Not many contemporary films can convey the full power of love, hatred, and the harsh realities of the human condition without the use of speech or dialogue. The Tribe – directed by Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy – manages to do all of this, and still leaves the viewer on the edge of their seat, at some points feeling the need to hide behind it.
The movie centres around a deaf boy named Sergey (Grigoriy Fesenko), and his experiences at a specialised boarding school for the hearing-impaired. Upon his arrival, Sergey is introduced to a world that takes him through the sordid underbelly of society, when he is introduced to the Tribe. By participating in muggings and fight clubs, and pimping out the Tribe’s concubines to lonely lorry drivers, he works his way up the hierarchy. That is, until his love for one of the concubines, Anna (Yana Novikova), pushes him back to the bottom of the heap, and to the brink of madness.
Even in the trailer, the audience is warned that this is a film like no other. The entire account is communicated in Ukrainian sign language, and there are no subtitles or translations to provide explanation. The audience must attempt to understand the dialogue through emotion, and by reading the body language of the actors. In an interview, Slaboshpytskiy explained his reasons for using sign language to portray this story: “This is a homage to silent films, where actors were communicating through pantomime…sign language is like a [real life] pantomime.”
Stylistically, the film is moving and beautiful, transporting the audience into a world of silence and madness. Slaboshpytskiy does often make a habit of lingering on scenes, sometimes to the point of awkwardness. However, when this method is used to illustrate intimate moments between characters, it effectively conveys the emotions of these students. These uncomfortable, lifelike segments, in which the characters’ pain is showcased to the audience, are powerful in scenes of immense trauma.
Amaliah Sara Marmon-Halm
The Tribe is released nationwide on 15th May 2015.
Watch the trailer for The Tribe here: