By Mónica Delgado
With over six features under her sleeve, Austrian filmmaker Jessica Hausner returns to Cannes yet again, but this time with a feature film in the official competition: an exercise in science fiction but with quotas of family drama, stylized and plentiful in carefully composed tonalities and different color pallets. It’s a science fiction film with touches of horror, elegant and refined.
Beyond its subject, what seems more important is the atmosphere and geometry that Hausner gives to her film. With hints to the rarefied atmospheres of a Yorgos Lanthimos (because of her use of lenses with a big depth of field) and with echoes to b-movies like The Little House of Horrors or The Invasion of the Body Snatchers, the filmmaker develops a staging which is extremely well made, where the art direction and cinematography by Martin Gschlacht enriches the story of a laboratory that realizes genetic experiments for commercial purposes with plants. One of the scientists, a single mother with a pubescent child, takes one of the plants home, and gives it a nickname “Little Joe”. With this plant, she will check some (mental) damages of the investigation.
Hausner centers the tension in the character of Emily Beecham, the scientist, since she becomes witness of the psychologic changes that happen with people in contact with the pollen of these mutant flowers and plants. Thus, the film not only describes the transformation of these characters, (especially the scientist’s son), but also gives a special color code to each scene and situation: whites and greens for the asepsis of the lab, red and green for the home, etc. This is how she creates a special choreography of color, and this point might be the most relevant thing of the film.
There’s an overwhelming use of the soundtrack, which evokes minimal melodies of Asian instruments (dog barks included, like weird “noise”) and which breaks the conciliation with the usual components of the genre (something that Hausner had already worked meticulously in Hotel or Lourdes). This manages to distance the spectator with this story of people who go crazy as an analogy of alienation in a hyper-consumer capitalist world.
Director: Jessica Hausner
Script: Géraldine Bajard, Jessica Hausner
Cinematography: Martin Gschlacht
Cast: Emily Beecham, Ben Whishaw, Leanne Best, Lindsay Duncan, Kerry Fox, David Wilmot, Kit Connor, Goran Kostic, Andreas Ortner, Andrew Rajan, Sebastian Hülk, Phénix Brossard, Yana Yanezic