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Heartbeat Detector


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#1 M. Leary

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Posted 11 December 2008 - 08:50 PM

I finally caught up with Heartbeat Detector, which Scott Foundas reviewed very well. It hasn't been extremely well recieved because of the way it compares corporate ethics to Nazis and the Holocaust, which apparently is way too over the top. While it first seemed extreme to me, the film really is about a company with past connections to that tragic event, so what happens in the film is a natural outgrowth of this history. I was just speaking with my wife today about how even she is affected by the loss of a majority of her grandparents relatives in the Holocaust, so I can understand why an employee who discovers his company was related to it could experience existential crisis. And I think what happens in the comparison the film makes is that we do come to grips with how evil typical corporate practices can be. There is a pattern of evil in the world of which the Holocaust is a supreme example, and Heartbeat Detector demonstrates the presence of this pattern in places we don't expect. There is more to be said, but that would involve some spoilers.

I am also surprised that the way it is filmed didn't generate more buzz. The entire film is sterilized like the beginning of Joe vs. The Volcano, and scattered throughout are extremely physical 10 minute takes in dance clubs or similar environments. It is a beautiful film in the way some of Lucien Freud's paintings could be considered beautiful.

(And it is on the "watch it now" section of Netflix.)

Edited by MLeary, 11 December 2008 - 08:50 PM.


#2 Overstreet

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Posted 26 May 2009 - 10:32 PM

Wow.

What an amazing film. The central questions... and, in fact, the storyline... keep reminding me of The Lives of Others: the power of beauty and art to pierce the conscience and break the corrupting hold of power.

But it explores those themes with such poetry and provocation that it makes The Lives of Others look like an afterschool special. And I mean no disrespect to that film. I'm a big fan.

Hearbeat Detector reminds me, in the end, more of Beau Travail than anything else. And I might be reading too much into it, but I think there is at least one direct visual reference to that film.

I think if the Academy was really interested in movies that dig deep into questions of Nazism and "the human question," they'd be celebrating this movie instead of The Reader.

I'm going to want to see this again and dig into it in an article. One of those rare films in which the imagery and editing are contributing as much to what the film means as the script.

I have a feeling I may have to revise my Favorite Films of 2008 list... with a new movie at #1.

Edited by Overstreet, 27 May 2009 - 12:22 AM.


#3 M. Leary

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Posted 27 May 2009 - 10:49 AM

QUOTE (Overstreet @ May 26 2009, 11:32 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Hearbeat Detector reminds me, in the end, more of Beau Travail than anything else. And I might be reading too much into it, but I think there is at least one direct visual reference to that film.


And maybe the end of Slow Motion and Nazarin and Code Unknown as well. That final bit is one of my favorite endings since... Code Unknown. But my first thought in the club scene was: Where is Lavant?

QUOTE
I think if the Academy was really interested in movies that dig deep into questions of Nazism and "the human question," they'd be celebrating this movie instead of The Reader.


And from a theological angle, this film taps into much recent Christian thought on the way capitalism, corporate-speak, and nationalism have infected modern Christianity. Almost everything said about business in the film could also be said about the church. The amount of discussion this film could provoke is incredible, and so far it has gone largely unnoticed.

But I was specifically shocked by the way Klotz weaves a large amount of references to the Holocaust into the film from later culture, such as all the Joy Division tracks. Every corner of the film is saturated by its lingering effects, and you get such a sense of history in Simon's struggle. It is A History of Violence, but one that post-war has taken on far more subtle forms in society.

From my Filmwell review:

QUOTE
And then the film periodically explodes in barely intelligible orgiastic club scenes followed by their off-kilter aftermath. Its characters become unhinged, freed from the oppressive confines of Klotz’ direction, and wake up on sidewalks after lengthy binges. The centerpiece of the film is a long take lit only by strobe light during which Simon gives himself over to the moral confusion set in motion by his discoveries, partying like a soldier on R&R from the front. I think we come to grips in this scene with the “la question humaine” as one that undermines the battle lines between commerce and conscience, as if it is just as barbaric to be corporate post-Holocaust as it is to write poetry. Corporate-speak is genetically related to the death of language in propoganda. Dilbert is actually a lexicon of cruelty. These more abstract scenes briefly envision Simon in that same space occupied by Godard’s marionette radicals in La Chinoise, Roland in Weekend, or the Native American avatars in Notre Musique - that irritating place where unmanageable political ideas take narrative form, the visual equivalent of Kafkian inside jokes.


