Add to this list of surreal masterpieces, TUVALU, the whimsical comedic fantasy from visionary filmmaker Veit Helmer and one of the most surprising and critically acclaimed films in recent years. — TUVALU is a visually wild... more » fairy-tale love story, where no one talks and yet emotions are clearly communicated through movement and expressions. Young apprentice and daydreamer Anton (Denis Lavant of Beau Travail) is an eccentric loner who dreams of the open seas and works in a vast, once-grand bathhouse. Now ancient and crumbling pool is where local citizens go to escape their dreary lives. Into this world comes the beautiful young Eva, (Chulpan Hamatova of Advertising Rules), who has a similar desire for adventure as Anton and finds herself drawn to his strange ways. Unfortunately Gregor, Anton's evil older brother, plots to tear down the bathhouse and the surrounding town to make way for his real estate development, and Anton need to save both his bathhouse and win Eva's heart.« less
"My husband and I rented Tuvalu last night. From the box, it appeared to have the same feel as City of Lost Children, Delicatessen, Amelie, etc, which we liked a lot. Not knowing that the movie had little to no dialogue, at the rental store, we tried to determine what language it was in, and if it was subtitled. The box does not list these things, however, someone at the rental store decided to mark "subtitled" on the DVD case (does anyone at these rental stores ever WATCH the movies before they put them on the shelves?)After watching a few minutes and realizing that the entire movie would be pantomimed, we adjusted our expectations accordingly and enjoyed the movie. What few words are spoken are either obvious as to what they mean, someone's name, or in English. The movie is a sweet story. The imagery is wonderful, and certain shots, such as that of Eva swimming with her goldfish, caught me as very beautiful. We also loved the tinting of the film - changing from black & white, to sepia, to blues, etc.After the movie, we watched the special 6 minute short film "Surprise" also on the DVD. "Surprise" was hilarious and kept me giggling even after the short was over.Since this was just a rental for us, and thus we don't own it, I'm definately adding it to my wish list."
Fritz Lang Resurrected as a Surrealist in Bulgaria?
Stephen Canner | Austin, TX USA | 11/21/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I love films in which the director shows that he's a true auteur by creating a universe of his own, a universe that is neither past, present, nor future, a universe that can't be found on a map. And while Tuvalu is a real place and can be found on a map (the tiny nation has about 10 square miles of dry land and you might come across it somewhere between Fiji and the Marshall Islands if you're ever drifting across the Pacific Ocean on a raft), Veit Helmer's film by the same name doesn't take place there. Tuvalu was filmed in Bulgaria but the film is set in a stark dreamland during what seems to be either a mildly post-apocalyptic future, a somewhat stilted present, or maybe just another dimension altogether.
Tuvalu is a relatively simple love story, but unlike other love stories this one is draped in enough surreal eye candy to keep you interested even if the thin plot doesn't. The details are amazingly well thought out. The interior scenes are shot in sepiatone, the outdoor scenes in a stark blueish black and white. The locale is vaguely Eastern European with evidence of a local Slavo-Germanic language: one scene is shot inside the workshop of a "Mekanika", a building inspector waves a piece of paper labelled "Protokol" in another. The cracks in the walls, floors and ceilings of the bathhouse in which most of the action takes place are beautifully decadent. Every light fixture and doorframe seems chosen for atmosphere. The fact that this is effectively a silent film adds to the dreamlike feeling. There are snippets of speech, and sound is heard, footsteps, crashes, the roar of steam engines, and water dripping, lots of water dripping, but the film could be viewed with the sound turned off without any loss of understanding: a filmic Esperanto, film as international language. This universalism was intentional according to Helmer, although he did state in a recent interview, "My sound editor would like to kill everyone who calls it a silent film, because he worked for six months creating the sound design."
French "Next Wave" actor Denis Lavant's portrayal of Anton, the bathhouse attendant, is very believable and at times he seems to channel Buster Keaton, performing physical comedy without seeming to be aware of it. His harmless yet weathered face is also perfect for the role of innocent in a netherworld.
