Director: Nicholas Pesce
It is all too easy to feel inured at the moving image in the modern age. Bombarded as we are with sensory overload, the relentless feed of information has chipped away at us. Broadly desensitised, it takes ever more to grab us by the proverbial lapels and jolt us into life. With that in mind, it is all the rarer to find a horror that lingers in the memory; nestling in the annals of our fear faculties ready to drop down and disturb us upon recall.
Shot in austere monochrome and with a chilly mis-en-scene, newcomer Nicolas Pesce creates a sense of palpable distress with The Eyes of My Mother, ratcheting up the eerie factor one notch at a time towards an uncomfortable crescendo. We start in cliché-zone, as focus falls on a remote country house. A mother is educating her young offspring in an unusual manner, before an unwelcome visitor arrives on the pretence of using the bathroom. He pulls a gun on the mother and, from there, the inevitable violence occurs. The daughter’s father eventually returns home. Upon discovery of the bloodbath (literally, some might say), no visible emotion flicks past his eyes.
Divided into chapters, Pesce scrutinises – at a remove – the concept of nature and nurture through an extreme, bone-shaking and hair-raising prism. The key protagonist is the daughter, Francisca (Kika Magalhaes). She is a young woman who is in possession of skewed maternal impulses; vicious, cold and yet constantly yearning for affection and love. Her innate contradiction exhibits itself in damaging and cruel methods of expression.
Even with a taut runtime (at sub-an hour and a half), the narrative is guilty of running out of steam. That said; this is a creepy, unsettling and queasy experience. The Eyes of My Mother is executed with a striking originality, and ensures that unease invades the body like a vicious contagion. This posterior-clenching outing marks the arrival of a bold new filmmaking voice.
The Eyes of My Mother is in cinemas from 24th March 2017.