What a piece of work is a man. A species that evolved amidst the mighty trees of a world-spanning tropical forest now spreads across this planet like an impenetrable oil slick. Our litter fouls the highest peaks, our scientific instruments plumb the deepest depths. We go everywhere. We adapt. We feed. We breed. We spread. And yet, despite our adaptability and despite our ambition, the majority of our species now live in cities. We could live anywhere and yet we choose to shut ourselves away in cramped concrete boxes. Why is this?
Despite most films being set in some kind of urban environment, few of them manage to capture what it really feels like to live in such an alien and bizarre landscape. Roman Polanski’s Apartment trilogy perhaps comes closest but Repulsion (1965), Rosemary’s Baby (1968) and The Tenant (1976) all stress the Otherness of city life while down-playing its attractions. Patrick Keiller’s London (1994) may well skewer the combination of hollowness and (largely fictitious) potential for adventure and fun that comprise London but its detached narration and photographic sensibility makes its message cerebral rather than instinctual. Analytical rather than subjective.
Winner of the 2010 Camera D’Or award at the Cannes film festival for best debut feature, Michael Rowe’s Leap Year (a.k.a. Año bisiesto) seeks to capture the elusive charms of city life by depicting a life characterised by a profound ambivalence to human intimacy. An ambivalence that expresses itself in every aspect of a young woman’s life.