The Norwegian director Eskil Vogt presents one of the sensations of the contest and the Swedish director Frida Kempff brings us an interesting (although somewhat tricky) proposal. We also talked about the Thai ‘The Medium’.
Another year I landed in Sitges to give the relief in the chronicles to Alejandro G. Calvo (although today he leaves us a review), and it is already eight years covering the Catalan contest. But even so, I continue with the same illusion of the first day. And the thing is that despite seeing some failed products every year, Ángel Sala and his team always have a few tricks up their sleeves and I think this writer has already seen this year’s film. It is The Innocents, the second feature film by Norwegian director Eskil Vogt, who had already passed through here in 2017 -as a screenwriter- with Thelma. If the film has already been screened at Cannes with great success, the public of Sitges has received it with a loud ovation that has flooded the auditorium for several minutes. The film tells the story of Ida and her sister with autism Anna, who have just moved to a new neighborhood in the middle of the summer. Despite her angelic face, the first hides a not so innocent side that will be increased when she meets Ben, one of the misfit kids in the neighborhood. Along with the little vitiligo sufferer Aisha; Anna and Ben begin to develop supernatural powers, while little Ida can only contemplate and keep silent in the face of all the incredible things that are coming her way. The boy little by little shows ways of a potential psychopath, while Ida will have to take a position between her sick sister (who shows signs of improvement) and her candid friend, or her dangerous new colleague.
Very adult film starring children, who, as its title says, have little innocence (priceless the moment they “play” with a cat), which hits the viewer in the mind and soul. Thanks to a very powerful staging and a script that keeps the audience glued to the seat, Vogt shoots one of the most interesting and exciting proposals of the year. A film with dramatic moments that strike a chord and that even turns to absolute terror in some moments of its final stretch. A very festive carousel of emotions that smells like a prize and that will surely pass without pain or glory before the great national public (although it is a real shame). Special mention should be made of the small protagonists of the film, some boys who manage to transmit all the psychological load that the director wants to print on the film and who completely move, impress and even terrorize the viewer.
We jump from the Official Section of the Festival to move to the Panorama Fantastic section, which always holds great surprises and the occasional ‘bluff’ to the Festival public. In this case we have enjoyed another Nordic proposal: Knocking by the Swedish director Frida Kempff. The film tells the story of Molly, a woman who leaves the psychiatric center where she has been hospitalized for the last year to start a new life. His tranquility is cut short when he begins to hear a knock on the roof of his apartment in the middle of the night. The woman, then, begins to suspect all her upper-floor neighbors, while they little by little suspect her lack of sanity. Molly’s suspicions gradually turn into an obsession, which will generate terrible problems with the inhabitants of her building. Kempff proposes a trip to madness through unleashed photography and montage, based on the magnificent performance of its protagonist Cecilia Milocco, who embroiders the paper that has fallen into her hands. Although its script is quite tricky and many have smelled the toast from the first bars of the film, it is a film that strongly addresses the problem of mental illness in the society of the XXI century and how it is necessary that little by little the situation is normalized (especially with what has been experienced in recent times). Kempff’s intentions of wanting to make visible how traumatic it can be to lose the love of your life suddenly and how society stigmatizes and treats that person who has a deep pain inside is also intuited. Its short duration is also appreciated and that the director does not want to lengthen the gum with unnecessary filler footage, without becoming a marvel, it flies by and has moments of great tension.
Directed by Thai filmmaker Banjong Pisanthanakun -the signer of Shutter: The Photographer (2004), one of the spikes of the Asian horror boom at the beginning of the century- and co-written and produced by Korean thriller master Na Hong-jin -who did not has bad movies, all brutal: The Chaser (2008), The Yellow Sea (2010) and The Stranger (2016) -, The Medium came with a ‘hype’ outside the norm at its premiere in Sitges: passes in Korea where the film was projected with the lights in the theater on to safeguard the panic of the spectators, fainting in the cinemas of Thailand, etc.. Wow, I was pointing out that it was going to be the great Sitges horror movie. In view of the work, the truth is that the disappointment is quite considerable, although I have been thinking for 24 hours if that term, “disappointment”, is really justifiable or is it that the ‘hype’ culture in which we live day in and day out, we It ends up weighing much more than we should (and for which I feel partly guilty) and one ends up valuing the film more for the expectations than for the results.
The Medium It is not the piece of ‘folk horror’ that was going to freeze our blood and burn our brains. It is much more common than all that. It is a film that pulls the hackneyed found footage that, practically, Ruggero Deodato invented in his carnival gore Cannibal Holocaust (1980), and that has been used to exhaustion in all kinds of horror films of the last twenty-odd years since The project Blair’s Witch (1999) -one of the heights of the horror hype- swept the box office despite its rather modest results. Pisnathanakun’s film begins as an investigative documentary where some filmmakers seek to portray the figure of a Thai shaman who, apparently, heals the phantom wounds produced by spirits of all kinds. When the shaman’s niece begins to show symptoms of demonic possession – erratic and irascible behavior, sexual sleepwalking, unusual bleeding – the shaman and her family prepare to perform an exorcism that, well, the viewer will have to see to understand what the long-suffering protagonists are facing. The Medium then drag two faults of complex solution: lThe first is its long duration (131 minutes) that causes a sensation of somewhat exhausting dramatic expansion and the second is the intention of the film to possess different films within itself., devouring each other. If the terrifying suspense of the first bars serves to delve into the dramatic seams of the protagonist family – there it would follow in the footsteps of The Exorcist (1973) – the second is pure Paranormal Activity (2007): a good bulk of footage destined to see how the protagonist squirms around the house filmed by hidden cameras. Something goes wrong when atmospheric and psychological terror turns into shock scare terror. And the third part would already be a full-fledged coven that, although it serves to close with a fun festival of blood and death, the truth is that one has already disconnected and does not enter the horror shown, basically, because you have seen it already a thousand times before. I do not know. As I say, we are to blame for everything, for pushing the illusion beyond what is recommended. But the truth is that although The Medium it has really powerful moments, they don’t end up turning it into a great horror movie.
Alejandro G. Calvo