THE EYES OF MY MOTHER
A Film By Nicolas Pesce
Distributor: Park Circus Future Classics
Genre: Drama | Horror • Year: 2016 • Country: USA • Running Time: 76 minutes • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 • Image: Black & White • Language: English | Portuguese
“Loneliness can do strange things to the mind …”
If Bela Tarr and Takashi Miike were to sit down together and collaborate on a horror movie, The Eyes of my Mother feels pretty damn close to what the finished article might well turn out like.
In a secluded cattle farm somewhere in rural America, sheltered young Francisca lives with her distant father and doting, Portuguese surgeon mother, who teaches her daughter about religion and anatomy, and the importance of being unphased by death. One afternoon, a psychotic visitor butchers her mother and destroys the familiar harmony of her family life, permanently scarring the young girl and awakening within her a morbid curiosity for the macabre that gradually develops as she enters adulthood.
It is most certainly a startling directorial debut from writer, editor and director, Nicolas Pesce, fusing the slow-burning psychological terror of film noir with the unsettling isolation of rural, southern gothic horror into an expressionistic, monochromatic nightmare, fully evoking the ambiguous poetry and unnerving atmosphere of its influences.
Though having earned rave reviews at the Sundance Film Festival, the film has proved fairly divisive in terms of its graphic content and controversial themes, however compared to the violence and torture-porn seen in the majority of contemporary slashers and exploitation horrors, the violence and content here feels rather mild.
Essentially a very dark examination of loneliness, isolation and the inability to connect with the outside world, it is a film heavily reliant on shadows and metaphor, and becomes significantly more so as Francisca further gives in to her malicious instincts, closely echoing the increasing darkness of her own personal journey.
Newcomer Kika Magalhaes is a revelation as the adult Francisca. She turns in a performance of such childlike tenderness, perfectly capturing that sense of social ignorance and emphasising the deep-rooted nature of an educated girl, desensitised to death from a very early age.
It is a very well constructed piece of work, unfolding in a prologue and three distinct chapters – I. Mother, II. Father & III. Family – opening with a scene from late in the film, looping to a continued flashback and closing with an strangely abrupt finale left wide open to speculation and interpretation.
Working very closely with his superb cinematographer Zach Kuperstein, Pesce puts a lot of emphasis on the information that lies just outside the visual field, playing with perspective, ensuring no images go to waste and constantly giving us little clues to further crank up the impending sense of dread.
Pesce is clearly a very knowledgeable student of cinema, and for those similarly educated the cinematic references are plentiful and joyous. From the wide-eyed gaze of the young Francisca mirroring that of Ana Torrent in The Spirit of the Beehive, to the eye-slicing homage to Bunuel’s Un Chien Andalou and the many visual tributes to The Night of the Hunter and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre there is a great deal of fun to be had in spotting them.
The intentionally slow pacing and unflinching violence may put a lot viewers off, however The Eyes of my Mother is ultimately a stark, refreshing art-house horror at its most melancholic and visually impressive.
THE EYES OF MY MOTHER is in cinemas from 24 March