Monday, 22 June 2015

Spring (2015)

There has always been a place in my black heart for horror movies. They bring something primal and base to the world of film that other genres just can't present. Fear, despair and melancholy are something every person experiences through life. It might not be caused by an axe murderer or some dreadful apocalypse or a prolonged haunting but it's there. It's real, and it's human.

Of course, the opposite holds true as well. On the opposite side of the coin are love stories. Not rom-coms, but love stories. And again, the best of these are the ones that feel real.  The fairytale ending may be satisfying in the short term, but it holds no real emotional impact. The ones that hurt, where it feels like the end of the film isn't the destination but just a waypoint on the journey, stick with you. (Which is why I think everyone needs to see Eternal Sunshine and Lost in Translation but I say that often enough).

Spring takes the stronger elements of both worlds and mixes a strange, heady cocktail of tropes to present one of the more weird and wonderful films of the past year. And in true indie fashion it's the strangeness of it that will mean it'll go underappreciated forever and that's a tragedy.

Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead make up the directorial team, with two relative unknowns taking the lead, in the form of Lou Taylor Pucci and Nadia Hilker. Pucci is Evan, a young Californian who finds his whole life unravelling around him at breakneck speed. When the camel's back finally breaks he takes the leap most of us dream about and just packs his bags and leaves. Not long after his arrival in Europe he becomes enraptured by the enigmatic Louise (Hilker). The pair share a fast-forged love over a number of days, but Louise can't hide a dark side of herself forever.

The entire film seems share the slightly hazy, and jetlagged demeanour that Evan has while adjusting to a new continent. It always seems to be behind a slightly faint, smoky-dewy barrier. Early morning and dusk make up the majority of the scenes too, giving it this eerie ambiguity over when exactly things are taking place. It all combines into an atmosphere where even when nothing seems wrong, it feels different. Like the first time you were drunk.

A "strange not scary" bent is evident in how the horror aspects are handled by Benson and Moorhead. There is an amount"traditional" horror fare, especially in some of the visceral, Lynch-ian body horror moments, but also a nihilistic attitude to other moments that would typically be accompanied by a loud, shrill audio sting. Why yes, there is a disgusting animal corpse down that cliffside, but it's not dangerous. It's just a bit weird and not very pleasant. Spring just accepts strange things for what they are and moves on.

Spring is a visually beautiful and innovative film. Set on the Italian coast and making fantastic use of drone shots to see the slightly crumbling towns and cliffs from above as well as the two lovers captures a magical feeling about the otherwordly limbo in which the film takes place.

This is a horror/romance film unlike anything I've seen for a long time. With a heart as big as some of the tentacles of its monster, Spring will make you sit in a state of unease while reminding you to worry less about working and more about living.