One of Us: The Tribe

06/17/2015 8:21 AM |
photo courtesy of Drafthouse Films

The Tribe
Directed by Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy
Opens June 17 at Film Film

The qualification “unlike any film you’ve ever seen” is applied too liberally, but it’s perhaps never been more appropriately assigned than to The Tribe, a rigorous and truly visionary cinematic experience.

Like if The Godfather were remade by a young Michael Haneke, Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy’s bold and austere film takes place within a Ukranian school for the deaf. Comprised of a series of lengthy tracking shots miraculously choreographed, The Tribe follows one new student, Sergey (Grigoriy Fesenko), as he navigates, and eventually falls prey to, the insidious cliques within the school. The unavoidable talking point surrounding the film’s primary conceit, that it’s filmed entirely without dialogue or subtitles (or a musical score), threatens to diminish the remarkably confident craft on display.

The Tribe unfurls its bleak vision with urgency, as Sergey quickly becomes involved in the school’s undercurrents of crime, drugs and forced prostitution; in this way, its formal rigor is a resounding match for its narrative complexities. A lengthy opening sequence consisting of an unbroken tracking shot charts his entrance to the school symbolically: the audience may not yet be aware that there will be no dialogue, and like us, Sergey is ignorant of the foreboding terrain ahead. Subsections of the student body, from the mafiosa-like male rulers to the women who are exploited by them, interact with one another physically, through sign language and sometimes violently, a reaction to the unrest forced upon them daily.

What at first feels like an undertaking—figuring out what’s going on without the luxury of words—becomes something much grander, and no less than a complete reimagining of the way an audience can and should approach its art. There are sequences contained within that are as spellbindingly horrific as anything in Gaspar Noé’s shock masterpiece Irreversible. The dread-inducing closing moments are entirely earned, and will leave the viewer appropriately speechless. To think that Slaboshpytskiy created something so resoundingly unique and magnificent as a first-time feature filmmaker is enough to make any cinephile rejoice. The Tribe is one for the ages.