Two Shots Fired (2014)

[original title: Dos disparos]

 

A young man unexpectedly discovers a hidden and forgotten gun. Out of a whim he fires two shots at himself, surviving only by luck. This senseless act by an apparently non-suicidal teenager sets into motion a whole number of events, even though nothing in particular is actually happening in this film. People meet, more by coincidence than anything else, and they part ways again. Along the way the film takes a good number of digs at our obsession with communication and the fact that the more ways and instruments our modern age has for communication the less we seem able to actually communicate with each other.

As you can see, Argentine film Two Shots Fired is very difficult to describe. The only film I could possibly compare Two Shots Fired to is the Swedish film A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence (2014), which won the Golden Lion at Venice in 2014.

There are many parallels in these films’ tone and construction: both directors, Martín Rejtman (Two Shots Fired) and Roy Andersson (A Pigeon…), are at the same time their film’s writer. Both films are a loose assembly of scenes with some shared characters. Both films do not actually tell a story, but paint pictures – pictures of people and pictures of society. Both films are using more or less apparent symbolism and both deal with the difficulties people have communicating with each other in a genuine and meaningful manner. One way of demonstrating the latter is, for both directors, to have their characters speak at times in unnatural and stilted ways, relaying information that is either totally unnecessary, repetitive, meaningless, or completely obvious anyway. Most importantly, both Rejtman and Andersson are sharp-eyed observers of society and the absurdities of every-day life, and they are both uniquely gifted when it comes to transporting their observations onto the screen through their writing and their directing. As you may have guessed, both films are somewhat difficult and unusual art house films, and both films drove out a small number of viewers during the screenings at which I saw them.

More important than the films’ similarities, however, are their differences.

While Two Shots Fired is a loose assembly of scenes, Martín Rejtman manages to connect them by weaving a common thread throughout the film. This thread may be thin, but it is still much more tangible than the virtually non-existent thread in A Pigeon… One thing that holds Two Shots Fired together is the simple fact that the shared characters are more dominant, while in A Pigeon… many scenes are completely isolated and do not share any characters with other scenes. Moreover, the actions by some characters in Two Shots Fired have clear knock-on effects in other scenes, influencing the life of other characters, however subtle. In other words: Two Shots Fired feels like a unified whole, whereas A Pigeon… (though at times fascinating) feels more like a pile of shards. Rejtman also manages to keep his film’s symbolism and its general experimental nature at just the right level so that you can still understand and enjoy the film. Andersson did not manage that – or, to be fair, I do not believe he ever tried, as he apparently does not care.

Unlike its indigestible and artsy Swedish counterpart, Two Shots Fired manages to entertain until the end. It may not wholly engage you all the time, but you are always interested in each of the film’s characters and would like to know what happens to them next. Rejtman always manages to keep his characters real: these are people you feel you might know, and you can relate to their problems.

And for portraying these characters, Rejtman has assembled a seriously talented cast. All members of the family at the centre of Two Shots Fired are played by gifted actors. Probably the most difficult role is that of the mother, and Susana Pampin does an excellent job portraying the mother’s helplessness.

The rest of the cast are great as well, especially Walter Jacob and María Inés Sancerni playing two veteran lay musicians who create some of the funniest moments in the film. Special mention should also go to Laura Paredes who manages to pull off a difficult role playing an emotionally detached music teacher with very limited social skills.

While I may have difficulties adequately describing to you what Two Shots Fired is about, or even what it is like, I can at least tell you this: it does almost all those things right that A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence does wrong. Two Shots Fired may be a difficult and unusual film, but it proves that you can make this kind of film and still care about the audience and their needs.

If you expect your films to have a story, or an at least modestly satisfying conclusion, Two Shots Fired is not for you. But if you are interested in something different, in a film painting pictures, then it is an entertaining and enjoyable experience.

 

Rating: 7 out of 10

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