Italian filmmaker Roberto Minervini has created one of the most gorgeous and subtle films on Christianity in America that I've ever seen. Using real-life goat farmers from rural Texas, his film both documents a lifestyle and explores the complications that arise when young people come of age in a deeply religious, traditional community.
The most remarkable thing about Stop the Pounding Heart is the care with which Minervini treats his characters/subjects. Never does he frame their prayers as absurd or silly, and he also doesn't string up the proverbial noose so that the zealous can slip their necks inside it. Instead, the meat-and-potatoes Christianity that binds this community together is presented as mostly nurturing, a source of strength, a means through which these people make sense of life.
It's all the more powerful then when Sara Carlson (who "plays" herself, like everyone else in the film) begins to feel uneasy about the future laid out for her. Unlike all the other girls in her community, she doesn't dream of marriage, of helping a man through life. With a quiet despair, she tries to navigate a social landscape where people love her sincerely but don't understand her longing for something more, or just different.
This fiction is loosely woven through what's essentially a documentary of stunning beauty. The sun-dappled images of stick-thin teenagers riding bulls and pregnant women at the firing range resonate as quintessentially American. But for all its prettiness, you'll want to make sure you've had a coffee. Stop the Pounding Heart has a top-shelf art house flow that requires a bit a viewer effort to really appreciate. If you just let it wash over you, there's a chance you might not tap into its deeper currents.
Stop The Pounding Heart plays at the St. Anthony Main Theatre at 1:15 p.m. this afternoon. It screens again on Monday, April 7 at 4:35 p.m.
(credit: Warner Bros.)
Other Highlights: Saturday, April 5
R100 Hitoshi Matsumoto, (Japan) Not only Lars von Trier is mixing sex and comedy in outrageous ways. R100 follows a mild-mannered man as he joins a bizarre S&M club that he can't ever leave. Equal parts surreal, disturbing and hilarious, this is what you want if you're in the market for a midnight movie. (11 p.m.)
Club Sandwich Fernando Eimbcke (Mexico) In this coming of age/learning-to-let-go comedy, a single mom vies for her teenage son's attention after he happens upon a cute girl while on vacation. With tenderness, Eimbcke dissects the three-way relationship, exposing vulnerabilities on all sides. With its combination of humor and pathos, Club Sandwich is sure to be a festival favorite. (7:30 p.m.)
Cannibal Manuel Martín Cuenca, (Spain) When a calculating murderer who prays on Eastern European women falls in love with one of his victims' sister, he suddenly finds his himself questioning his criminal passion. The bizarre romance that ensues begs the audience to wonder about the transformative power of love, and if even the devil himself can be redeemed. (9:50 p.m.)
For the festival schedule, and a complete listing of all the movies being shown, click here. Ticket information is available here.
Throughout the entirety of the 2014 Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival, we'll be spotlighting one notable movie each day, along with other notable screenings. To see the WCCO Movie Blog's complete coverage on the MSPIFF, click here.
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