Chino Moya’s debut connects several stories in a chilly fantasy
Dir/scr Chino Moya. Estonia/Sweden/Belgium/United Kingdom. 2019. 93 mins.
Two filth-encrusted men (Geza Rohrig, Johann Myers) prowl a blighted post-apocalyptic world, hunting among ruined buildings that jut like broken teeth for dead bodies to pile into the back of their truck. But this is not their story alone. A mobius strip of interconnecting tales loops within time and space, crossing through the all too porous barrier between civilisation and the chaos that lurks underneath. This arresting first feature blends sci-fi and fantasy to create a worldview which is at once savagely grotesque and alarmingly familiar.
There’s barely a frame of the film which wouldn’t stand on its own
Spanish-born and UK-based writer and director Chino Moya cut his teeth on music videos and commercials with a clear knack for striking imagery and stifling atmosphere. An emphatic visual stylist, Moya is perhaps less surefooted when it comes to plotting, but the skin-prickling, chilling feel of the piece remains despute the baggy uncertainty in one or two of the vignettes.
With a despondent colour palette and despairing humour which nods to the work of Roy Andersson, the film’s parallel stories bleed together, linked by the half-remembered dreams of the one of the body-collectors, by macabre bedtime stories told to a little girl with a taste for monsters and by portals which deposit unfortunate characters from the precarious world above into a lawless hellscape where newcomers are either free labour or meat. There’s a fairytale element to it all – a harsh moral code in which virtues are rarely seen, but sins are pounced upon and picked apart.
Characters include the couple who live in a featureless new-built housing block, believing themselves to be the only tenants until a neighbour (Ned Dennehy) knocks on their door. He has locked himself out; they offer him a sofa to sleep on. A story within a story introduces us to a wealthy man who makes his money preying on the trust of others; meanwhile a long-lost husband returns to his family home. His wife (Kate Dickie) has remarried but is all too happy to oust her new partner. But the first husband is a changed man.
What links the mesh of stories, apart from a sense of inevitable decline and of lives sliding inexorably towards something unknown but awful, is the production design. The film looks a treat. From the scarred haunches of a destroyed city where the body collectors ply their business, to the rich man’s faded affluence – a backdrop of art nouveau grandeur accessorised by curls of peeling paint and moth-eaten velvet drapes – there’s barely a frame of the film which wouldn’t stand on its own.
The score, all pulsing retro synths, feeds into sound design which uses the gaping, echoing spaces of the post-industrial landscape and fills the emptiness of the lives on screen with a hollow, ominous rumble.
Production Companies: Z56FILM, Velvet Films, Homeless Bob Production, Media Plus, Filmgate Films
Contact: Z56film firstname.lastname@example.org
Producer: Sophie Venner
Cinematography: David Raedeker
Editors: Walter Fasano, Maya Maffioli, Tommaso Gallone
Production design: Marketa Korinkova
Music: Wojciech Golczewski
Main cast: Geza Rohrig, Johann Myers, Ned Dennehy, Michael Gould, Hayley Carmichael, Khalid Abdalla, Eric Godon, Jan Bijvoet, Tanya Reynolds, Tadhg Murphy, Sam Louwyck, Adrian Rawlins, Kate Dickie, Burn Gorman