SLIFF 2010 Review: ROOM AND A HALF
ROOM AND A HALF is a look back on the life of Joseph Brodsky, as it might have happened. It starts out in Brodsky’s New York apartment with two crows sitting on a patio table. The narrator (Brodsky) tells you that they arrived upon the death of his father and his mother. He longs to return to the St. Petersburg homeland of his youth and memory. He decides to take a ship via Finland to try and re-enter the USSR. As Brodsky travels aboard ship, he reminisces about his childhood; his father’s return from Japan at the end of the war, his relationship with his mother and father, growing up, and St. Petersburg. The memories are shown in live action and sometimes by the use of cartoons. Most of the narration is in poetic form. Throughout it all there is a talking cartoon cat, who seems to be the personification of a poet.
The film is visually very interesting, for the first half, after that with the repeat of some of the same cinematic techniques, it becomes overly long (2-1/2 hours). Watching the film is difficult in spots as the translation whizzes by very fast and other times dialogue is not translated. Also, a working knowledge of Joseph Brodsky’s life is required. The film glosses over many details and it is difficult to figure out why some things happen. For example, Brodsky is kicked out of USSR but you don’t know why, and then he is a professor at the University in Michigan but as far as you know he only had a 7th grade education. He is asked one time mid-film if he is a poet, but he neither agrees or disagrees.
The last 30 minutes of the film clarifies most of the story, but it is a long time to wait to understand Brodsky’s life. I found the film intriguing and interesting at first but very long and convoluted. I would not recommend this film for anyone not well versed in Brodsky’s life or poetry but if you are interested in any way the ending is well worth its disclosures. ROOM AND A HALF was nominated at the Mar de Plata Film Festival for best film, but won for ACCA Jury Special Mention.
ROOM AND A HALF will play during the 19th Annual Stella Artois St. Louis International Film Festival on Monday, November 15th at 9:15 pm and Thursday, November 18th at 7:00 pm at the Hi-Pointe Theatre.