Thursday, March 31, 2011

Neglected Gems #1: Solitude (2001)

It’s a funny thing about movies. They may get critical acclaim, even score some box office success, but years later they’re barely mentioned by anyone or even remembered. And there’s no discernable reason for their fate. Neglected Gems will regularly highlight some of these films, which either saw their only showings at film festivals or cinematheques, had shortened commercial runs, or somehow just never made the impression they ought to have made when they came out. Some of them aren't even on DVD. Here's the first in the series.

Solitude is a quiet Canadian film, directed and co-written by Robin Schlaht, about three people trying to find themselves while in retreat at a Saskatchewan monastery. It is as unique as its subject. Based on Connie Gault's short story "The Fat Lady with the Thin Face," the film revolves around Michele (Vanessa Martinez), an aimless 19-year-old girl sent to the monastery by her mother; Linda (Wendy Anderson), a distressed 35-year-old woman fleeing a troubled home life; and Brother Bernard (Jesus of Montreal's Lothaire Bluteau), a monk who is not sure he still believes in God. Each of the characters gets a few scenes (the film is divided into chapters) but there are no great cinematic revelations here. Intriguingly, Solitude is more interested in raising questions about faith, love and spirituality than in answering them. The result, except for Bluteau's overly-mannered mopey performance, is remarkably affecting and authentic.

Shlomo Schwartzberg is a film critic, teacher and arts journalist based in Toronto . He will be teaching a course on science fiction in the movies and on television beginning in late April at Ryerson University's LIFE Institute.

1 comment:

  1. Will you let us know where we can find these films? Is "Solitude" out on DVD? Nice series idea.