Review: Martin Cries

Martin Cries by the French filmmaker Jonathan Vinel world-premiered in the Berlinale Shorts competition, and recently won the Best Art Film Award at Go Short in Nijmegen. And it is as if this unique category was made for Vinel's film.

Technically, it's an animation, with the hyper-realistic but slightly unnatural video game approach. At the beginning, we see the eponymous young man laying waste to his room, but in the limited manner of fighting games - he uses two moves to destroy things - chairs, computer - but they can only be knocked off to the ground. In video games, even destruction is limited.

Why is Martin so angry? In voice-over (by actor Paul Hamy, seen last year in João Pedro Rodrigues' marvelous The Ornithologist) he tells us of his three friends who have dissapeared. He does not know why or how, and wanders the video-game world, searching for them from genre to genre (POV shooters and car races abound), sad and lost, but without any traceable emotion on his computer face - which does contain freckles, a customizable trait which will make him human enough for audiences more open to digital experiences. Just like his destruction of home furniture was limited, so is his reach in the big outdoors: he takes a missile launcher and repeatedly fires at a huge wind turbine, but the rocket does no damage whatsoever despite a superbly designed explosion.

With its unexpectedly humane finale, Martin Cries gives the viewer plenty of food for thought and an emotion that is hard to define, after its 16 minutes of disconcerting effect coming from the combination of mechanical images and poetic narration. It is a film for multiple viewings and showing to your friends. A new kind of experience.

18 May 2017, by Vladan Petkovic