undrawn between call centres and customer service, the flow and exploitation of information, however small, for gain or loss, however large.

Taut, tense, perhaps less constructed than engineered, the precision of Those Who Are Fine saw it win EIFF 2018's International Prize - deservedly so. At last count Schaublin has not yet returned to features, apparently completing a documentary about Kropotkin (one assumes the bread conqueror) that's not yet on his website. That site is definitely worth a visit - beyond his photos and drawings it also links to many of his shorts and also this film, available to watch on demand. For many films I would recommend seeing them in a cinema, or on the biggest screen you can, but here I would avow that the intimacy of headphone, of wifi instead of HDMI, would help. An examination of life under capitalism would draw benefit from atomised experience, mediated through a frame with brand names rather than EXIT signs. This is fine work.

Reviewed on: 22 Jun 2019
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Those Who Are Fine packshot
A call centre worker begins to work a scam on the elderly.

Director: Cyril Schäublin

Starring: Sarah Stauffer, Nikolai Bosshardt, Fidel Morf, Sarah Stauffer, Nikolai Bosshardt, Fidel Morf

Year: 2017

Runtime: 71 minutes

Country: Switzerland

Festivals:

NDNF 2018
EIFF 2018

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