The Eyes of My Mother (2016)
Directed by: Nicolas Pesce | 76 minutes | drama, horror | Actors: Diana Agostini, Olivia Bond, Will Brill, Joey Curtis-Green, Flora Diaz, Kika Magalhães, Paul Nazak, Clara Wong
Director of video clips Nicolas Pesce sees himself primarily as a visually oriented filmmaker, rather than a storyteller. And that can be seen in his macabre debut film ‘The Eyes of My Mother’ (2016). A horror film without the perfunctory shock effects that all too often dominate the genre. Instead, carefully constructed, mostly static shots, which calmly tell the story of Francisca, an isolated girl with a morbid disposition.
The film was recorded digitally in color and then converted to black and white, which makes it easier to play with light and dark in post-production. And that works particularly well in this rural American setting; wooden houses lit with table lamps, and barns with slanting light do particularly well in high-contrast black and white. The main character with her dark hair and white dress also stands out nicely against a background of a dark forest.
Not a shot goes by without Pesce opting for a special setup: a window frame as a frame, a camera on a plastic sheet that is dragged along, or a shot perpendicular from the ceiling. The result is a beautiful interplay between stark realism and a fairytale atmosphere.
Now fairy tales are often gloomy, but it is very sinister here. For the seasoned horror fan that is of course all fine, only they will probably not be charmed by the arthouse approach, and that the atrocities often take place off screen. To say that ‘The Eyes of My Mother’ is for a different kind of viewer is also not correct. Pesce wants us to empathize with the everyday experience of a psychopathic murderer, and therefore applies the same extremely stylistic method that he uses for the form to the story. The clear and simple sequence of events complements the form, but leaves something to be desired in terms of depth.
You wish Pesce had given a little more context to the isolation of its killer lead character. Surely Francisca will visit a town for everyday necessities and come into contact with other people? Her house is right on a highway, would no one ever come and ask about the missing persons? (All they have to do is take a look in the shed and the game is over.) These are questions that you don’t necessarily have to answer depending on the genre. Unity of place and action is also important, and you don’t always have to explain everything, but this story could have been dressed up a bit more.
That would have given more color to Francisca’s person. Now ‘The Eyes of My Mother’ is mainly a neatly packaged enumeration of miseries. In short, too little meat for the horror enthusiast, and too little fish for the art house visitor.