It can be quite jarring moving from a darkened environment to one brightly, if not garishly lit, and teeming with bodies and noise, that all constant thrum of people, walking, talking, shouting, jangling coins and keys, rustling bags of bought and bargained wares. I was forced to sit down after I exited the theater, grasping for something, anything, that would explain what I just witnessed. Over the speakers of the mall, a muzak version of “Goodbye Sunshine” played, only adding to my distress.
When you consider yourself a fan, an aficionado, of an art form it is not often that you are thoroughly astounded, and yet that is exactly what “The Tribe” left me. Fitting that a film with no dialogue spoken between its characters would leave me silent. Plot wise it is fairly straight forward. New kid in town quickly rises through the ranks of a gang, because of love he falls out of favor and things end badly for all involved parties. A story told many a time. Except this is set at a school of the deaf in a crumbling Ukraine, resembling a bombed out Neverland where the children run rampant. And all of the dialogue is done in sign language, sans subtitles.
This is a film about movement, the camera constantly tracking, the actors constantly moving, gesturing, attempting to communicate. We are dumped right into this whirlwind with the main character, a new arrival to the school. As viewers we are as new to the environment as he, we follow his initiation into the gang, his sudden rise, and the events leading to the final act that left me so debilitated.
The violence of this film grows, you first notice in the very act of their communicating, the sudden slapping of hands on a table, you see that they are yelling, but only with their hands. There is a fight between the new student that is stunningly filmed, the frame full of movement. The cinematography lends itself to the violence, tracking shots that continue on and on, and yet in one of the most astonishing moments of the film the camera is still, you are stuck, a victim for your voyerism into this world in which you do not belong.
This is a movie that will smash your head in and then leave, and dare you to get up again.