Tag Archives: sound

Der Nachtmahr

Der Nachtmahr 1
Der Nachtmahr

Format: Cinema

Seen at LFF 2015

Director: Akiz

Writer: Akiz

Cast: Carolyn Genzkow, Sina Tkotsch, Wilson Gonzalez Ochsenknecht, Kim Gordon

Germany 2015

88 mins

We follow Tina, a teenage girl, to a late-night pool party. Techno pounds, lights flash, kids show each other stuff on their phones. She takes pills, she dances, she freaks out whilst, mid urination, she seems to see something moving in the bushes. She gets killed, wakes up from a dream.

Back home, Tina tries to maintain her school and social life, avoiding the ever-present threat of social embarrassment for herself and her fairly well-to-do parents. But, problematically, she starts to hear noises at night. She encounters something in the kitchen. The house is being visited, it seems, by a little green thing that nobody else sees or hears, a thing with a strange connection to her. What to do? Her therapist suggests talking to it, making contact. Her parents would rather she not mention it, especially when the boss comes round for dinner, and she risks social-pariah status if she brings this up with her shallow, bitchy, circle of party-chasing friends. Is she crazy? Dreaming? Dying? Is it the drugs?

A thoroughly discombobulating German oddity, Der Nachtmahr warns us before we start about the strobing, isochronic tones and binaural noises it contains, before advising us to play the film loud. There is, to be fair, a certain amount of Gaspar Noé-style audio-visual overkill in certain sequences, but Akiz’s film ends up far removed from Noé’s flip nihilism. It’s not, in the main, an easy watch, played mainly in keys of discomfort, from creepy to awkward to embarrassing, in an appropriately teenage fashion, but ultimately it delivers a positive take-home message about accepting yourself, and owning your own weirdness. Carolyn Genzkow is great as Tina, vulnerable, raw (and always underdressed) and the uh… thing has a rubbery, lo-fi charm. Der Nachtmahr plays an amusing game of parallels with E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, and where Spielberg’s film gave us a magical creature capable of performing miracles, here we have a lumpen, physical creature with a pendulous ball bag and sloppy table manners. I don’t know what it is, but I think anybody who has survived adolescence would recognize it.

Great throbby synth soundtrack. And Kim Gordon turns up as an English lit teacher dissecting a Blake poem, which is pretty damn cool. Hazy and hormonal and well worth a look.

Play it loud.

This review is part of our LFF 2015 coverage.

Mark Stafford

Watch the trailer:

Upstream Colour

Upstream Colour
Upstream Colour

Format: Cinema

Release date: 30 August 2013

Distributor: Metrodome

Director: Shane Carruth

Writer: Shane Carruth

Cast: Amy Seimetz, Shane Carruth, Andrew Sensenig

USA 2013

93 mins

A successful career woman, Kris (Amy Seimetz) is targeted by a thief (Thiago Martins), who has created some kind of drug through the harvesting of worms that have psychotropic qualities. The worms allow the thief to brainwash Kris into a series of compulsively repetitive rituals – including copying out Thoreau’s Walden by hand – before stealing her life savings and abandoning her to be released, to some extent – and in some mysterious way, via music – from her state by a mysterious Sampler and pig farmer (Andrew Sensenig), who removes and seemingly transplants the parasites. Kris will never quite recover. She has no idea what has happened to her, or the money that has been stripped away, or her identity. She is damaged goods. And apparently psychically linked to a pig.

To write out one of Shane Carruth’s films as a synopsis is to do it a terrible injustice. First of all, thinking about the story in this bare-bones way makes its bizarreness too vulnerable to an easy dismissal as whimsical quirk. And secondly, because his filmmaking lives in the gaps, the ellipses. Memory is untrustworthy; dialogue is rigged, manipulative; and character is fragile, as identity can unravel at any moment. Something intricate, hyper-rationally thought out and finely detailed (and yet utterly mad/normal) is happening, but the camera catches it in glances and jigsaw pieces, overheard conversations, sounds that communicate something deeply mysterious, and beautiful rhyming colours. There is no grand scheme, or conspiracy, but everyone is interconnected in a way that only we can begin to unpick.

Read John Bleasdale’s interview with sound designer Johnny Marshall here.

Whereas many contemporary films could just as easily be radio plays, Upstream Colour is ambitiously cinematic. Scenes play out over multiple locations and large sections of the film dispense entirely with dialogue; exposition sits in a lonely corner with the other arts of spoonfeeding. There are beautiful visions of microscopic life, as well as decay and paranoia, underwater. As an allegory, the film does not lend itself for easy unfolding, but the film operates almost like magic realism. It is unashamedly sensuous. As the characters strive for communication and agreement about what is going on, the film itself attempts to give us the qualia of lived immediate experience. The title itself evokes both colour and motion, and, by association, sound. The sound design is an on-screen character. Characters manipulate each other’s reality, and at the same time try to grasp at what is there. Characters hear sounds and see colours which mean something, though – in keeping with the film’s suspicion of explication – they cannot quite put it into words: ‘It’s a low sound’, ‘No, it’s high’, ‘Yes, it’s high and low.’

Kris meets Jeff (Carruth again), and they begin a relationship that borders on the kind an amnesia-struck Adam and Eve after the Fall might have had. Something happened to them that they don’t fully understand, and feel in some way deeply guilty about, and yet they’re trying to get on with their lives. This original sin is still there, blocking their ability to progress in a world that is set against them. And yet it also gives them their compulsion to be together, the consolation of their passion, their mutual need. It is one of the triumphs of the film that this genre-defying oddity, this magnificent cinematic poem, is also quietly a brilliant and moving love story.

John Bleasdale

Watch the trailer: