Friday, April 4, 2008
Film #22: The Reflecting Skin
This grotesque and downbeat destruction-of-innocence story has Jeremy Cooper playing Seth, a Midwestern ‘50s-era boy whose less-than-stellar upbringing by his pedophile father and mentally diseased mother results in his decidedly off-kilter worldview. Among his fears and delusions are that the pale redhead down the road is a vampire and that the withered fetus he finds in a barn is the reincarnation of his dead best friend (he ends up keeping it under his bed and talking to it). When his beloved war hero brother (Viggo Mortensen) returns home from the army and falls in love with the alleged bloodsucker, the movie becomes dead set on taking us all the way down a bleak, wheat-lined road. The less said, the better, so as to protect the large number of surprises contained within its frames.
Written and directed by Philip Ridley (who wrote Peter Medak's The Krays, about the famed British gangsters), The Reflecting Skin is filmed in a grand, operatic style, gleaning inspiration from sources as diverse as Luis Bunuel, David Lynch, and Francois Truffaut (the final shots of furious adolescent daze are almost as staggering as Truffaut’s landmark
freeze-frame of Antoine Doinel at sea’s edge in The 400 Blows). It's stunningly scored by Nick Bicat and photographed by Dick Pope, with lyrical Andrea French production design that recalls Andrew Wyeth’s often disturbing paintings of Midwestern angst. Unfortunately, this Canadian production is another difficult film to locate, as it hasn't had a DVD release yet. So, as always, eBay and your local art-house store hold your most likely chances to catch this singular achievement. Maybe Viggo Mortensen's newfound popularity will ensure its eventual, essential release.