QUOTE
I have a feeling I may have to revise my Favorite Films of 2008 list... with a new movie at #1.


It is lower on mine, but what an incredible year for cinema. This has been the film that I have returned to most often from 2008.

Edited by MLeary, 27 May 2009 - 12:23 PM.


#4 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 27 May 2009 - 12:18 PM

MLeary wrote:
: The amount of discussion this film starts is incredible, and so far it has gone largely unnoticed.

So much discussion, but nobody's discussing it? Oh, the paradox! wink.gif

#5 M. Leary

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Posted 27 May 2009 - 12:22 PM

QUOTE (Peter T Chattaway @ May 27 2009, 02:18 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
MLeary wrote:
: The amount of discussion this film starts is incredible, and so far it has gone largely unnoticed.

So much discussion, but nobody's discussing it? Oh, the paradox! wink.gif


Uh. Sorry, should have chosen something more subjunctive, as it has gone largely undiscussed apart from the early "How dare Klotz compare Big Business to the Holocaust" reviews.

Edited by MLeary, 27 May 2009 - 12:23 PM.


#6 Overstreet

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Posted 27 May 2009 - 12:40 PM

How about "If people would bother to see this film, they'd find it will provoke incredible discussions." The thread over at Morefield's Cinevox board just scratches the surface of what there is to discuss in this film.


#7 Tyler

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Posted 04 August 2009 - 05:40 PM

QUOTE (Overstreet @ May 26 2009, 11:32 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Wow.

What an amazing film. The central questions... and, in fact, the storyline... keep reminding me of The Lives of Others: the power of beauty and art to pierce the conscience and break the corrupting hold of power.

But it explores those themes with such poetry and provocation that it makes The Lives of Others look like an afterschool special. And I mean no disrespect to that film. I'm a big fan.


I'm assuming you're talking about the quartet's music when you wrote this. I just watched the movie this afternoon, so maybe I need to think it through more, but I didn't see what redemptive power the music had. Just had some kind of association with the music and his father's crimes in WW2, and I guess you could say the rave music jolted Simon out of his malaise, but once they were "awakened," they didn't seem to change. They were aware of/remembered what had happened, but I didn't get the impression that they had been motivated to change anything; more than anything, it just deepened their depression.

#8 Overstreet

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Posted 04 August 2009 - 06:44 PM

You're right, it's not redemptive. Not in this film. But it does keep them from completely shutting themselves off from the horror of what they've inflicted on others. The evils of their dehumanizing programs are exposed in the light of art, which makes them flinch in regret or, at the very least, discomfort.

The rave music seemed to be more of a scream, a madness provoked by their own cruelty. It's like a release.

The quartet, though, seemed to be the glimmer of beauty and mystery that counteracted or at least caused friction with their attempts to systematize everything.

#9 Tyler

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Posted 05 August 2009 - 12:06 PM

Interesting review from Salon.

More than any other movie, Heartbeat Detector reminded me of Michael Clayton. They're both about guilt-riddled executives who go crazy, for one.

#10 Persona

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Posted 14 April 2011 - 11:41 AM

This is a narrative tone poem if there ever was one. I've seen it twice over the past few days. Can't get over it, especially the first half, and I really wish I'd seen all that in the theater. The scene at the rave pretty much floored me. I don't think I've ever taken a drug, but something happens in that scene which reminded me of a few scenes in Morvern Callar actually. Ghostly but real, but triggered by whatever the drug was. It also brings to mind one of those final scenes in Festen we talked about years ago.

It might be extremely stale to note that this kind of cinema functions as interpreting or expressing isolation, especially a sense of longing for communion, or community, which is unachievable in the context these characters find themselves in. The first half of Heartbeat Detector might capture this soulless feeling better than any film I've seen. Then in the second half they seem to find connection, but it's the kind that is so horrible they might want to go back to not connecting.

But it is a mood film. No doubt about that. Sure, it's a story, and it is driven linearly. But this is mood as much as it's story, both of those things appealing to the trapped self, pushed to the edge in psychologist Simon, who brags at several points that his main emphasis in the company is pushing others to the edge that he seems to face in the film's final frames, and the company's CEO, Jüst, in the way they specifically relate -- or actually, don't relate -- to music.

