Written and directed by Tilman Singer
Starring Luana Velis, Johannes Benecke and Jan Bluthardt
Running time: 1 hour and 10 minutes
by Judson Cade Pedigo
I’ve been in the middle of a movie drought. It happens every now and then, you’ve got movies for days (as the kids say) but no time to watch them. The biggest problem about a movie drought is that I get so thirsty for entertainment that when I finally do manage to catch a flick, it becomes the greatest movie ever. During the great drought of 04’ I walked away from Black Knight starring Martin Lawrence by starting an aggressive “for your consideration” letter writing campaign to the Academy even though it was already three years old at that point. What can I say, it spoke to me. Like I said, I’ve been stuck in this movie drought for the last few months, so when Luz, the debut feature film from Tilman Singer arrived from out of nowhere, I fell hard. Now, are these just the misguided affections of a man desperate for movie companionship or is it true? I can safely say that this is movie love at first sight.
Sometimes it feels like we’re living in a world with no surprises. Everything has been said, done, and seen at this point. Luz surprised me. The opening twenty minutes alone excited me more than anything I’ve seen in a while simply because I had no idea where it was going and what it was going to do when it got there. The movie opens as a young woman slowly shambles into a police station, dirty and bleeding, and begins to yell, “Is this how you wanna live your life? Is this seriously what you want?” Then we’re in a seedy bar where a well dressed man nurses a drink and checks his pager. A female patron notices and strikes up a conversation, asking if he is a doctor. When she finds out that he’s a therapist, she moves closer asking for advice, “My girlfriend just jumped out of her moving taxi”. Things only get more interesting from here. Even though we are entering a story that is already in progress, the movie takes its time in bringing us up to speed and is very deliberate in how and when it gives us information about who these characters are and how they relate to each other. Even though the bulk of this intro is just two people talking, the movie is firing on all pistons. I had that feeling you get when you know you’re watching something special. I was thrilled beyond belief. The score, a dreamlike synth sound, begins almost as background noise and as it starts to bleed into the scene it gives things an ethereal quality. Then there is the picture itself. The movie was shot in 16mm. So you see the imperfections and film grain which gives it an immediate and raw quality that is missing from most modern movies. It all builds to a mini-climax that I did not see coming and was not prepared for. I’m hesitant to reveal too much because what made this movie work so well for me was that I went in blind. It’s rare these days that you can walk into a movie without knowing anything about it. So I cherish it when it happens and, in the case of this movie, it helped that it was also really good too. Listen MovieJawners, I’m talking to you now, see this movie. Seek it out. Discover it. This is a movie for movie people. This is for us. Keep it to yourself. Keep it safe like a beautiful secret, then spread the word. Let everyone in. If you want to stay surprised, then put this down and go find this movie because I’m about to let you in on the secret. At its core, Luz is a demonic possession movie but to be more accurate it’s about a girl and the demon that loves her.
Just like we were bombarded with zombie movies, we’ve seen an influx of demonic possession movies within the last few years. I’ve never been that interested in this particular sub-genre. To me, they all seem to blend together, most seeming to take their cues from the playbook of The Exorcist to really stand out. Luz, however, is different. Every so often a movie will come along in the horror genre that doesn’t rewrite the rules of its particular subject, but does provides a fresh enough take that the whole thing seems new again. I would pick Ginger Snaps (werewolves), May (Frankenstein) and Near Dark (vampires) as a few of my favorite examples and I believe that Luz does the same for demonic possession movies. This is a demon film for film lovers. This is for us. Most possession movies keep retracing the same steps that it’s all become rote at this point. We’ve seen the same religious imagery, the same flawed but noble priest, the same epic confrontation between good and evil rehashed and recycled ad nauseum. Not here. This is a hard one to pin down, but if I had to give you my boardroom pitch for this movie, I would call it an “arthouse Exorcist” but that’s not exactly right. It’s a demon movie but it’s not a demon movie, if that makes sense. It’s about owning up to your past. It’s about the complexities of love and obsession. Most of all, this is about discovering who we really are underneath all the detritus that life piles on top of us. All I can tell you is that I’ve been thinking about this movie for days. Even when the narrative does settle in to telling the story, I still never really knew where it was going to lead. It almost felt like a stage play at times. It feels very intimate and depends more on creating and sustaining a mood rather than any flashy effects. If you go in knowing to leave your expectations about what a possession movie can and should be behind you, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised. This is a movie that rewards repeat viewings as there is a lot that is left intentionally vague, I feel for the purpose of letting the viewer fill in the blanks themselves. Now that my movie drought is over, I have a feeling that this is one I’m going to revisit again and again.
Find information about Luz’s upcoming screenings and more here