German filmmaker ROBERT SCHWENTKE has just made a skin crawling thriller. MILES FIELDER catches up with him.

Robert Schwentke is about to make a killing. On the back of his debut feature Tattoo. an inquiry into the subculture of body art that utilises elements of the serial killer chiller and police procedural. Hollywood has asked the young German to commit murder on film thrice.

Schwentke's next and far bigger budget film is likely to be The Man With the Football the term referring to the guy who follows the American president everywhere carrying a suitcase with a portable red button inside. After that piece of potential mass destruction. the tireless Schwentke will move on to Flight Plan. an intriguing sounding thriller about a man who boards a plane with his wife (in a coffin) and his daughter. who vanishes mid-air. Finally, before Schwentke jets back to Germany he wants to carry on making home-grown films too he'll make the film he's most eXCited about lbecause he's currently writing it). The Last Voyage of the Demeter is a horror flick that fills in the 'lost pages' from Bram Stoker‘s novel Dracula the sea voyage the Count makes from mainland Europe to Whitby. England.




Following One Day in September. his Oscar-winning portrait of the Munich Olympic Games tragedy. was never going to be easy. but Kevin Macdonald‘s choice of prOJect shows his driving ambition as a filmmaker.

Touching the VOid had for over a decade existed as a successful book by Joe Simpson about his miraculous escape from certain death in the Peruvian mountains. yet was considered impossible to adapt for the screen.

Macdonald was the only man dumb enOugh to attempt it and the result is a towering achievement. at genre-bender of a film which breaks the rules to create a viVidly evocative and truly gripping piece of cinema. A feature doc‘uinentary. it uses reconstruction most of the way through to show the events of Simpson's story. The dramatic problem of the book that the two main characters. Joe Simpson and Simon Yates. are separated nearly all the time. so there is very little dialogue and dramatic interaction is brilliantly solved by Macdonald's intercutting of interview footage from the two men. giving us access to their exact feelings as they went through in those hellish moments.

Though these interViews which give the film its narration are a constant reminder that both men survived. they still manage to keep us on the edge of our seats and immerse us completely in the drama of events we already know the outcome of. Touching the Void illuminates Macdonald's rare talent for the dramatic. (Nick Dawson)

I Selected release from Fri 72 Dec. See prevrew.

Joe Simpson, hero of Touching the Void

So. what is it with Schwentke and

‘l've been writing some time now especially for crime. and I've always been drawn to the darker side of humanity.' he says. “We live in a society that is infatuated With yOLith. beauty and living forever. We've made death and decay an abstract. So. where do we get it? Movies. where we are thrilled

Which brings us back to Tattoo and explains why it's been well-received on the film festival CirCLiit. Like many


3 Christian Redl in Schwentke’s Tattoo

makers of dark and disturbing films.

Schwentke is a friendly fella with an

open disposition. Another one of his

films has just closed the German Film '

Festival. The Family Jewels. it turns out. i

is an upbeat. semi-autobiographical

comedy about testicular cancer. 'Whatever pain was necessary to

make the movie. I paid for it.‘ he

laughs. ‘So. I get to make that movie.‘

Welcome to Robert Schwentke's dark

places. ;

I Tattoo is on selected release from Fri ;

2 Jan. See review. page 34. 5

Cold black evil


In January 2002. 27 miners were killed in two explosions at a coal mine in Chengde County. northern China. China is the world's largest producer and consumer of coal but its mines have some of the poorest international safety records; independent analysts have estimated that about 10.000 I Chinese miners die each year in mud black darkness.

It is into this filthy reality that writer/directOr and producer Li Yang hurls his film adaptation of Liu Oingbang's novel Shenmu. Tang (Wang Shuangbao) and Song (Li Yixiang) are onto a good thing . . . they travel around private coal fields and inveigle their way into work on the mines. Having already befriended an innocent teenager who is keen to find any sort of employment to support his rural family. they force him to pretend that he is the c0usin of one of them. Then they murder him in the mine and take an accident. Tang and Song then blackmail the mine into compensating them. the boy's ostensible family. for the death. But this time things do not seem to be working out to plan.

Yang has fashioned a remarkably bleak vision of a industrial community on the very edge of modernism and ruin. Yang i takes his lead from compatriot Zhang Yimou's mOre naturalistic dramas (The Story of Oiu Ju, Not One Less) but he is striving for something darker and more disturbed. a world of desperation and madness somewhere between Redford and Newman's The Sting and John Sayles' Matewan. Highly recommended. (Paul Dale)

I OFT. Glasgow from Fri 2 Jan.


You have to question the sanity of producer Andrew Gunn, the man responsible for bringing this featherweight and feeble remake of the 1976 Jodie Foster comedy vehicle to the screen. This is a man who has publicly gone on record stating that his overriding ambition is to remake two classic old Disney movies: this one and Escape from Witch Mountain. The Betty Ford beckons you my friend.

Mother, daughters and a magic fortune cookie

Control freak mum Dr Tess Coleman (Jamie Lee Curtis) and her 15- year-old daughter, Anna (Lindsay Lohan). are not getting along. They don't see eye-to- eye on clothes. hair, music. and certainly not in each other's taste in men. Then an old Chinese lady causes a little mystic mayhem. and they are both forced to walk a million miles (both emotionally and physically) in each others bodies.

These kind of ‘switch switch' comedies were ten a penny in the 19808 (78 Again!, Big), but the tide has rolled out on this genre. leaving it to fossilise and crumble amongst the seaweed of cliche. This is pretty harmless. though and the leads. noticeably Curtis and Lohan. do their best to squeeze every bit of energy and fun out of a fairly unambitious script. Let 's not do the time warp again.

(Paul Dale) I General release from Fri 19 Dec.

1 1 Dec 2003—8 Jan 2004 THE LIST 33