Edinburgh International Film Festival starts today and I have a press pass and will be seeing (and reviewing) several films over the next couple of weeks. And most days I'll be posting a 30 Days Wild post and a film review (or more than one!). But today I've been nature watching at the cinema!
I saw two films today, set in very different environments and nature and landscape was an important part of each film, even if mostly in the background.
The Gulls is set in the desolate steppes of the remote south-western Russian republic of Kalmykia. The white and grey winter steppes, mist shrouded trees and water set the right melancholy tone to the story of Elza, a young, uncommunicative woman who feels stifled in her unhappy marriage to a fisherman. Desperate for money, one day in the middle of winter her husband goes out in a boat with some other fishermen, despite the extreme cold. We watch the ice forming and spreading on the river as Elza waits at home for news of her husband.
The film is also notable for its portrayal of Kalmyk culture and language (which had been suppressed almost to extinction by Stalin). An engagement party offers the chance to showcase some traditional singing and the local school where Elza teaches is keen for their pupils to learn both Western and traditional instruments in their music classes.
The gulls, which are by local tradition, considered to be the souls of dead fishermen, haunt this beautiful story of a young woman trying to find her place in a very traditional society.
Sand Dollars meanwhile is set in the entirely warmer and more sensual environment of the Dominican Republic. In this film, palm trees, cicadas, birdsong and tropical storms offer the backdrop to the story of Noeli, a young Dominican woman having a relationship with an older multi-lingual American woman, Anne who lives in a hotel with a motley crowd of similar fairly wealthy expatriates and who seems very disappointed in life. Noeli also has a boyfriend (who she passes off to Anne as her brother) and sleeps with tourists for money (a fact she keeps secret from Anne). The two women move in different circles most of the time, but share a love of swimming and walking along the beach together. But will their fondness for each other be enough to see them through the trials they face?
Both films focus on women who are struggling to make their way in a male dominated world. At the same time, the atmosphere of each film is very much defined by the landscape and nature of the area in which they're filmed.
Both these films are showing as part of the Edinburgh International Film Festival. Tickets are still available at the time of writing.
The Gulls is at 2040, 18 June and at 1545, 20 June both at the Filmhouse.
Sand Dollars is at 2055, 18 June and at 1610 on 20 June, both at Cineworld.