This topic is part of the 2012 MUBI World Cup. If you have not already done so, please read the first post at the topic for an introduction to and rules about this year’s World Cup:
The purpose of this topic is to cast votes in the matchup listed above and also to be a forum for discussing the films in the match.
Anyone who has seen both of the films listed above may vote in this match. You must vote for whichever of the two films you personally like better. In order to vote you must post a reply to this topic containing one of the following sequences:
If you are voting for Singapore GaGa: “Singapore (Singapore GaGa) 1 – Ukraine (The Stone Cross) 0”
If you are voting for The Stone Cross: “Singapore (Singapore GaGa) 0 – Ukraine (The Stone Cross) 1”
Your vote must contain the names of both films with a “one” after the film you are voting for and a “zero” after the other film. If your vote is not formatted in this way it will not be counted.
Along with your vote you are strongly encouraged to leave additional comments regarding your reactions to the films, your reasons for why you voted the way you did, and responses to other participants’ comments. Being able to have deep discussion about the films and different aspects of them is an important part of finding enjoyment in participating in the World Cup.
This match will end on Monday, April 30 at 10:00 PM GMT. No votes attempted to be cast after that time will be counted. Shortly after the match ends the votes will be tallied and a winner of the match will be declared. If the films both receive the same number of votes, the match will be considered a tie.
The percentage of votes each film receives in a match will have an effect on whether or not the corresponding country will participate in the final round of the World Cup. Thus even if the film you vote for loses in this match, your vote will still be important.
The results of the matches as well as the schedule for future matches can be found here:
If you would like to participate but are unable to find sources to watch these films, please send me a personal message so that I can invite you to the private website featuring internet links to view the films.
singapore (singapore gaga) 0 – ukraine (the stone cross) 1
loved the ukrainian film, beginning with wonderful long shots and ending with closeups of all those great faces. and music! and dancing! also i don’t know how often we americans think about our ancestors leaving everything they knew behind in the old countries but i found this aspect really touching. that old man broke my heart
Singapore (Singapore GaGa) 0 – Ukraine (The Stone Cross) 1
The opening 10-minute segment of The Stone Cross — the old peasant and his horse against the backdrop of a harsh, intimidating landscape — seems to suggest that the film could be a bittersweet paean to man’s dignified, Sisyphean struggle against nature, circumstance and old age. Certainly the film’s central character feels a strong sense of pride, yet much of it is manifested in the form of an unremitting rage and bitterness. The role of the landscape, the stress that it puts on the individual is palpable, more so because what dominates the soundtrack in this sequence a lot more than the sound of feet hitting stone and dust are the hateful mutterings of the peasant, directed at his land, at his horse, indeed at God himself.
“I don’t want your God to fool me with these songs!”
The following sequence with the thief around the dinner table in the peasant’s dimly lit room takes this tone a few notches higher. The suffocating darkness in the room is nothing as compared to the eyes (those eyes!), filled as they are with contempt and unrepentant hatred. Alcohol is copiously consumed to suggest defiance and disregard, to feign fearlessness in the face of impending death, or even worse, to “build up venom”, and the characters’ idea of a dinner table conversation is to gleefully discuss in great detail the different ways a man can be murdered. The misanthropic nature of this entire section is somewhat offset by the preceding stark images of the landscape and the peasant’s toil, in that they provide a window through which we can look at, and perhaps understand how extreme, unforgiving spaces can condition certain facets of human character, yet it is still so pervasive that even the peasant’s eventual backing out of this draconian act (which he and his friends probably perceive as a noble, even heroic act of hard justice) seems more a sign of feeble-mindedness than any indication of kindness or sympathy. It’s an extraordinary sequence, and if Osyka had chosen to stay in that room for the rest of the film’s running time, I might have admired it even more.
"I don’t know who’s going to have a sin for whom: me for you or you for me? But there’s going to be sin.
As it stands though, the final section with the farewell party is perfect in its own way, the near-continuously moving camera capturing every little tokenism of forgiveness exchanged over shots of vodka. It is also a stage for the peasant to be literally flooded with and overwhelmed by a lifetime of memories, soon to be part of a lost consciousness, a torrent of sadness and regret amidst fleeting recollections of happier moments (“I look at you, and I recall my youth”), and all that’s left to do is a pathetic little dance (among the film’s few hilarious moments, yet painfully so), almost comically trying to invent some illusion of hope and happiness, the forceful submission to the logic of his self-exile seemingly complete.