Jüst has played music but is so obsessive over his own performace that it actually physically pains him. Simon doesn't play but keeps trying to connect to others through it -- his girlfriend's singing (which she also attempts at the rave if you really pay attention) that he sidesteps several times to get to her body (even as he claims he loves her voice), or at a performance when he takes the business call and heads out. I'm sure there are other moments where he's blinding himself to the music by raving on and not realizing it can actually move him in a beautiful way.

A fascinating take, Heartbeat Detector might actually be about people that are so lost that even music can't touch them anymore. It can't touch their hearts, any connection to it is undetectable, lost. I think I like the English title better than the original.

And note how still Simon finally sits in that last scene before it all goes black and we just hear his thoughts. Somehow he has faced his escapism and just chosen to live in -- gosh, at least for this moment of his life, what I can only think of as a horrible state, even though he seems to be reconciled to actually listening to the music.

I am not certain I understood everything that happened towards the end even after a second viewing, but I am fascinated with the movie in a way that I believe everything here has some sort of meaning. There were quite a few moments, even on second viewing, where I thought, now why is that scene even here? What was that? Why did we even need that? But I think the film could be studied and I'd bet there is a layer of meaning in every chosen scene.

Edited by Persona, 14 April 2011 - 11:45 AM.


#11 Darren H

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Posted 14 April 2011 - 12:04 PM

Apparently I wasn't spending much time at A&F when I became obsessed with this film a few years ago. Here's what was originally intended to be the first in a series of posts. After reading your comments, Stef, and after rereading my own, I'm eager to rewatch it.

Several of us discussed Heartbeat Detector at Another Film Board, too.

Edited by Darren H, 14 April 2011 - 12:06 PM.


#12 Persona

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Posted 14 April 2011 - 12:07 PM

Wow, what a great, long post. Give me a day or two to get back to you!

I'll probably post three or four paragraphs tonight or tomorrow, but I've got a sneaking suspicion I'll be linking to ya.

#13 Darren H

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Posted 14 April 2011 - 12:16 PM

I just reread that thread at Another Film Board. It's a pretty great discussion. Sometimes I forget that I used to actually devote considerable time and thought to writing. Wish I could do more of that.

#14 Persona

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Posted 14 April 2011 - 12:28 PM

I am going to have to watch those final scenes yet again. I think I've been so caught up in it that I didn't even notice Simon slipping into German, which is very important obviously.

I had a heck of a time getting started on this. Instant Viewing for this film has been skipping. No other movies are but this one had a constant irritating skip to it. Then Netflix wouldn't send it so I tried to watch it on the computer. Not a way to watch this film. So I probably saw the first half twice before the DVD finally showed up, and when it did show up it had an irritating sound when I put it in. I was like, "No! I am never going to be able to finish this one and it looked really interesting." Fortunately, it stopped making that noise about two minutes into the film.

#15 Andrew

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Posted 23 April 2011 - 11:23 PM

I just watched this for a second time, too. A few thoughts:

- Did anyone else think Ozu, with the frequent urban still-life pillow shots scattered through Klotz's film? These - http://www.a2pcinema...oon/pillow1.jpg and http://www.a2pcinema...ory/pillow5.jpg - for instance remind me of the smokestack image that makes up the second and many later scenes in Heartbeat, of course carrying a much more ominous significance in this film, with the Holocaust resonances.

- Fascinating if a bit distracting to see Michael Lonsdale playing a rigid, humorless, obsessive-compulsive boss in this film, after seeing him play the same type albeit in a vastly different context in Truffaut's third Antoine Doinel film, 1968's Stolen Kisses

- Nor too long ago, I had re-read the book on which Heartbeat Detector is based. They really complement one another marvelously. The book is lean and pithy - no raves, no pseudo-romance IIRC - but interestingly allows Simon Kessler a bit more redemption in a still-convincing manner.

I'm so glad this film is in the Top 100.

Edited by Andrew, 23 April 2011 - 11:27 PM.


#16 Darren H

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Posted 13 July 2011 - 03:41 PM

Klotz's latest, Low Life, will premiere at Locarno in a couple weeks.