Review by Paul Grammatico
In my younger days, many of my peers have stated (not in a flattering way) that I live in my own “little world”. As the years have rolled by, my “world” has expanded significantly due to the various dreams that invade my conscious and subconscious. Whether when I’m awake with daydreams or in various states of sleep, my dreams range from the lurid to the nightmarish. Whether good or bad, I believe that dreams can shape one’s own creativity and overall well-being. The Eyes Below, a French independent film created by the one-man gang of Alexis Bruchon who directed, wrote, produced, shot, edited, and even created the soundtrack on this feature, exhibits a reverie that no human would want to experience in any lifetime.
Eugene (Vinicius Coelho), a lawyer who is about to break a case of corporate wrongdoing, retires to his bed, unable to fall asleep as his mind plays tricks on him as he thinks he sees a dark figure (played by Pauline Morel) that invades his bedroom. The figure comes to life as it attacks and assaults Eugene and attempts to murder him. When the figure disappears, Eugene’s bed and bedroom transforms itself into a lurid labyrinth, filled with strange symbols, a mysterious slip of paper that Eugene tries to decode which leads him into images and prose consisting of myths, alchemy, and folklore. As Eugene’s bedroom continues to manifest itself into a darkened theater of the bizarre with curiosities behind every corner, is Eugene’s odyssey an actual happening or some type of waking dream?
Alexis Bruchon’s sophomore endeavour provides us a cinematic language and visual style in a mostly silent format. A format that has shades of George Méliés and Jean Cocteau but, unlike those artists, Bruchon eschews the black and white chiaroscuro and applies colour as darks and lights shudder across his visions in a way that is unique and engaging. I was 45 minutes into the film until I realised that it was completely devoid of dialogue which I never experienced before in a film. Bruchon’s darkened dreamscape with its various schisms, is distinctive as he does so much with very little. The practical effects throughout his film reflect a cornucopia of creativity.Vinicius Coelho is nothing short of amazing as he flies solo for the most part in this film. His effective projection of the protagonist’s insomnia and fears of what waits for him in the darkness are expertly emoted. His marathon performance is top notch as his character endures so much unpredictability within the film’s 77-minute timeframe.
Nightmarish rather than dreamy, Bruchon turns cinematic magician as he weaves and casts a dark but bewitching tale upon the viewer, unknowing of where we are going or where the film is taking us. Although the film’s non-linear, sans dialogue style may turn off some viewers, the film’s originality, and the stunning visuals and soundtrack throughout this cinematic excursion cannot be ignored.
The film has its world premiere at FrightFest on 26th August
Arrow Video FrightFest 2022 announces bumper Glasgow Film Festival line-up