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Seeing People as They Really Are, Gothic Style


By Roger Costa


In one of the many masterly designed sequences found in this Gothic thriller, a group of strange men struggle as they climb a mountain carrying what seems to be a very heavy air balloon containing the protagonist’s conflicted emotions. Observed by the central man and interpreted by his muse, who informs him of his inability to carry such balloons, the scene reveals the trippy, haunting and lyrical aspects predominating in writer/director Giga Agladze’s visually astonishing and inventive fantasy.

British star Jim Sturgess plays Irakli, a married middle-class architect getting the news from the doctor about his serious eye condition. A rare disease is causing him to see and experience strange, hallucinating and life-threatening visions, which modern science nor medicine haven’t got a cure for it. Hopeless and questioning his existence, he hops on a bus, misses the final stop and ends up lost in the middle of a forest. There, he encounters a collection of eccentric folks who might offer him guidance, perspective or a way out. He becomes involved particularly with a gorgeous woman, from whom we learn her experiences, as the film presents through flashbacks, her coming of age (as a boy) and dysfunctional relationship with estranged parents.

Built on a mysterious, frenetic, strangely seductive and semi-erotic atmosphere, this amazing and brilliantly shot puzzle, feels like the result of an encounter between “Twin Peaks” and “Mulholland Drive”, both masterpieces created by David Lynch, who serves here as the executive producer. You can feel his hand and influence all over this project, which emerging director Agladze translates his lessons into a successful blend of drama and horror, proving his ability to control the rich elements of the nightmarish, surrealist genre.

As the protagonist increasingly experiences the deterioration of his clear vision, he starts seeing people for what they really are, expressed through dark and sinister personifications, and amazingly seen as a hybrid of humans and animals, the film subtly points to its message of tolerance, sexual identity, compassion, loyalty and true inner behavior. It also depicts the impact of art in people’s daily routines and aspirations.

Sturgess, who gained fame in the leading role of the popular musical “Across the Universe”, gives a solid, convincing and enigmatic performance as the troubled young man suffering from a psychedelic disease and delving into an inner crisis in search of his own identity and meaning.

Intense, vivid and highly entertaining, the result is a fun-wild ride through the mind of a stylish and inventive filmmaker.

(Gravitas Ventures. 2/4. In Theaters and On Demand.)


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