Piercing review: Artfully depressing with echoes of the masters

Piercing review: Artfully depressing with echoes of the masters

(CTC) 82 minutes

Memories of Hitchcock's Rear Window are evoked by the opening shot of Nicolas Pesce's Piercing as the camera travels at night across the face of a block of lighted apartment buildings.

Mia Wasikowska features in some power play of a peculiarly bloody variety in Piercing.

But the next scene is too perverse even for Hitchcock. It has a father hovering over the face of his gurgling baby with the sharpened point of something only half-visible.

Fortunately, it's a false alarm. The baby is safe but we've been warned. The man's haunted expression is going to persist until he's succeeded in hurting someone.

The film is based on a novel by Japan's Ryu Murakami, not to be confused with Haruki Murakami (Norwegian Wood), whose mix of crime, fantasy and dreamy introspection first made his books popular in the West in the 1980s.

The younger Murakami, too, is interested in baffling and unsettling his readers with characters who are dissatisfied with the world as they see it. He also has a taste for the deadpan that has inspired some to see similarities between his work and that of David Lynch. It's this comparison that Pesce seems to be working for all it's worth here. He's even emulated Lynch's fondness for dimly lit, claustrophobic spaces splashed with colour. In this case, the colour is usually red. His main influence, however, is Italy's master of the horror movie, Dario Argento.

Reed (Christopher Abbott), the father of the baby, sets out to kill a prostitute, taking a hotel room and booking a woman with S&M experience, reasoning that she's unlikely to refuse if he asks to tie her up.

We can already see it won't work, which is where the poker-faced comedy comes in, although I would hardly call it hilarious. And when the prostitute turns out to be a very self-possessed Mia Wasikowska, the scene is set for some power play of a peculiarly bloody variety.

Nightmarish fantasies and flashbacks hint at the reasons for what we're seeing, while attempting to dilute the blood with gallows humour, but for its all its artfulness, the film remains a singularly depressing experience.

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