Starring: Denis Lavant, Chulpan Khamatova Directed by: Veit Helmer

Reality can be frustrating, depressing, boring, irritating…in short, something from which we want to escape. Movies can help us do that, especially if they offer a departure from reality to a world that is whimsical, fantastic…in short, allows us to escape.  So when I read words like ‘delightful escape’ and ‘dream world’ in the description for themovie Tuvalu, I was all set to watch a happy film.

About 20 minutes into the movie, I had to pause it to make sure the black and white, mostly dialogue-less film I was watching was Tuvalu.  The dream world appeared to consist of a socially backwards middle-aged guy setting up an elaborate sham in the bathhouse his family runs to convince his blind father – the lifeguard, operating on hearing alone – business is going swimmingly.  His mother ensures the few ragtag patrons pay admission – either with coins or, bizarrely, buttons.  Although everything else in the bathhouse is falling apart or in ill repair, the boiler/hot water heater contraption is in excellent shape.

One day the guy sees a beautiful young girl at the bathhouse with her father and immediately becomes obsessed with her.  As she is completely preoccupied with other things – such as her home being destroyed, her father meeting an untimely demise and swimming naked with her goldfish at the bathhouse after hours – it takes a while for her to notice him.

Add to the mix:

  • an evil businessman who is determined to make the bathhouse fail an inspection so he can tear it down and build a casino
  • a posse of bums who come to the bathhouse every night to sleep
  • a mysterious boat bequeathed to the young girl after her father dies
  • constant rain whenever the guy leaves the bathhouse

…and I really felt like this more of a symbolic or artsy movie than a film to just sit back and enjoy.

Parts of it were still enjoyable – the second inspection of the bathhouse was pretty funny, and the blind lifeguard’s posturing is humorous.  But overall the movie emphasizes the pathetic rather than allowing the viewer to escape from it.

If you:

  • Like silent movies
  • Enjoy movies that are a departure from the Hollywood format
  • Find it exciting to analyze the movies you watch – particularly ones with a ‘little guy vs The Man’ theme

Put it in the queue.

However, if you want a movie that makes you forget:

  • the constant struggle of the proletariat vs. the bourgeois
  • bad guys don’t always give up after the good guy prevails
  • that your brain is on

Don’t put it in the queue.

Written by Jennifer Venson