- Product Rating -

Art House Asshole : Timbuktu

| May 5, 2017

You know how when you’re wanting to go to the movie theater and you look up all the films that are showing and there are alway at least three that you’ve never heard of, let alone have any interest in seeing? Well, good news! I’ve seen those movies. I spend most of my theater experiences in art house theaters watching those movies that you’ve never heard of and then never watch. Yeah, I’m that hipster asshole. My goal with this is to spread information out about these films, that way you can decide one of the following. “That actually sounds pretty cool! I want to see that now!” or “Man, I’m glad I decided to go see the new superhero movie!”. So without further ado, here is my article and review of Timbuktu.

Do you ever see a film that sounds like a really cool idea? Like, imagine a film that in the first fifteen minutes it promises an exciting story and interesting narrative. Maybe it’s a narrative that you haven’t seen before! Maybe it will give you some kind of new view into the lives of someone else. It promises you what film should be! Then after that, it is just the slowest paced and unexpectedly boring film imaginable? That’s the story of me watching Timbuktu.

Timbuktu tells the story of a small farming family living on the outskirts of Timbuktu, Mali. Timbuktu is currently being held in control of ISIL and tension seems to be rising from the people and the control. What this film boils down to, however, is not a film about the ISIL control or the war that ISIL has opposed on a majority of the world. This is what I assumed it would be about after the first fifteen minutes. Instead, the film is more akin to a slice of life type of film but in the most miserable fashion possible. You see ISIL go and yell their rules in multiple different languages in Timbuktu, and then you see how boring life is in Timbuktu after ISIL takes everything away.

The real conflict of the film really doesn’t appear until the forty minute mark. And even then the conflict is portrayed so nonchalantly that it is hard to care about the situation when even the characters in the film don’t really care about the situation. And maybe that’s the point. Maybe the film is trying to show how non-exciting the ISIL takeover has been. Just based on my expectations for the film, you can tell that at least my view of the ISIL takeover is violent and chaotic, when maybe, in reality, it is more like this. More drawn out and slow and miserable. Not violent, just depressing. Maybe the characters in the film don’t care because of mundane the experience has become. It’s not exciting for them, it’s just life. So I’m not marking down the film many points for it being a slower paced film. Just know that this is one.

The film is a great example of Mise-en-scene. There are many fantastic wide shots and the film is very much told in visual storytelling kind of sense. The film looks absolutely gorgeous. The filmmakers very much took advantage of the environments they were given and the cinematography of the sands of the desert are absolutely gorgeous. The film is bookended by this one shot of a gazelle running and it’s just beautiful. So although the film is slower paced, the film fits the idea of Mise-en-scene as well as Slow Cinema very well. So if that sounds like your kind of thing, it is very much worth watching it for that reason.

I really don’t have much to say about Timbuktu. I feel less like I watched the film and felt more like I was staring at the computer screen for an hour and a half while Timbuktu was playing on it. Is it a well-made film? Sure, the acting isn’t perfect but it rarely ever is. The film’s biggest weakness is also it’s biggest strength. The film highlights how mundane the ISIL takeover can be, but it also gives the audience a mundane watch. And unless you are very much interested in the subject I feel as though you would just be waiting for it to end. You might feel an emotional connection to the characters and feel a connection with them. But I’ve seen enough film and reviewed enough of these kinds of films that it takes a bit more for me to emotionally care for a character.

About the Author:

Henry Jarvis is the youngest member of the Reel Nerds. His favorite films include Space Jam and Dude, Where’s My Car? and Lawrence of Arabia. He enjoys those pretentious art house films that Ryan hates. He sees a lot of movies! Honestly more than he should. He replaces his lack of social skills and meaningful friendships with his love of cinema! He’s also crying while he writes this biography for himself. His favorite directors are Andrei Tarkovsky, David Fincher, and David Lean.
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