Thursday, March 30, 2023

A near-wordless attempt at horror


    She lives alone on an island off the Cornwall coast. She seems to have few responsibilities other than taking temperature readings of the ground, observing rare flowers, and dropping a stone down an abandoned mine shaft. 
   Each day, the isolated character of the movie Enys Men records her findings in a notebook, capping off the numbers with an abbreviated statement that summarizes her life: "No change." 
   Even by minimalist standards, the movie seems strangely sparse. 
   Stripping the film of nearly all dialogue, director Mark Jenkin seems to be trying for a psycho/spectral horror film, an effort I found laudable but wanting in its result.
  Jenkin provides little context for a movie that takes place in 1973. We know the year because the character known only as "The Volunteer" (Mary Woodvine) marks it in the journal of records she keeps. 
  The Volunteer has a shortwave radio with which she can talk to the mainland. Mostly it delivers an eerie stream of static.
   At one point, lichens jeopardize the flowers the Volunteer observes. They also begin to grow on her body, as well. 
  Various figures from the island's past (a drowned boat crew, for example) appear. Remnants of prior activity, notably mining, crop up, as well.
  Those familiar with horror may expect Jenkin to deliver a climactic event or expository revelation. He offers neither, preferring to immerse viewers in the movie's evocative moods.
  Short by current standards (one hour and 31 minutes), the movie's repetitions can induce a bit of boredom, as well as a feeling for madness born of isolation. 
  Cheers to Jenkin for trying what struck me as a cinematic experiment, but to my eyes, Enys Men didn't quite arrive at its destination, whatever that might have been. 

No comments: