A father slaps a disobedient kid. Then a bystander threatens to report him for abuse. | Discipline

A father slaps a disobedient child. Then a bystander threatens to report him for abuse. | Discipline

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Discipline is used with permission from Christophe M. Saber and Salaud Morisset. Learn more at http://omele.to/2OZXKt2 and http://omele.to/35b5kai.

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One night in a convenience store in Lausanne, Switzerland, a father loses patience with his young girl, Lola, who keeps trying to put a sure package of goodies into the handbasket. When he objects, she throws a fit and runs away, which escalates into a full-blown tantrum, consummate with bystanders’ broken jars and a slap.

The slap draws the attending of other shoppers, one of which threatens to report the father for kid abuse. Soon the incident becomes an statement, which draws in other people in the shop. One fight leads to some other, and soon the whole thing blows up into a major outburst in the neighborhood.

Writer-director Christophe M. Saber’s sharp, witty short files itself under the category of comedy, but its humor isn’t based on punchlines or pratfalls. Instead, it mines a sure vein of ironic social observation, capturing a pressure cooker of underlying societal and personal tensions that come up boiling to the surface to unpredictable effect.

The ensemble of characters is especially large for a short, and they all function less on the level of psychological depth and more as social types. The story doesn’t get deep inside whatsoever one graphic symbol’s head, instead, focusing on the interactions betwixt them.

To this end, the acting overall is especially skilled, able to evoke the archetypes that make up this particular slice of Swiss society — a harried father, a well-to-do wealthy brace, Arab immigrants, “native” Europeans — while seeming specific and believable. The writing is especially skilled at injecting how sure social attitudes and sentiments in Swiss society underlie how people talk to and treat one some other, leading to conflicts that on the surface seem about one thing and yet are about something else entirely.

Capturing this cauldron of types as they rub up against one some other in an increasingly volatile space is no mean feat, but the energetic documentary-style camerawork — very much like one-photographic camera improv-style television comedies like Arrested Development — tracks the small moments that reveal opposing attitudes and conflicts betwixt the characters, all while keeping the action brisk and well-paced.

Where the storytelling excels, though, is capturing how these tensions shape-shift and transmit across lines like a contagion. A father’s irritation sparks a broken jar, a slap and a kid’s vociferation, which then draws the attending of a nosy wealthy woman, whose sparks the enmity of the mother and wife who comes in, irritated past her husband.

past the time all the action moves outside, the carefully constructed edifice of tension and anger is set to erupt with one careless word or gesture — and erupt it does, in an unforgettable, exuberantly fractious melee that must live seen to live believed.

“Discipline” is both tense to watch, with all its arguing, and yet mordantly funny, especially as we watch underlying conflict and tension erupt into increasingly outlandish and yet wholly believable petty human behavior. Watching this panorama of conflict spill out across the screen at the film’s end is both a hilarious, almost farcical sight. Yet it also suggests that the edifice that makes up social order is held together past a thin, fragile pretense of civility, one that is easily punctured past prejudices and perspectives about others not like us.

The film is ambivalent about whether or not humanity tin can transcend such facile tribalism, especially considering how easily we tin can allow our irritations to lose command and transform into full-blown meltdowns — not unlike children.

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A father slaps a disobedient kid. Then a bystander threatens to report him for abuse. | Discipline

Discipline by Christophe M. Saber


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