Friday, July 5, 2019

Movie Review: Styx

Styx *** ½ / *****
Directed by: Wolfgang Fischer.
Written by: Ika Künzel & Wolfgang Fischer.
Starring: Susanne Wolff (Rike), Gedion Oduor Wekesa (Kingsley), Kelvin Mutuku Ndinda (Kelvin), Charlie Galea (Radio Operator Pulpca - voice), Simon Sansone (Radio Operator Coastguard Male - voice), Felicity Babao (Radio Operator Coastguard Female - voice).
The German film Styx almost plays like a feature length version of one of those questions you read a philosophy textbook. You know the ones I mean – is it moral to throw the railroad switch and save five lives, even if by doing so you will kill someone else? Is inaction in saving five people better than actively killing one. It is an impossible moral conflict with no real answer. And that is basically what Styx is, played out over 90 minutes.
The film stars Susanne Wolff as Rike, a German doctor, who is taken a long delayed vacation. She is going to sail, solo, on an 11-foot yacht to Ascension Island – the island Darwin designed for wild, unchecked nature. She is by herself, and that’s the way she wants it. The first 30 minutes or so are almost silent – think of J.C. Chandor’s All is Lost with Robert Redford, for an idea of what is happening – although she’s not nearly in that kind of trouble. But the then the radio crackles – a male voice comes on the line and warns her of huge impending storm. She should be careful.
But the movie isn’t about her survival – the storm comes, it is bad, but she is more than competent enough to handle it, and gets through it just fine. But the next morning, she sees another boat adrift a few hundred meters away – a fishing trawler, overflowing with African migrants, trying to reach Europe. It’s clear that they cannot go anywhere. But what can Rike really do? She’s alone on a small boat. She gets too close, and many migrants may jump in, and try to swim to her boat and safety. Some of them will drown – and those who don’t would overflow her boat quickly. She calls the Coast Guard – who thank her for the report, and tell her not to intervene. They’ll arrange a rescue – eventually. She agrees to stay out of it, but also refuses to leave the area. She may be incapable of helping – but she’s not just going to leave.
A second major character is eventually introduced. This is Kingsley (Kelvin Mutuku Ndinda) – one of the migrants who jumped in the water and the only one who made it. His arrival – or at least when he wakes up – immediately shames Rike. She can no longer pretend that these are faceless people. These are his friends and family. But the situation hasn’t really changed. And the Coast Guard doesn’t seem to be in too much of a rush to show up. And other, bigger boats claim their company have strict policies against intervening in these situations.
So yes, Styx is basically a metaphor for all of our failures to actually help in the ongoing migrant crisis. The opening scene of the movie shows the massive amount of effort being expended to save one life – but yet in a situation where 100 lives are at stack, no one is willing to lift a finger. It’s someone’s problem. And even if you do care – you’re just one person, and you really cannot solve it by yourself.
Directed by Wolfgang Fisher, the film is efficient in its storytelling. He doesn’t dial up phony dramatics in any way – basically shooting every scene just like the rest of them. It’s a strategy utilized by Wolfe as an actress as well. The movie may seem like it is in danger of becoming a white savior movie – but it never gets there, in part because Rike doesn’t really save anyone accept Kingsley – and that’s questionable as well. The film is basically about the futility of this situation. No matter what Rike does, she cannot win – cannot solve it by herself. If we do not get together and do something, then people are going to die.

No comments:

Post a Comment