Metal Maniac

Movie Suggestion XXXI: Plemya



Movie Suggestion XXIX: Plemya


Country: Ukraine | Netherlands – 2014


Genre: Crime | Drama


Directed by: Miroslav Slaboshpitsky


Starring: Grigoriy Fesenko, Yana Novikova, Rosa Babiy.




Synopsis: “Somewhere in Ukraine, Sergey enters a specialized boarding school for the deaf. Alone in this new and unfamiliar place, he must find his way through the school’s hierarchy. Sergey quickly encounters the tribe, a student gang dealing in crime and prostitution. After passing their hazing rituals and being inducted into the group, he takes part in several robberies and begins to work his way up the chain of command to become pimp-protector for two of the girls, who turn tricks at the local truck stop. Finding himself in love with one of them, Sergey ultimately breaks all the unwritten rules of the tribe, with tragic consequences.” (




“Writer-director Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy’s mise en scene includes long, superbly composed shots and a stately, but never dull pace. This allows the film’s audience to contemplate – in tandem with the narrative’s forward movement – both the almost matter-of-fact horrors its young protagonists accept, live with and even excel at while also getting a profound sense of the ebbs and flows of life in this drab, dingy institutional setting. In a sense, the movie evokes life as it actually unfolds (or, at least, seems to).




The violence is often brutal and the film never shies away from explicit sexual frankness. We watch the beautiful teenage girls being pimped out at overnight truck stops, engaging in degrading acts of wham-bam without protection, perpetrated against their various orifices by truckers who shell out cash for the privilege. Even more harrowing is when we follow the literal results of this constant sexual activity and witness a protracted unsanitary and painful abortion.




While there are occasional moments of tenderness, especially in a romance that blossoms between one young boy and girl, there’s virtually no sense of hope that any of these children will ever escape the cycles of abuse, aberrant behaviour and debasement that rule their lives. The performances elicited by Slaboshpytskiy are so astonishing, you’re constantly in amazement over how naturalistic and reflective of life these young actors are, conveying no false notes with the kind of skill and honesty one expects from far more seasoned players.




The special circumstances these children are afflicted with also allows Slaboshpytskiy to bravely and brilliantly tell his story completely though the purest of cinematic approaches. Visuals and actions are what drive the film and ultimately prove to be far more powerful than words ever could be. Chances are very good that you’ll ultimately sit there, mouth agape as you realize that what you’re seeing on screen is unlike anything you have ever seen before. The Tribe evokes a world of silence and suffering that is also perversely borderline romantic, a world where connections and communication are key elements to add some variation to a youth culture that is as entrenched as it is ultimately constant and, frankly, inescapable.” (




“The cast is made up of non actors but you wouldn’t suspect that. They are full of life and energy. I often find when directors brag about using non actors, they mistake a lack of screen presence for “reality.” Not so in The Tribe, and I would expect to see other writers create stories tailored to this cast just so they can have an excuse to work with them.” (




“The Tribe is an energetic, restless film: Sergey and his fellow gang members are constantly arguing and fighting, a life that Slaboshpytskiy and cinematographer Valentyn Vasyanovych capture in long Steadicam and tracking shots. The constant movement of the characters and camera ultimately serves a similar purpose as Aaron Sorkin’s comparable tactics in The West Wing, except that rather than making dry exposition palatable, it keeps us focused on a storyline that we can only ever understand the contours of. That Slaboshpytskiy ultimately succeeds at keeping us engaged doesn’t, however, do away with the problems of making the audience approach these characters through such a layer of incomprehension. The film never entirely justifies why those who can’t read sign language must experience the story so differently from how the characters live it. It never quite brushes off the obvious question of why, in the effort of putting a marginalized set of characters on screen, we should limit our understanding of them. The film’s second half descends into increasingly explicit and shocking displays of violence, and, in fact, all of The Tribe is defined by either overheated emotions or extreme actions. The immediate effect is attention-grabbing, distressing, and in a few cases also emotionally affecting. But in a film that must work extra to keep us engrossed, it all seems like a simple and direct means to an end, one necessitated not by the story, but by the manner in which Slaboshpytskiy chooses to tell it.” (




“In fact we’d suggest that the film is not actually about deafness in any meaningful way at all, instead it very cleverly uses this spoken-language-free set up to explore the way in which we use language, and what it can conceal. As the mini-society depicted becomes ever more “Lord of the Flies” in its animal brutality (the film features a lot of graphic violence, some rather distractingly awkward sex, and an agonizing abortion scene) it becomes uncomfortably apparent that this behavior is so shocking to us partly because it isn’t mediated through language. The actions and events are naked to our eyes, not couched in reasons and justifications, not softened by explanations, by words. And so then we’re questioning whether language itself is dishonest: is it nothing more than an enormous edifice erected to allow us to deceive ourselves as to our real, base natures? Suddenly it feels less like we’re looking over a barrier at these kids and their terrifyingly Hobbesian reality, and more like we’re looking in a mirror.” (



December 26, 2014


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