Pelican Blood @ TIFF

I am still not sure how to classify this film after watching it. It is that unique. Family drama? Horror? Supernatural film? However you classify it (doesn’t really matter, actually) director Katrin Gebbe shows herself to be a damn talented filmmaker. One with a bright future as a storyteller.

That can be said because she shows herself to be a deft storyteller. Think of all the people in your life who tell a good story. It certainly is a skill. A skill not everyone has. It is about pacing, word selection, body language, visuals, build up, and how they use their voice. All that goes into making a good film too, for the most part. German Gebbe uses all the tools in a filmmaker’s tool box in Pelican Blood.

After premiering at the Venice Film Festival, Pelican Blood traveled to TIFF for audiences on this side of the Atlantic. Hers is a female driven tale with an deep underbelly of darkness to it. In her 2013 debut with Nothing Bad Can Happen, Gebbe also told a rather dark story of a psychopath. She is not interested in the happy go lucky kind of tales.

Once again here she goes for a rather chilly side to what most would think would be an uplifting story. Owning her own horse stable and training both riders and horses, the single Wiebke (Nina Hoss – The Audition, Barbara) seems to be living an idyllic life along with her young adopted daughter, Nicolina (Adelia-Constance Ocleppo).

Wiebke wants more children and finally her dream is coming true as she has traveled to Poland to complete the adoption of a five-year-old girl named Raya (Katerina Lipskova – Absentia). The elation that she and Nicoline feel about having a new member of the family is short lived, however, as the youngster starts demonstrating some strange and frightening behaviour.

No matter how bad it gets, Wiebke won’t give up on her new daughter. Despite the fact that Nicolina is upset and scared. Her new potential romantic interest (Murathan Muslu – Wild Mouse, 7500) is pushed aside. Other children are being hurt. And she even puts her own health at risk. Wiebke will do anything. And I mean anything. Except give up her daughter.

Once again Nina Hoss proves herself to be quite an actress. She is in two films as the festival (also The Audition). With two very different characters and she handles it like a pro. No pigeonholing this lady! She seems to be handle anything thrown at her. Working with animals. Working with kids. Being part of an exorcism…a real actress. Nothing glamourous. No exotic locations. No to die for wardrobe. Just telling a story. A story of an average woman in an unusual situation.

I have often wondered where evil people come from. As a firm believer that no one is born evil, I have often wondered how people get that way. Was Donald Trump rejected by his mother? Did Hitler have to deal with racism or bullying as a child? Was Pol Pot not breast fed? What led them to become the monsters they were? If we were to believe this story, they became that way due to childhood trauma which allowed an evil spirit to come in and take over. It happened because they needed protection they did not get from adults and the evil spirit would not let others hurt them anymore. Interesting.

Plenty about this film makes you think. The depth of a mother’s love for a child. Even an adopted one. The strength of women. How adults abuse children. Why do some police still ride about on horses? Loads of food for thought. And you will find yourself thinking about it and its questions for a long time.

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