Central Bloc

Directed by Michel Finazzi | Review by Moumita Deb

This brutally honest, and incredibly intense prison drama employs a unique technique in its portrayal of prison hierarchies and social structures, which lends the film a sense of urgency that is wholly appropriate. Yet constructed in a deceptively artful way the film feels like it’s simply unfolding in front our eyes in a subdued approach.

Even those on the more negative end of the spectrum would tend to use words like “compelling,” “vivid” and “effective” in their critiques. And those are adjectives that this film shares with the best in the wide and variegated genre of the prison movies.

The microcosmic possibilities of life in cell confinement have been mined many times for dramas, comedies, spoofs and thrillers, while set in penal institutions or situations that resemble them, actually satirizes human psychology or the society at large outside those walls, reiterating the thought that human spirit can be progressively degraded through isolation. The characters continue to fight and scratch through an unromantic, bleak existence that is somehow rendered deeply compelling by the director ’s incredibly convincing style.

The film is admirably liberal in its support of prison rehabilitation and its condemnation of the inhumanity of imprisonment, but there’s a disingenuousness in its approach to the complexity of characters which overlooks the more troubling aspects of the convict’s personality in favor of a more mild-mannered Daniel Ruchat. But it’s still an engaging prison saga if you can overlook the glossed-over nature of the scripting.

Plunging the viewer into the dark recesses of the maniacal criminal, Fenazzi delivers a psychotic jolt which is likely to yield a surprisingly lukewarm critical reaction. But that will probably be revised, as a wider audience discovers the film for being the movie that seems destined for cult appreciation. It deserves adulation for showing us the other side of the coin by the crusading prison officer.

The film unquestionably puts us inside the maze of altogether different prison life, immersing the viewer so successfully in the smells, sights and sounds of the prison that you feel you’re sitting in on every scene, whether as an observer or hurled right into the action.

On a more literal take, no matter how small the cell, friendship, even forged in the unlikeliest of places between diametrically opposed people, is its own kind of liberation.

Running for over more than an hour, the film can feel like an endurance test of its own, and yet it’s hard to shake off, with certain powerful scenes and images lingering long after. It is, of course, a testament to a man’s unbreakable spirit, but simmering just beneath that is a real sense of despair at how much one might need to sacrifice to an uncaring, wild world simply to survive.

Thanks to its tremendous cast, it’s among Fanazzi’s most purely humanistic works. Central Bloc, however, also reveals the need to improve conditions of confinement and provide overall prison reform. In the end, the public enjoys the movie and takes home a chunk of life in prison segregation units. Central Bloc is nonetheless compulsively watchable and possibly enlightening for all and sundry.

While the movie announces its measured, quietly confident pace right from the opening scene, the musical score contributes meaningfully to the sense of dread, as well as the rich sound design and the color palette of breathtaking cinematography.

The brilliant script satisfies the necessary machinations while always flowing effortlessly from his vivid, multi-dimensional characters. That delicate balance extends to an envisioned direction, which maintains a vise-like grip on the viewer without ever resorting to cheap shock effects or compromising the integrity of the human drama. Yet this is also a film that breathes, that knows it has the audience in its palm and can take time out for the kind of incidental, character-deepening scenes that usually end up on the cutting-room floor. In less assured hands, the movie with a plot so convincing could have been an invitation to disaster, heavy on self-conscious allegory, symbolism and moral debate. Everyone, ironically, is a prisoner of something — of time, temptations, grief, of his own psyche.

In Central Bloc, nothing is belabored, and thrive victoriously in the thorny questions of right and wrong bubbling under the surface without ever being declaimed.

 

Moumita-Deb

Moumita is a Kolkata based independent filmmaker and film critic. She holds a post- graduation degree in English literature from Jadavpur University. Reading novels of a wide range of authors of all genres from classic to contemporary has always been Moumita’s passion and calling. She also takes a strong liking in playing the Spanish guitar & has participated in quite a few concerts. Moumita has done her certification course in Cinematography, Video Editing and Filmmaking