Review: Splendid Isolation (2022)


Splendid Isolation (2022)

Directed by: Urszula Antoniak | 80 minutes | drama, romance | Actors: Anneke Sluiters, Abke Haring, Khadija El Kharraz Alami

On the run from an unknown disaster, two women, Anna (Khadija El Kharraz Alami) and Hannah (Anneke Sluiters), wander a remote island. A large drone is chasing them. Anna whispers to her friend: “nothing will ever happen to you”. The two peddle along the beach and through the dunes until the couple stumbles upon an abandoned villa. For a moment they have a place to hide. But this respite is soon interrupted by the arrival of a mysterious person. ‘Splendid Isolation’ by the Polish-Dutch director Urszula Antoniak is a prickly visual poem with more white lines than ink in which the viewer can frolic around.

The film is as chilly as the villa in it, a concrete cube with minimalism as its credo. It must have been the intention. The story is in any case extremely sparse with information. However, it is better for Anna and Hannah to dig about in the sand of the dunes, touching all that is left in a world where intimacy with the other seems to be life-threatening. That too is taken away from the couple. Air squeezed from the lungs, essential for the individual, disastrous for the other.

There we have again the third person who, just like in ‘Magic Mountains’ (2020), threatens to ruin things. However, before this disturbing factor appears, the rather abstract ‘Splendid Isolation’ mainly has a bleak, almost impenetrable appearance. Many views and few words. The use of video images from drones and security cameras gives an extra eerie feeling. Images that overlap like a thin veil also reinforce the isolation of the characters. The film would rather chase you away than tempt you to enter. The soundtrack, on the other hand, is full, sometimes even warm, as if trying to allay the cold between Anna and Hannah. Director Antoniak herself says that the confrontation with the loss of her partner during the corona pandemic played a crucial role in the realization of the project.

Every now and then Antoniak comes up with poetic and penetrating images, but the overall picture lacks clarity about what she really wants to say about loss and grief. The coming of death does not breathe new life into this either. This project ‘Beyond Words’ (2017) and ‘Nothing Personal’ (2009), as in the titles, does not seem to have the strength of Antoniak’s earlier works. What remains is a horribly desolate work, closer to the painting ‘The Scream’ (Edvard Munch, 1893) than you would like.

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