Russian actress Chulpan Khamatova was also a good choice for Eva, Anton's love interest. She looks like a teenaged schoolgirl (she was in her mid-20s at the time of filming) but when she first catches Anton spying on her while undressing her laugh betrays anything but innocence. Clothed or not, Khamatova also has a bearing, an offbeat beauty, that is completely in sync with the world in which the film takes place. She seems to belong to this time and place as much as the grotesques that populate much of the rest of the film. Helmer has mentioned in interviews that he auditioned over a thousand actors for this film and it shows. French veteran actor Phillipe Clay plays the blind bathhouse owner with understated grace. Terrence Gillespie as Anton's rival comes off like a slimy Eastern European Lyle Lovett. Even down to the extras, Helmer has cast this film with the same eye for detail that went into its design.
A blurb on the box for the DVD version of this film says that Tuvalu feels like Fritz Lang directing Delicatessen. I think the Fritz Lang comparison is valid, and would be surprised if Helmer didn't cite him as a major influence but, except for the surreal elements and the alternate universe both films portray, the comparison to Delicatessen is a bit of a stretch. Tuvalu is a much kinder, gentler film, and while its world is not without its dangers, and indeed even death and night and blood, its spirit draws more from classic European cinema of the 30s and 40s than from the post-punk Gilliamesque humor of Caro and Jeunet. Tuvalu to me feels more like Fritz Lang teaming up with Guy Maddin to make a classic love story."
LGwriter | Astoria, N.Y. United States | 05/27/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Equal parts Guy Maddin (Tales from the Gimli Hospital, Careful), Lars von Trier (Element of Crime) and Jean-Pierre Jeunet (Amelie, City of Lost Children), this unique almost-silent film uses monochromatic tinting to convey an otherworldly feel in its story of characters whose life is primarily confined to an ancient bath-house located in the middle of nowhere. The single color permeating the screen varies--from sepia to blue to black-and-white to green, and back again--giving the work a fantastical aura that works quite well.The characters act out the story with spoken language confined only to their names, an occasional "OK" and the phrase "technology system profits". Only once I caught some French, but that disappeared as suddenly as it was heard. The written words that are displayed seem to give the feeling of an eastern European setting, but the viewer is never sure where he is. This is accentuated by the isolation of the castle-like bath-house and the costumes which could be worn by denizens of a dozen different places, at least.Though the director is German, it was shot in Bulgaria and features Bulgarian women singers and a cast of actors from various countries throughout both Eastern and Western Europe. The story is of a young man, Anton, who, with his blind elderly father and a middle-aged woman, runs the bath-house for those who need aquatic soothing. An ancient machine in the basement keeps everything going, supplying steam power to run whatever must be run. When a pretty young woman and her father visit for a swim, Anton's world is shaken; this is the first time in his life he's smitten and this, of course, sets the real story in motion.Anton's brother Gregor is the bad guy; not only does he have an evil laugh, but his Eraserhead hair is a dead giveaway. Gregor's idea is to do away with the bath-house and make money by converting what's old into what is "modern" (another word that pops up a few times, with the accent on the second syllable). Also involved are a friendly policeman, a safety inspector, and a group of helpful villagers.The suspension of time and place is critical in appreciating this piece, whose title refers to a mysterious place that...well, better if you watch the film.Definitely recommended."
Phil | Greenwich, CO | 11/16/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I was very sceptical at first, after reading all the reviews and seeing the screenshots. But the movie exceeded all the expectations and revealed a new dimension in the world of cinema. It is not a cilent movie, but only a few words are spoken, however the director and the actors managed to kept me mesmerized and captivated from the beginning till the very end. I only wish this movie were twice, no three times longer, and after it finished I kept reliving the episodes and the atmosphere for many hours and days. Chulpan Khamatova is utterly fascinating and her character is not only unforgettable, but also very personalized and lively. I will watch this movie again many times."
Tuvalu - a masterpiece by Veit Helmer
anders barfod | Denmark | 05/01/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Tuvalu is a simple lovestory about a man who tries to save an old bath institut from being closed. His evil brother wants to earn alot of money and therefore tries to sell the building. One day a mysteri girl shows up and he falls for her at once. But so does his brother and a competition starts between them but he can not compete with the brother because he doesn't have alot of money to impress her with. The story develops and soon the and the bathinstituit are almost out of his range, but then things starts top happen.The film is very beautyfull shot and veit helmer really makes this simple story work. The acting is exstremly good even though it sometimes looks animated. But the best part of the film is that the launguage is international and therefore doesn't have to be subtitlet. The film is inspirede by especially Emir Kustorica."