The Future Perfect Screen 12 articles

The Future Perfect


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  • The film proved a refreshingly modest entry. Instead of erring on the side of conceptual overload—the venial sin of many festival films—Wohlatz’s sixty-five minute minifeature was refreshingly minimalist as well as subtly playful.

  • If El futuro perfecto seems a little too low-key for its own good, this is entirely by design, since we are watching Xiaobin effectively locked within herself and slowly acquiring the linguistic tools to reach out into her new environment. More of a parable than a statement of great perspicacity, Wohlatz's small film is nevertheless crafted with precision, and shows great promise.

  • Not unlike the work of author Ottessa Moshfegh, whose collection of short stories Homesick for Another World deals exclusively in misfits grappling with their inability to adopt the shackles of social norms, The Future Perfect has the texture of a novella that keeps reworking the same idea in successively intricate ways.

  • Anyone who has taken on the arduous task of attempting to learn a second language in adulthood will sympathize with 18-year-old Xiaobin (Zhang Xiaobin), the charming heart of Nele Wohlatz’s 65-minute-long The Future Perfect... Playing with the possibilities that are afforded by the future perfect tense, Xiaobin's story is a short, sweet window into a rarely filmed — but often experienced — struggle to find the language to fit in.

  • The language-learning process functions as a metaphor for Xiaobin’s coming-of-age as a young woman in a foreign country. As a concept, this might have risked slipping into cliché, but Wohlatz avoids this, instead endowing the film with a gently ironic tone and subtlety.

  • Entwined with Xiaobin’s improving Argentinian is Wohlatz’s subtly shifting visual style, which progresses its fluidity and technical proficiency to match its protagonist’s linguistic skill.

  • Few films this year have felt as assured as Nele Wohlatz’s lovable Bressonian comedy of manners El Futuro Perfecto (The Future Perfect), which just won the First Feature prize at the Locarno Film Festival. At sixty-five minutes, it was not only the briskest film playing at the festival but also one of the sharpest.

  • It takes skill to successfully handle heavy issues with a light touch, but that's what German-born, Argentina-based writer-director Nele Wohlatz pulls off with her delightfully original documentary/fiction hybrid, The Future Perfect (El futuro perfecto).

  • Shot with a sense of deadpan comedy, the film’s ingenious conceit is to hitch its storytelling to Xiaobin’s progress in language learning: as she learns new tenses in Spanish class, her narrative expands in parallel, moving from the past, to the present, to finally, the conditional future of the film’s title, which allows her to vividly imagine the possible paths her life might take.

  • Might the experience of immigrants adapting to a foreign language be in essence something like that of actors studying texts to perform new identities? That’s the profound and perceptively probed thesis of Nele Wohlatz’s brisk metafictional charmer... Each neorealist story thread doubles as a case study for how our ever-shrinking world redefines culture and communication, but played as a downbeat comedy of misunderstandings in which Xiaobin mimics Buster Keaton’s expressionless disenchantment.

  • When Xiaobin learns the conditional tense in Spanish, the movie takes off, depicting her speculations on what could happen. Here the movie is resourcefully clever without showing off about it; depicting Beatriz’s possible future self dressed a little more stylishly than in reality. There is gentle comedy here, and a real rooting interest deriving from Ms. Zhang’s committed, never-a-false-note performance. The film’s unusual perspective makes it a distinctive and potentially enriching experience.

  • Xiaobin’s story might easily have lent itself to a sloppily feel-good, quasi-realistic treatment; heaven forbid a Hollywood remake in which a pupil in an English class triumphs as she acquires the verb forms and the cultural values that accompany them. But, while it has a satisfying emotional thrust, The Future Perfect is a highly thoughtful, even theoretical film, and is executed accordingly.

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