53rd Chicago Int’l Film Fest #6: “Big Time” (Denmark)

“Big Time” (Denmark)
Directed by Kaspar Astrup Schröder

BIG-TIME-2For any documentary profile to succeed, there needs to be more than reverence for its subject. It must also illuminate something…drive, compassion, or lack thereof, universality, adversity, etc. This is especially difficult for films which focus on living subjects. It’s much easier to find the story in someone who has “lived” a life. And its even MORE difficult when that subject is still quite young. I can only think of a couple such films that succeed in this manner (and that don’t feel like they were produced for “The Biography Channel”). The fantastic “Marwencol” comes to mind. But more appropriate for this missive would be the lovely “For Grace”, a terrific doc about Chicago chef, and food genius, Curtis Duffy.

Kaspar Astrup Schröder has turned his eye on Danish architect savant, Bjarke Ingels. Piecing together film culled from close proximity to Ingels over the course of  several years, we are privy to an inside view of his mercurial rise, his successes and failures, his work, and the significant obstacles in his path. He is a passionate man…about his craft, about his company, and even about his manner of communication. His depth of knowledge is vast, and the scenes where he shows us how his ideas are formed and developed, are more than fascinating, they are, for a lazy sod like myself, inspiring. Yet, because of all these characteristics, and a noticeable lack of humility or (any) sense of self-deprecation, this could have easily become one helluva promotional video for him and his company, BIG, if placed in the wrong hands.

Luckily, they are not. Schröder, perhaps recognizing this trap, has successfully unearthed a three-act story in there…even if the “story” ultimately feels a little thin. More to the point, the means by which he lays out that story are what lift the film. Ingels, at his core, is a visual artist whose medium is made up of bricks, steel and light. They are real and permanent…not ephemera. Schröder, likewise, has chosen a visual format that is gorgeous, hypnotic and also permanent. I won’t reveal what that is, but their presence is both surprising and a very real part of the story.

Aiding this imagery further, and the film as a whole, is the brilliant score by Ali Helnwein & Daniel McCormick. Intriguing, seductive and non-intrusive, it is quite simple…and, quite simply, gorgeous music.

This is an excellent addition to a specific niche of documentary filmmaking. And know that, even if you get a little tired of the subject (as I began to by film’s end), your connection to the TELLING of his story will not wane in the least.

Just a heads up for my NYC readers, this doc will be featured at DOC NYC, 11/14 & 15. And opening theatrically in December at one of the main subject’s buildings, 57 West, at the Landmark theatre housed within. Go see the building and then see the film!

Written on 10/18/2017

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