Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Mask of the Beholder

Identity is defined by our experiences and, more importantly, how we process those experiences. Choosing not to process an experience is also a character defining choice and these decisions manifest a personality others might or might not recognise as "you". That's the idea behind 2015's Goodnight Mommy (Ich Seh Ich Seh, literally "I See I See"), a film I admire more for its intentions than what it actually accomplishes. Your mileage may vary, but I found the storytelling instincts of directors Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala to be unequal to their concept. Though, considering the presence of two directors, maybe I'm liking one and disliking the other.

The film takes place almost entirely in a large, harshly modern house deep in the woods. A pair of twins, Elias and Lukas (Elias Schwarz and Lukas Schwarz), greet their mother (Susanne Wuest) who has returned from the hospital with bandages covering most of her face, turning it into a strange mask.

The brothers spend most of their time wandering the woods or playing with their strange collection of cockroaches. They listen to old recordings of their mother and soon begin to question whether the woman with them is really the same person, especially since this woman is less willing to play with them or sing to them and even becomes quite angry with Elias at one point for something that seems trivial. Before long, they become afraid and take to monitoring the woman and sleeping in shifts.

This is a movie with a twist ending so I won't give you much more of the plot. I will say there are quite a few red herrings that seemed at the time like red herrings, things that are really in the movie to make it more of a standard horror film and end up not making any sense. Like a scene where the brothers climb a hill of human bones or a scene where the mother swallows one of the cockroaches. I almost wonder if one of the directors had made a version of the film without all this stuff and then the other was brought in to pad it out with things that could be packaged in the trailer. Though there is also a sense of bad instincts in editing, the film generally feels sort of stiff and academic.

There is something interesting still in the basic idea of exploring identity and experience, though. At first I thought the woman had had cosmetic surgery but then we learn her injuries were the result of a car accident. The mind is led down a certain road about how people try to change who they are by changing their appearance only to be stopped at the realisation that it wasn't her choice. Assuming she's the same person.

Twitter Sonnet #802

A corduroy embargoed dream awaits.
No-one foresees Cortes in ritual.
When circling tide in castle moat abates
Lament and crowns become habitual.
A similar appointment's face appeared.
The fur upon the ground attests to glam.
Steel abbots have in space a star areared.
A Skywalker has took it on the lam.
A shoe misplaced arose to mind the head.
A blanket prank befell reflex enthroned.
Enfeoffed viziers perplex the pale undead.
Tenochtitlan's ballgame is still postponed.
Arrested walking sticks can't compliment.
Avasted wooden legs aren't supplement.

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