It is very rare that a film emerges that not only changes the way we interpret cinema but how we engage with the medium at a visceral level. With The Tribe, Ukranian film-maker Miroslav Slaboshpytskiy delivers an unflinching debut depicting life in a state boarding school for deaf teenagers, seen through the eyes of a new arrival Sergey (Grygoriy Fesenko). As Sergey becomes a part of a clandestine racket of black markets, theft, prostitution and altercations with rival gangs, the story unfurls in the dank urban shadows of a cracked Kiev hamlet with mounting unease and trepidation.

Writer- Director Slaboshpytskiy pushes the envelope for viewers by having deaf actors present the story in sign language and without subtitles. This makes The Tribe challenging and breathtaking yet controversial in it’s stark portrayal of troubled adolescents operating a crime syndicate with a lack of professional guidance from teachers or a system. Due to its narrative devices, The Tribe is initially alienating but ultimately compelling as it engages the viewer at a deeper level where shocking visuals and dark subject matter resonate to greater effect.

We observe Sergey fall in love and become absorbed into a world of crime but as there is no dialogue, subtitles or a soundtrack, viewers are forced to interpret the story through other means. This presents a potential problem in that it could lead to misinterpretation of the narrative but it is an exhilarating experience when combined with the harrowing imagery and spectacular performances. The diegetic sound also becomes a much more vital tool in establishing dispositions alongside the gesticulations of the cast.

By placing the audience in the position of the performers, being unable to grasp the entirety, Slaboshpytskiy has crafted a powerful and thought provoking work of art that is as equally exigent as it is absorbing. It demonstrates a masterful understanding of the medium in terms of directing the characters, unveiling a broken world as perceived through their eyes and tackles issues relating to crime and teenage gang culture.

The Tribe is a violent, cinematic shock to the system: a core-rattling experience that’s paradoxically engaging and alienating. It is profound and provocative cinema that will leave the viewer emotionally pulverized and oddly estranged. The Tribe manages to compel with its bleak visual beauty, fantastic characters and progressive story-telling skills and can only be described as a truly important, piece of masterpiece film-making that entertains as a movie and astounds as a riveting work of art.