DIRECTOR Christoph Behl WRITER Christoph Behl STARS Victoria Almeida; Lautaro Delgado; Lucas Lagré SCREENING Today and tomorrow at 18.40
Oddly enough, The Desert reminds one of Danny Boyle’s Shallow Grave; voyeuristic and claustrophobic. Unlike that excellent thriller, however, this film sadly never escalates, despite always feeling as if it’s about to take off. The major problem is that there doesn’t feel like any threat; no real reason why the characters, three survivors of a conflict, are confined to a house.
Director Christoph Behl chooses to take the film in an experimental, art-house direction, the trio, living together in the shadow of a global catastrophe, telling their story into an endless series of videotaped vignettes that feel more like confessions. These tapes show that while once harmony reigned, and that the threesome had a strong friendship, pressures have caused a split. There are occasional glimpses of the world post war, but this is a story mostly told in close-up, the camera wandering the rooms and observing actions. Microphones are placed around the perimeter of their dwelling, and the eerie, often subhuman noises the speakers relay to them are disconcerting.
But, the film is not nearly as clever as Behl thinks it is. Endless introspective conversations about the fragile elements of life would perhaps be best suited to the stage and, while it’s undeniably a triumph of performance — the three leads are uniformly excellent — you can’t help but wish for something more, to see the apocalypse that the budgetary restrictions deny. There’s a bigger film to be told than that shown here, and as good in parts as Behl’s character study is, wishing to see that bigger film ultimately makes The Desert a failure.