starring Juris Grave, Januss Johansons, Mara Kimele
written and directed by Laila Pakalnina
by Walter Chaw Latvian filmmaker Laila Pakalnina delivers Python (Pitons) somewhere in the netherland between Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Roman Polanski. Her first film in colour, it's a locked-room drama about a boarding school presided over by insane Nurse Ratched acolyte Mara Kimele, doggedly trying to match feces found in her school's attic to samples collected from the students in empty matchstick boxes. Favouring long, isolating tracking shots of children being children as madness and inanity erupt around them in a quiet fog, Python reduces to a series of vignettes that range from the sublime to the interesting to the banal. The best of the bunch include a wonderful sequence where the school photographer comes in to take class pictures armed with a camera, a monkey in a cotton candy-pink dress, and the titular python ("Do you want to pose with the monkey or the snake?"--predictably, there are no takers for the snake), and the intrusion of a beaver hunter on the trail of a rabid beaver. Grounding the absurdities of the piece are the children, who to a one absorb the strangeness of the piece like the demented little aliens that kids are. It all reminds a little of that Harlan Ellison story where reality begins to adapt itself to the ways that television mutates a child's imagination. Python concerns the malleability of perception: it's almost expressionist--and as experiments in world cinema go, it's a little like a breath of bent air. Originally published: October 28, 2004.