Singapore (Singapore GaGa) 1 – Ukraine (The Stone Cross) 0
I wasn’t effected by either film in quite the same way as the above commentators, so have no problem (even after Fake Beard’s great analysis of The Stone Cross) in voting for the documentary film from Singapore. I find Singapore a fascinating place, mixing a variety of languages and cultures into a distinctive mix. The film captures all this in spades, within a relatively short running time. Using vibrant colors and well-shot short scenes, the filmmaker never lingers too long on any one aspect. I was completely sold with the emphasis on music in the film and the John Cage performance piece 4’33. I could never vote against any film that incorporates this sublime piece. Also, as one who was made to take the recorder in school and never really enjoyed it, it was nice to hear a music commentator in the film condemning this practice in favor of promoting the harmonica – which would have been my favored intrument. The ‘national treasure’ street performer was also a hoot.
I, too, liked the stark faces in the Ukranian film. The film seemed to be broken down into three distinct episodes: the peasant farming his impossible strip of stoney land and erecting the stone cross (which we find out later is being done to honor his memory), the bizarre confrontation with the thief in the claustophobic room (boy, those guys sure don’t mess around – talk about frontier justice), and the party and leavetaking. Each segment had its magical moments (with very liberal amounts of vodka – in Ukranian горілка), with some great imagery and framing of faces. But, I still preferred the bright colors of the Singapore film to these dark black and white contrasts. Call it a mood thing…Now I know the imagined journey of many of my fellow countrymen who immigrated to Canada from the Ukraine.
Guess I feel more strongly about Singapore GaGa since I am from Singapore.
The beginning of The Stone Cross reminds me of Naked Island. Couldn’t really relate to why the old man felt so sad about leaving home towards the end and I felt that he was whining for no reason.
Check out the Singapore Gaga Intro to understand more about the film.
The Stone Cross: I was fascinated by this film although I am not sure if I totally understood it. Was there a connection between the brutal murder in the name of justice and the latter parts of the farewell party? Did our old man bury the thief under the stone cross on the mountain? Did religion have anything to do with this film? As far as I could understand, the old man seems to take his rage of having to leave his land on the thief and later regrets and gives him a burial on his land. In a way, its probably a sign of penance on his part for the sin he had committed. He realizes that his anger on the thief was futile and couldn’t prevent him from leaving his country. Apart from the plot points, I was also impressed with some of the camera work, especially The bird eye shot of the horse ploughing the land at the beginning, the point of view shot of the bird and the extremely long mise en scene at the farewell party. I thought the film could have been cut short a bit towards the end but otherwise this was a great discovery.
Singapore Gaga: I already posted my comments about this film on the intro thread by Daffy. This is a very nice documentary although it appears to be a bit shallow at times. I might have voted for it if it was competing against a lesser film.
Singapore (Singapore GaGa) 0 — Ukraine (The Stone Cross) 1
Does anyone know anything about the curious score in The Stone Cross? Some great odd noodling.
I was more in the mood for something light here and enjoyed the sights and sounds of Singapore Ga Ga (although doubt I will ever be reconciled to 4’33 as a sublime work:) I was very interested in all the tunes going on, I couldn’t identify some of them which bugged me. Skater’s Waltz guy, yeah a national treasure, what else….Stone Cross was a formidable foe and at some other point in time it might have resonated more powerfully but feeling a bit over the sombre, the symbolic and God fearing forgiving seeking head bobbing at the moment…and funereal scenes
The character in the story Stone Cross is based on apparently died in Hilliard Alberta in 1911
i’m amazed not more people have been appalled by the absolute misanthropy in the stone cross. if you froze a mustache until its whiskers were slivers of granite, that film is the dream hidden lurking in the blackest accusations of its pointed hairs. there’s not a slushy warm human shred of understanding to be found (obviously the result of the failure to collectivise! – considering when it was made and who would be censoring it) but i loved the whole ritual/taboo/sacrifice element with the thief.
singapore gaga had some nice ideas, but it felt very tentatively ‘first-feature’ – no need to explain 4’33, surely? and i’m personally not a fan of talking heads or milking sympathy by using marginalized loonies to make a point. but there was enough to make me very curious about her film ‘invisible city’, about the erosion of memory. she seems to like filming things that can’t be filmed, and that’s always going to be interesting.
