There’s a moment in the BBC Comedy series ‘I’m Alan Partridge’ when Alan, whilst being given a tour of his prospective new house, is informed that it’s close to a school for the deaf. “Does that mean there will be or won’t be noise?” he enquires. “I mean, it’s not a school for deaf offenders, is it?”
Comedy that may well be, but it does open up an interesting thought to ponder upon and more importantly challenges our pre-conceptions of those with disadvantages and of our need to stereotype, in general; for example, how many of us would perceive ‘the deaf’ as anything other than good people, struggling on through life and adversity?
A comedy, ‘the Tribe’ is not; far from it. It’s a raw and rather bleak look at a run-down, Ukrainian boarding school for the hard of hearing; a school that feels both forgotten and unloved, as though everyone that attends or works there has been abandoned in some way by their families, the system and by life in general.
Consequently, a feral existence ensues; not just tolerated but positively encouraged by those in charge; a means of money making from theft, deceit and prostitution, promoting a feckless next generation. There are certainly shades of ‘The Lord of the Flies’ about this existence.
The new boy, played by Grigoriy Fesenko, is ‘welcomed’ into his new surrounds through a sequence of rites of passage and is soon actively engaged in the school’s plethora of wrong doings, that is until love plays a part in things. It’s the sort of twisted love that could only be born out of a place like this. Pure love has no chance to flourish here but importantly it’s a love that breaks all of the rules and codes of The Tribe and is always going to end in repercussions, as the film presses ominously onwards towards its savage finale.
I don’t know whether it’s the winter months, the decaying, cold, blue institutional decor of this establishment or just the feeling of hopelessness in so much as you either accept things as they are here or you’re a part of a problem, to be treated as such by the pack mentality of the students, but The Tribe is an incredibly desparate, yet remarkable piece on so many levels.
There is literally no spoken dialogue throughout, no soundtrack of any description, not even occasional incidental music to break the intensity.
It has been shot in long, drawn-out takes which offer no escape from the at times harrowing scenes that unfold (and believe me they’re uncomfortable viewing).
Everybody is seemingly in an insanely mad rush to get everywhere and do everything; a warped, yet well oiled corruption machine. All portrayed emotions are dark, angry and somewhat explosive.
The end credit sequence is short, blunt and to the point… much like The Tribe.
Bleak, yet utterly brilliant.