Most films follow a certain set of cinematic rules. Narrative conventions sit side-by-side with certain rules and concepts which have been with cinema since its inception. Shot composition and edit rules have remained the same for over 100 years, while the rules of sound and music have also helped to influence how we accept what we see on the movie screen. Even subtitles have assisted us since the birth of cinema to help relay on-screen dialogue and character interactions. Now imagine if we take away many of these rules. This is what director Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy does with the 2014 release, The Tribe.
Slaboshpytskiy’s film is a stark and brutal Ukrainian drama set within a boarding school for the deaf. It sees Serhiy (Grygoriy Fesenko) arrive at the school only to find a rigid hierarchy held by the school’s pupils. Serhiy must navigate the dangerous customs in order to become a member of The Tribe.
Slaboshpytskiy throws the cinematic rulebook out the window by avoiding the use of dialogue and subtitles and having the characters communicate through the use of subtitles. You rarely see cinema as brave as what is on display here. It’s not one for the mainstream audiences who are more used to slam-bam action but there’s plenty of talent on display here. The Tribe may be a touch too long, clocking-in at over two hours but it’s an involving drama that plays like a 21st Century Lord Of The Flies.
It would be difficult to find a film that flies in the face of cinematic convention as much as The Tribe. It’s a culture shock in more ways than one, but it pushes the boundaries of cinema – and it must be seen for that reason alone.