well – a few things that come to mind, the handicapped (whatever they were) were ushered in and treated kindly, fed and accepted as part of festivities and village life, Ivan was moved by the plight of the thief and showed him compassion, his “old woman” was comforted by many in her dis-ease so I didn’t think it was devoid of human warmth altogether was it
Did he call Ivan uncle? I really didn’t know what was being conveyed in that whole cat and mouse game with the thief it became quite tiresome but then if I had gotten some idea of what was being represented/played out beyond just the immediately accessible/apparent …but I didn’t
ah right. the feeling i got about stone cross was one of man’s abject impotency (see StL) in the face of all the forces he was subject to – environmental, societal etc. who said all new civilizations are based on an act of violence? the old guy was leaving/running away/escaping to somewhere new, and i saw the thief’s murder as some sort of opportunistic break for him. he’s trapped in all this tribal nonsense – ‘community’, and the only way he can leave with a ‘clean’ conscience is by appeasing the traditional Old Ways with an unintentional mega-sacrifice, by allowing them to kill the outsider. he feels sorry for the thief but he does nothing to stop the death – that’s not compassion, that’s cynicism. similarly with the handicapped whatevertheywere’s – it’s still a tribal thing – they look after their own. that’s not compassion, that’s possession.
that’s why i guess it passed the soviet censors – look at this lack of technology and organisation, tribal feuding, this backward people – what they need is a five year plan! what a great solution! that’ll work!
or maybe i’m just the misanthrope. all i know is that i seem to be watching very different films to you, rohit and oxymoron…
I think it’s the bad haircuts which all the Ukrainian men have to wear when they go clubbing. Is it tribal or Soviet to swill a gallon of potato juice an hour? Since everyone’s seriously drunk all the time, or gets drunk to make a decision, this movie is rather curious in explicating the “boys” choices. Our lead papa will pull his wife’s braids out of her head, threaten her, beat her (we are lead to believe), then slober to himself or God about his transgressions of sin. The best section was the drunken living room with all the bad vibes breeding in the corners and the murderous executioners’ eyes getting more slitty with each moment. My relatives lived in such a way I assume years ago. If we’re God’s court reporters in this charming dose of silver halide and hardened goo, how do we judge these people? Let them in the pearly gates? Send them to the Cherubim’s AA meetings? Give them all to the other side for a player to be named later? Throw up our hands and start a new dream? Ugly people with ugly souls who could benefit from a tractor and a set of laws. How did they get that opening shot, high above the road, in which the old man and white nag pass below on their way to the hill? Did they have really high cranes to shoot from? it is what’s called God’s Point-of-view. One at the end too, somewhere. The party sequence was an interesting think piece on what we do without chairs. We stand around till we’re so tired that we lay down embroidered clothes then fall down, while listening to blind or deformed citizens flair away on out-of-tune strings. The Painted Bird comes to mind. The film may be unpleasant and brutal, but its my kind of unpleasant and brutal. A good likeness of how I view humanity on a bad day.
I don’t have much to say about the documentary. Too ordinary perhaps for all of it’s trying to feature the odd and unusual.
Haven’t watch both films in a particularly great condition (I’m sick), but I enjoyed them for what they were, a vote which could have changed depending on the day.
VOTING IS CLOSED
Singapore (Singapore GaGa) – 4
Ukraine (The Stone Cross) – 6
The winner is:
Souls and bodies we’ll lay down, all for our freedom,
And we’ll show that we, brothers, are of the Cossack nation!
Ivan – misanthropic opportunist sans compassion or conflicted heart toughened by adversity, probably a mix of both
Ivan as we see, has lived the gruelling life of a peasant in his spare poverty stricken homeland, a tiny speck in the great field of human struggle, shoeless and under resourced, (what is he doing carting sacks or soil up that hill and scattering it over rocks anyway, didn’t seem to be serving any useful purpose). So we get that he is pissed off at his sore feet, at God (YOUR god he says to the birds as if he has forsaken god for himself…) for mocking him with birdsong and not being powerful enough to provide something better so he is not compelled to go looking for it across the other side of the world, an old man about to become a stranger in a strange land, fearful but resigned to this as the only way out, the only hope for better things, he even begrudges the skinny nag his oats complaining about the time the horse bit him, biting the hand that feeds you… everything is basically unsatisfactory and he presents as a very put upon victim of a heartless cynical creator.
The thief arrives on the scene…now suddenly Ivan presents a different persona, says he is “strong” – when the judge and jury arrive he tells them proudly the thief is big but he Ivan is bigger, tougher…but he also tells the thief that he is soft natured; however he never lets a thief live. The thief enquires about his fate am I to die here then? – he has a chance to survive if he is tough, and can withstand the punishment Ivan tells him – Get your strength back for you don’t know what awaits you – they talk of fear of God, Ivan tells the thief nothing compares to losing his possessions to a thief !! it would have damaged his life forever..he is saving to go to Canada so no he is not afraid to mete out punishment for the deed but he becomes agitated – this is not a matter of fact thing for Ivan – his defensiveness denotes some internal conflict about intending harm and perhaps death on the thief. I didn’t interpret Ivan’s attitude as misanthropic. They’ve had a fight too he says, the thief has tried to knock him out, he describes his struggle to subdue him getting him with a log. The visitor says something about that’s understandable that the thief would try it on as everyone wants to protect himself, he also tries also to normalise the woman’s fright telling Ivan after he gets angry and tells her he will whip her, saying that of course she is afraid of the ensuing fight.
