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The Tribe


Why did people do that? -somebody heaved a sigh. It was an old man sitting behind me.

-I do not know. - woman whisper resound loudly. 

The film had just silently finished and the lights came up. My head was so heavy with thoughts that I could not move my body and come out of  the stuffy cinema. This drastically realistic film deeply shocked me to my core me. However there was almost no sound instead of a quiet whine. There were also hardly any words uttered during the whole movie. But I didn’t  need  words to fully understand the plot.


The film starts slowly and silently. Nothing alerts us to the fact that this film would be anything more than a usual social drama. The story is about a group of  deaf teenagers who are living in a dormitory and studying in a poor post-soviet Ukrainian school. The title of this movie ”The Tribe” precisely describes the relationship between the people portrayed in this story. 


We observe a boy who has just come to a new school. He tries to find his place and get to know the rules of  schoolmates. He has to prove his value and strength. New friends prepare  him for a kind of brutal initiation. Only the strongest could be a part of their community. In the course of time the boy learns these cruel rules. This newcomer becomes a very fast member of “the tribe”. However, the cost of this is very high. Did he have any other choice? Why would anybody be so cruel? Was there a place for human feelings, time for reflection in that cynical world?


The main character falls in love with one of the girls. Could we call it love? His violent desire for one of the girls brought about a serious problem. He stands up to the rest of the group who are taking the profits from the girl’s prostitution. Does love exist among juvenile prostitutes, school hooligans, thieves?  Was this behavior a norm in this poor reality? Were they demoralized from a birth? Maybe this is simply  a way of surviving.


The shocking scenes will stay in my mind for a long time. However, what thrilled me the most were not the brutally naturalistic, violent crimes, but the lack of morality, the almost animalism of the main characters. 

Somebody might say that the director uses this aggressive style of shooting to simply frighten and provoke the audience.  In my opinion, using cynical brutality underlines the broader problem that the reality of a poor life is brutal, not just a movie. I don’t feel manipulated by the film.


I see this film also as a metaphor for the situation in modern day Ukraine. There is no strong law in this school (country). There are no authorities who should be respected. Everybody does what they feel is good for them. The only teacher present is corrupt and  murdered in the end.


There are no subtitles, dubbing or voice over. You do not find any words, so do not wait for a literal judge at the end of this film. Sign language made this plot more universal. This is understandable beyond nationality. However, some people could not believe or do not want to understand  the presence of this brutal reality, though it could happen in every corner of the world. Feelings of greed, desire and revenge are so human. Are humans worse than animals? 


What would you do to survive? How you would behave in in the main character’s place?

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