Two days from the time this review will be up, I’ll be attending the Milano Film Festival. Fittingly enough, Luz – now available worldwide on Vimeo for only 4.99£ – won best picture at last year’s MFF (and it received the same award at the prestigious Fantastic Fest).
Written and directed by German filmmaker Tilman Singer (whose shorts are considered among the best ever made), Luz doesn’t follow any traditional narrative and even the plot can’t really be considered as such: spoken in Spanish and German, this ultra-experimental horror film revolves around six characters – Luz, a taxi driver; Dr. Rossini, a psychiatrist; Nora, a shady woman; Bertillon, a detective; Olarte, a police officer.
Shot on 16-millimiter film, this unique-looking picture is extremely short (70 minutes, credits included) and takes place in only three locations: a police station, a bar and a catholic school.
Continue reading and check my final grade below…
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Luz is, essentially, a possession-type-story told in the most unconventional, experimental and unique way you can think of. From the opening sequence, I fell in love with this film and, upon watching it three times in the space of 48 hours, I consider it one of the very best horror movies of the year.
Luz is an incredibly and deeply unsettling film, one that isn’t afraid to break taboos and to be psychologically disturbing. This is the type of horror film that succeeds at being scary and creepy due to the fact that you’ve never witnessed anything like it before: Luz takes the audience to a journey that’s really similar to a feverish nightmare, where you feel constantly confused and almost nauseated.
Every cliché possession flicks are usually riddled with is absent in Luz, a movie that truly makes you experience how it would feel to be possessed. This movie does to possession and exorcism what Climax did for psychedelic drugs: it puts you at the centre of the film and makes you go through the nauseating, disturbing feelings the characters must be experiencing in their mind.
Even though most of the fear comes from the approach to the unknown, the visual presentation and the psychological terror established, Luz doesn’t shy away from bloody and spooky sequences that aren’t immediate to understand: even in regard to this aspect, the film does an outstanding job at making your scared and disturbed, without the viewer even realising why.
However, what really stands out in Luz is the way it’s presented and shot. The 16-mm film, in combination with extreme close-ups and equally extreme long-shots, provides this movie with an unprecedented retro feel that even great pictures like The House of the Devil (2009) and Suspiria (2018) couldn’t quite achieve at this masterful level.
Consisting of no more than 7-8 major sequences, Luz makes each one of them a perfect short movie within itself and, as a whole, it works as a compilation of pieces the audience is asked to put together as though they were putting together a puzzle. This is also achieved due to the non-linear timeline, which adds an extra layer of complexity to the film.
In terms of scare value, the visuals add so much thanks to the fact that everything (literally everything) in the film lingers for way longer than it’s supposed to: scenes are cut long after they should’ve ended, sounds and noises are elongated way longer than you’d expect, the camera lingers on the actors’ face for an insane amount of time. Every frame and every decision in Luz are made to make the audience feel uncomfortable, including the soundtrack which is pure nightmare material: it enhances every sequence perfectly, but it would be eerie and unsettling even on its own.
I absolutely adore Luz and, most importantly, I do consider it to be objectively one of the best films of the year. That said, it’s not a film for everyone: if you don’t like to overthink about a movie, if you want an entertaining experience, if you are not thrilled by the thought of having to read articles and reviews that might clarify things for you, then Luz is not the movie for you. It’s a “festival film”, which means it refuses to conform to every mainstream and familiar filming elements, which obviously can put off many people who’re not used to this kind of movies.
I strongly believe most audience members will truly hate this wonderful work of art, whereas those of you who like to feel uncomfortable and to experience a fever dream on screen will probably be as blown away by it as I was.
Aside from one brief moment where a gun is involved (which doesn’t play out that well) and the overabundance of sound effects in voiceover instances, Luz is truly a mesmerising, nearly-perfect horror film.
*Once I’m done with Grimmfest and Milano Film Festival, around the middle of October, I’ll be writing an in-depth analysis and explanation of this film: if you watch it based on my recommendation and end up being confused as hell, don’t worry… I’ll post that article to try and clarify all your doubts!
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