Thursday, 11 June 2020
Luz (2018) - Horror Film Review
German horror Luz just might be the best damn horror I have seen all year. I love a good soundtrack, I love memorable visuals, and I love me some demonic possession, so this film which combines all three to glorious effect was exactly my type of movie.
Luz (Luana Velis), a young cabdriver turns up one dark night at a Police station. She is bruised and confused and not making a lot of sense. An Officer there, Bertillon (Nadja Stübiger) calls for a psychiatrist, and soon after Dr. Rossini (Jan Bluthardt) arrives on the scene, his intention to put the girl into a hypnotic state so that she can act out the events that led to her arriving at the station. Unknown however to all involved, the psychiatrist has recently had an encounter with a strange woman (Julia Riedler) at a nearby bar, and that he might actually be under the control of a demonic entity...
By the film's conclusion you might be under the impression the story told here was pretty simple. Despite this the film makes you work for this story. Events start off at around the middle mark. Rather than have a traditional flashback sequence take place to show what happened to Luz this is instead acted out within the film itself. Under hypnosis Luz is convinced she is back in her cab, so while she is shown to the viewer to be sat on a chair in a conference room, her actions, as well as her interactions are as if she wasn't. To help sell this illusion all sound effects, and dialogue play out with authentic sounds. So, you might hear music playing on an imaginary radio, and Luz dancing in her seat to it, but then the camera will cut to show the officers, and Dr. Rossini watching her dancing to silence. Characters who Luz has spoken with in the past then also show up on screen to interact with her, they are physically there for the viewers benefit, but again in reality she is alone. This takes up a huge chunk of the films run time and was so dreamlike, a layer of acting was required to sell this and all the actors just shone.
This flashback story takes place at the same time as the story in present time is also playing out. All the actors here were great, in particular was Bluthardt who did a phenomenal job. His role required not just speaking, but a large physical performance, as I was watching I likened his movements and actions to a horror based Jim Carrey, but that does his performance injustice. He had a magnetic screen presence, as he walks and almost dances around the screen he captures the camera. From his inconspicuous beginnings as a bored bar patron hoping to get lucky with a stranger, to his transformation, he just captivated. The cast here is very small, just six speaking parts but all were great in their roles. Luz, Nora, Bertillon, Dr. Rossini were great characters, Johannes Benecke rounding out the cast as the comically cowardly, and deeply religious Olarte, and Lilli Lorenz as Margarita.
Luz was directed by Tilman Singer, he also wrote the screenplay, produced and edited this. It happened to be his feature length movie directorial debut, but this had the marks of a much more experienced director (it was actually his senior thesis film). He allows scenes to roll even when not much is happening. The combination of mystique and cinematography meant I was enthralled. I could tell right away I was going to enjoy this, the opening five minutes or so just has Luz in silence walking around the foyer of the Police station. Normally this would be a terrible way to start a film but I was hooked, when the end credits rolled some 70 minutes later I could hardly believe the time had passed so quickly. It isn't all the visuals though, Luz is backed up by a fantastic synth soundtrack, this goes perfectly with the dreamlike visuals and seemed designed to work in tandem with what is happening on the film.
There have been a couple of really good horrors I have seen this year, and this is one that is happily added to the top of that pile. Behind all the style, and the performances this might have a bit of a simple story but it was expertly executed, a loving blend of acting, visuals, sound and design that made me fall in love with this. Originally Luz was meant to be getting a theatrical release, but that was all cancelled for reasons that I am sure are obvious. Instead, Luz was released digitally in the UK by Sharp Teeth Films last week on 1st June.