I don't know from whom it originated, but there's this quote that pops up from time from time about art and plagiarism (usually in reference to Tarantino): "It's not who you lift it from, but where you lift it to." Essentially, that intertextuality and appropriation is inherent to art itself, and that the successful recontextualizing of the "theft" should outweigh any ethical concerns about plagiarism. The larger point being, of course, one should first evaluate whether the idea was elevated enough to become its own singular identity before casually throwing around accusations of stealing.
Tarantino worship is not new. Neither is meta fiction or dystopian cinema or the superhero film or revenge tales or the western mythos. Hell, I basically just described the current postmodern landscape of film. But if one were to take several or all of these elements, combine them into one film, and distill the ingredients down into one unique, singular vision, then any criticisms of plagiarism should be moot. And this is exactly why Adolfo Kolmerer and William James' new film, Snowflake, succeeds so wildly. I promise, that despite all its familiar ingredients, you have never seen anything quite like it.
For as convoluted and insane as this movie gets, the story itself is pretty straightforward. Two hapless lowlifes, Javid and Tan, wander Berlin in the very near, dystopian future, where Germany has become a lawless, third world hellscape. They always carry with them a chainsaw with the name, Winter, etched into the blade. Winter is a sadistic, ex-government official who burnt down several Turkish resettlement homes, killing Javid and Tan's families, and their entire raison d'être is to track Winter down for some chainsaw justice. However, after a misunderstanding at a kebob restaurant leads to a bloody massacre, Javid and Tan's journey for revenge becomes intwined with wealthy heiress Eliana's (Xenia Assenza) journey for revenge against them for accidentally killing her parents at the restaurant.
Sounds relatively clear-cut, doesn't it? It's just a stylish and violent Sergio Leone homage about revenge, peppered with some Tarantino-esque dialogue and quirks. That is to say, right up until Javid and Tan find a screenplay entitled Snowflake in the back of their car, a document they quickly learn contains their destiny, as they are just characters created by amateur screenwriter and dentist, Arend Remmers (the actual name of the screenwriter of the film). Hence, we're now watching a more Adaptation/At Swim-Two-Birds-oriented meta shitstorm by way of The Big Lebowski, as the two lovable idiots descend into a bigger, more complex reality they are completely incapable and ill-equipped to deal with. (And just for kicks, throw in an actual super hero, Hyper Electro Man, a masked vigilante who gets his own revenge tale, and I can't imagine a more bonkers film to come out in quite some time.)
Snowflake, though, is completely grounded in the amazing performances of Reza Brojerdi (Javid) and Erkan Acar (Tan). By far, these are the breakout performances of the year. I could watch an entire 90 minute film with these two characters arguing over chicken kebabs. They are charming and funny, and as the film even has to remind you at the end, they're the bad guys in this story! There's an emotional payoff that shouldn't exist at all, and it's all credit to the sheer likability of Brojerdi and Acar.
And in that same vein, there is a soft, gooey morality and humanism at the core of this film, an element that is often lacking in the more stylized efforts of Leone and (early) Tarantino. While some of the better revenge films out there deal with the paradox of violence begetting violence, Snowflake takes it to a whole new level. Every violent act in the movie has consequence, and those consequences build and snowball in such a way that, ultimately, no character can contain them.
It's also weird to think that I've seen two other films this year that touch upon similar things: Cold Hell and Low Life. Cold Hell also deals with the dark existence of a Turkish immigrant living in Germany, delivered in the context of a modern giallo, and Low Life is a micro budget, Pulp Fiction-esque crime story with quirky characters who are unable to control the wacky environment they're in. Like Snowflake, both films draw from existing film structures and use them as spring boards to tell smaller, personal stories.
Snowflake is my favorite movie of the year. It's one of those films that seems to come all-too-rarely anymore, an indie that sorta sneaks in and gets you fucking excited about indie cinema again--especially in a film era dominated by The Blockbuster. To think Snowflake was made for just $29,000 is mind-boggling. It feels huge. It's a treat and inspiring as hell., Whatever Kolmerer and James make next (and I hear it's a film set in this same universe), I'm 100% on board.