Ivan again appears to see himself as unwitting victim, telling the thief that the sin has come about (by your trying to steal) and now we can’t avoid it so he’s resigned, but not apparently relishing anything about the situation. He then tries to sustain the thief for the coming ordeal with food and drink telling him it will make him stronger, you are very low….there’s the tentative beginnings of interrogation, where are you from then one of the vigilantes taunts him with the different levels of punishment depending on gentry peasant and Jew this man is presented as a sadist/misanthropic and appears to be enjoying himself, they all need liquor to proceed, thief to die, vigilantes to dish out their justice. They listen to the thief’s song of innocence and romance, a blue flower for a girl, the camera lingers on his face, this was a very sad moment seemingly indicative of all lost youth and beauty to how life reduces men to this….the thief tells him he now feels a lightness in his soul and is not afraid of them. Ivan gets really upset when the thief tries to kiss his hand, crying out that he will weaken, the others warn that they know of the thief’s ploy trying to get around Ivan, trying to get off the hook by saying sorry, by begging forgiveness.
He tells them that is not his ploy, that he has gained clarity in getting drunk in seeing that he must die, he is not trying to get out of it, he has accepted it… but he begs to die with Ivan’s forgiveness because then God will lessen his sin. But now he says something different in his defense, that he was there because he wanted to go to Canada with Ivan The visitor laughs and repeats the thief is trying to trick them with lies and can see Ivan is getting sucked in, he tells Ivan to get away from the thief, then makes the cold statement about drining more t build up venom. The thief breaks down and sobs.
It seems to be some serious breach of code if Ivan lets the thief kiss his hand, a big deal, Ivan says I will do it I will let you….”let them (the vigilantes) kill me if they want to” – at that point he appears to make a significant departure from the other two, Ivan says he is ashamed – again there seems inner conflict, and he does not appear misanthropic he’s actually getting very close to backtracking and pleading mercy for the thief, to doubting perhaps that he is a thief at all – the thief at this point talks about kissing a threshold and wanting everybody in the whole world ….(he doesn’t finish this, is he about to say he wants everybody in the whole world to be free and have new hope – the golden hope held out by the land of promise and hope represented by Canada “I want…I want…to Canada”, is he supposed to be the symbol of idealism and a “new order” )…anyway bully boy won’t have a bar of it and starts to manhandle Ivan “even if it is your house” tells him he will kill him like a sparrow if he tries to interfere and then physically removes him from the scene.
Then there’s the scene of the cross being dragged up all trussed and wrapped like a body, symbol of the dead thief I thought at the time, Ivan’s own separate ritual, he cries and blesses himself (so weird how they go to RIGHT shoulder first?! ..so wrong) seeming to come to terms with what was done. Next he’s at the farewell gathering and its all forgiveness and God’s will, God seems to be back in his good books …and bonhomie between him and Mr Venom.
I really didn’t get the whole procession at the end in the snow, who died? I didn’t get what was going on there if anyone else knows please inform. I was very tired.
I loved the score Brother D and yeah, bad hair days galore:)
…oh I didn’t mean for this long warble to appear after Riss’s pretty Voting Closed thread, it rather spoils the aesthetic
all i know is that i seem to be watching very different films to you, rohit and oxymoron
I guess we all breathe the air of different planets, even though inhabiting the same mubi solar system (with apologies to Stefan George). Of course, my own air is a bit hotter than all the others…(and more rarified).
Let’s stop over-analyzing these drunken, vodka-swilling Cossacks – BrotherDeacon is right. And we’ll show that we, brothers, are of the Cossack nation. Yeah, we know what those ‘brothers’ did to the thief in their midst – who just wanted to go to Canada, too.
I don’t know where you got that info, Meg, but I was curious whether the film was supposedly set in the late 1800’s or early 1900’s.
I’m sorry that there is so little love for 4’33’’ – the rest is Silence (a pointed reference to John Cage’s book of the same title – read it, you Cossack-loving philistines!).
^oxy I read it here vasyl stefanyk