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American Women's Club of Hamburg

Film review: Bella Vista

Bella Vista   
Director: Vera Brunner-Sung, USA

It's minimalism combined with awkward action motored at a snail’s pace. That pretty much defines Bella Vista, the movie filled with wide-lensed Montana landscapes and not much else. The opening scene of motionless snowy woodlands goes on embarrassingly long, much like an excruciating wordless pause at a posh dinner party. The audience squirms in their seats waiting for something to happen. When we finally spy a figure, Doris (Kathleen Wise) trudging across the screen, expectation runs high that something will actually happen. But it doesn’t. The hiker just sort of wanders off the screen, bottom right, an indication of things to come, or, more accurately things not to come.
Doris teaches adult immigrants English at a language institute in Missoula, Montana. She herself has been transplanted there, a lonely outsider, attempting to give her students a lifeline to survival in their new country. Their naive optimism, expressed in learners’ English, gently triumphs in spite of Doris’ increasing isolation. We never really get to know her, or even want to. She just slowly – and I mean slowly – fades away, dissolving into the backdrop of Big Sky Country. (PF)

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