Greetings again from the darkness. If your preference in movies leans towards atmospheric and creepy, rather than on intricate story lines and sub-plots, this latest from writer/director Lucile Hadzihalilovic is likely to scratch your cinematic itch. We never really know what’s going on or where the story is headed, or even if there is a story … but we are entranced nonetheless.
Nicolas (Max Brebant) is an observant and curious 10 year old who lives in an isolated Oceanside community (probably an island) populated only by women and young boys. While most of the boys spend their days doing typical boy things, Nicolas whiles away the hours drawing in his sketch book. His most recent sketch is of the horrific sight he witnessed during a leisurely swim … a dead body with a red starfish nibbling away. The use of the color red plays a recurring role throughout, but as to its meaning, I haven’t a clue.
What follows are some bizarre medical procedures and beachside rituals that leave us grimacing and confused. The purpose of these actions is related to reproduction, and the medical experiments on the boys will certainly cause some uneasiness in the audience. Julie-Marie Permentier plays Nicolas’ “mother” – in quotes due to the uncertainty around the conception process, and Roxane Duran plays Stella, the nurse who takes a liking to Nicolas and his drawings.
Billed as a horror film and thriller, my best description is some type of blending of The Island of Dr Moreau, The Stepford Wives and Upstream Color. Ms. Hadzihalilovic is the partner and frequent collaborator of offbeat indie director Gaspar Noe, and the influence is clear. This is a strange and enigmatic film that is exquisitely filmed (cinematographer: Manu Dacosse) and offers very little dialogue to accompany its quiet creepiness. The key seems to be not spending any time trying to figure out what it’s all about. Whether you find it hypnotic or senseless is a personal decision.