LeglessCorpse continues it’s coverage of the 20th Annual Fantasia International Film Festival, taking place as I type this in lovely Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
My next screening was of the first feature of director Nicolas Pesce, The Eyes of My Mother, which had its festival premiere at Fantasia this past Monday.
Francisca is a young girl growing up in a lush rural area with her parents. Her father is away most days, presumably at work, while her mother stays home and spends the days teaching her daughter about her surgical training back in her home of Peru. Some chilling lessons about death are imparted on the young girl, but the love she shares with her mother seems to dampen any ill effects this might have. One fateful day, a stranger shows up at their home whilst her father is away, and though he seems friendly enough at first, a sinister undertone seeps into his demeanor, and he brutally murders Francisca’s mother while she sits listening in the next room. Her father arrives home in time to ensure that the lunatic does no further harm to the family, but instead of calling the police or simply executing the madman, he imprisons him in chains in the barn — an odd choice, under any circumstances, but one that will have severe ramifications for his daughter as she grows, isolated with only the dark memories of her mother’s death and teachings of death; so much so that the murderer becomes her “only friend”. As time moves forward in its inexorable course, Francisca grows to young womanhood, but what life has taught her makes her something as dark as that which is chained in the barn…
Though you know I’ll elaborate, the first real thing that comes to my mind when describing this film is “Wow”. Having no idea what to expect going in, I was blitzed by the power of this black and white, very light-on-dialogue film. Despite the relative quiet of the flick, the story that it tells is resounding, creating sympathy, discomfort, and horror, often simultaneously. The cinematography, very solid and somehow…kinetic — even with little movement throughout, touches on brilliance on several occasions, elevating certain scenes to something of a stark Rorschach-test look at insanity and whence it springs. Poor Francisca is only doing what she sees as normal…and it’s our pain as the audience to recoil from a lot of her practices, knowing all the while that the misunderstood lessons from her mother in childhood and the stoic loneliness she’s been raised with (to say nothing of the fact that, quite evidently, her parents weren’t exactly hitting on all eight cylinders, either) is the source of the lovely young girls psychotic leanings. Excellent script and camera work aside, this illusion would never have been so remarkable were it not for the performances of both Olivia Bond as the young Francisca, and Kika Magalhaes as the more mature girl. Bond demonstrates totally convincing behavior in the circumstances she’s in, and Magalhaes absolutely owns the screen for the remainder of the run-time, a perfect, empathetic illustration of innocent beauty while still being absolutely terrifying in her performance. The rest of the cast acquit themselves very well, supporting the character of Francisca in fearful believability.
There’s not a lot of visible gore, but the way that violence is handled in the movie — largely static, soundless except for the sound of whatever act is being perpetrated itself — is harrowing nonetheless; somehow, the expressions on Francisca’s face as these acts are performed make them far more chilling than full Technicolor blood flying could ever do.
Though at its heart The Eyes of My Mother is something of an experimental art-film, I found it to be an effective horror film in the very most literal sense. It’s a horrifying look into the life of a violent psychopath, with the bonus of showing us the equally frightening (if not more so) circumstances that created such a monster, if monster she truly be.
That, Fellow Fans, will be for you to decide.
That’s my two cents.
We’ll be continuing our coverage of horror films over the next week as they premiere at Fantasia — but if you’d like more information on the festival for yourself, check out the link below!
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