Tribeca Film Festival 2014: Double-Feature "Zero Motivation" and "Human Capital"

Human-Capital_web_3Films have toyed with the concept of time and storytelling almost since the simple film narrative was started. But, as our attention spans continue to get shorter and harder to maintain, toying with a film’s structure could increase that hard to maintain attention (not to imply that all films should do this). Two films in particular at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival show how altering a film’s structure could dramatically improve a film, or, at least, make it an even more engaging film. Zero Motivation segments its stories into episodes and Human Capital divides its varying perspectives into separate chapters to successfully tell these engaging stories.

Zero Motivation is an Israeli film by Talya Lavie. Set on a remote Israel Defense Forces base in the desert, the film follows a group of female soldiers who work in the administration office there. Daffi (Nelly Tagar) yearns for life in Tel Aviv, and thinks that a new girl on the base is her replacement and that her transfer to Tel Aviv was finally approved. Meanwhile, her (supposed) best friend Zohar (Dana Ivgy) becomes a girl on a mission when she realizes that losing her virginity could soften up her harsh demeanor. And their oft-times too-meek commanding officer Rama (Shani Klein) struggles to get these unmotivated girls to do their job.

Full of dark humor, Zero Motivation immediately feels like a sitcom, with episodic situations quickly presented, developed, and resolved (and even given titles). The format works well for the film, with each episode dwelling on a different character. The stories do come full circle by the end of the film (which spans about a year), making it feel more cinematic. But you’ll still wish it would get developed into a sitcom.

Tagar and Ivgy are great as distraught office employees battling ennui. The office is full of humorous characters who play off the leads very well. And, being unfamiliar with IDF life, the film felt rich with story potential and environment. Zero Motivation is charming and funny and a great addition to the Festival.

Human Capital is very much the opposite of Zero Motivation; it’s a dark Italian drama about the value of life. Beginning with a cyclist who is run into a ditch by a wild SUV and circling back six months to reveal all the circumstances surrounding that accident, Human Capital interweaves the perspectives of three different characters to highlight the dangers of greed and ambition. It’s a captivating film that requires you to pay close attention to absorb the full impact of the story.

Part One concerns Dino (Fabrizio Bentivoglio) who is desperate to join wealthy Giovanni Bernaschi’s (Fabrizio Gifuni) hedge fund, betting all his money (and a bank loan) on it. Part Two concerns Bernaschi’s wife Carla (Veria Bruni Tedeschi) who dreams of restoring a decaying theater and sleeping with the artistic director. And Part Three concerns Dino’s daughter Serena (Matilde Gioli) whose relationship with Bernaschi’s son (Guglielmo Pinelli) is linked to the cyclist accident from the beginning of the film.

Human Capital beautifully intertwines the stories, with a couple of moments used as grounded markers for events in the film. The shifting perspectives allows us to dwell solely on a character, with their motivations and actions having greater resonance than if all of the scenes played out chronologically. Director Paolo Virzi revels in the ways these families are inextricably linked and, also, how tempting the extravagant world of the Bruneschi’s can be (an extravagance akin to The Great Beauty). All of which explores the “rampant capitalism” that exists today.

Both Human Capital and Zero Motivation are stunning additions to the Festival. Vivid and entertaining, they accentuate episodic storytelling in a way that captures and holds your attention for the entire duration. But if you feel this is a downfall of our generation’s attention deficit disorder, try watching Scorsese’s Wolf of Wall Street in one sitting and see how you feel then.

John Keith • Staff Writer

Writer. TV Addict. Bibliophile. Reviewer. Pop Culture Consumer. Vampire Enthusiast. LOST fanatic.


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