Review: “The Tribe” Will Leave You Speechless
Jeremy Moran, Contributing Writer, July 28, 2015
The Tribe is a challenging, difficult experience that will haunt you for days. Told entirely through Ukrainian Sign Language, the film contains no subtitles, no music, and no voice-over. In other words, it will not tell you how to think. If you want to get involved in the story, you have to be completely committed and pay attention to the facial expressions and the body language. You have to notice the important actions that happen in the background. You need to intimately know every character, no matter how minor, because you don’t even get to know their names until the end credits (Unless you know Ukrainian Sign Language, that is). In a time where so many films try to coddle their audiences, here is one that trusts its audience to keep up with it as it barrels through.
I do not want to summarize the plotline too much because it goes to such shocking depths. It is better to know as little as possible about it, before going in. The barest bones synopsis I can provide is that it follows a young man, played by Grigoriy Fesenko, through his first year at a Ukrainian boarding school for the deaf. It is clear that he is lonely and shy, yearning for any semblance of community. That’s why he so easily falls in with a gang of friends who very quickly reveal themselves to be the wrong crowd. Where it goes from there, I will leave as a surprise.
The cast is an absolutely masterful ensemble. The stand-outs are Fesenko, who illustrates his character’s journey so skillfully that you don’t even realize how far his arc goes, and Yani Novikova, playing the object of Fesenko’s character’s desire. Novikova’s character is probably the strongest, unwilling to let external forces control her, even when things get unbearably grim. Then, there is Alexander Osadchiy who plays the role of the most villainous character as a perfectly sculpted figure of evil.
As I said, the film puts an audacious number of barriers between itself and its audience. Director Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy, however, transcends those barriers with masterful artistry. The camera is almost always moving, roving around the hallways, classrooms, and dormitories of the school so that you get a sense of an entire world. According to IMDb, there are only 34 shots in the entire film, which means that Slaboshpytskiy will not cut to something less dark during the most horrifying moments. For some, there are scenes that will be unwatchable but the film will not flinch or look away for you. You have to do that for yourself.
This is very easily one of the best films of the year, even if it was technically released in 2014 (There is some controversy over Ukraine not submitting it as its Best Foreign Language nominee for the Oscars). Please go see it immediately, if just for the chance to have your entire concept of movie-watching challenged for two and a half hours. Avoid all trailers, all further reviews, and go in with as clear a mind as possible. You will not regret it.