Confronting the immediacy of guilt and regret in the wake of an unexpected tragedy, 22nd of May is an atmospheric and emotionally intense film that probes our contemporary understanding of death and disaster. Opening with a bravura sequence of stark realism, the film shifts into an unreal dreamscape in which the characters are trapped in purgatory, desperately trying to resolve the individual traumas that haunt them.
After fleeing a devastating disaster, security guard Sam (Sam Louwyck) awakes to a nightmarish world where he is visited by victims of the tragedy. They draw Sam into the narrative of their own lives, revealing a harrowing glimpse of the sorrow they experience. A young woman accosts him for not saving her infant son; a lonely man confides his unrequited love for a shopkeeper; a frustrated slacker pines for the woman who rejected him. Several of the victims indict Sam’s failure to protect them, but their accusations are a pale reflection of the unremitting guilt he feels for a traumatic incident in his own past.
Director Koen Mortier was last at the Festival with the alarming Midnight Madness film Ex-Drummer. His new work enters entirely different territory – it unsettles more than shocks – but he displays the same masterful ability to combine image and sound to hit viewers straight in the gut. One sequence appears to use Antonioni’s Zabriskie Point as both inspiration and challenge.
Mortier deploys his knowledge of cinema and impressive technical skills to make 22nd of May a compelling work of avant-garde narrative cinema. Blurring the line between nostalgia and longing, it creates a hypnotic procession of interwoven narratives, both present and past, all of which is grounded in the conflicted and soulful presence of Louwyck as the security guard. In confronting those he did and didn’t save, Sam is propelled into the remorse of his own past and forced to grapple with his longstanding sorrows. –TIFF
a somber and restrained work by comparison to Ex Drummer, yet no less creative in its employment of edgy camera techniques, editing and an oblique narrative. not unlike the magical realism of say Wings of Desire or Northfork. was the second film I'd seen this week with Sam Louwyck (the other being Lost Persons Area). I'm quite impressed by both Louwyck and Mortier. the final blast scene, accompanied by an incongruous soundtrack, is visually stunning...
The new film from the director of the fairly depraved 'Ex-Drummer' feels like a more mature and personal film free from shock for shock's sake. Here we have long, impressive steady-cam sequences and muted, reverb-drenched sound design mixed with some quite beautiful ultra-slow motion to help round this one out. I had a real struggle with the first third of it but after that went happily along for the ride. 3 stars