Luz Movie Review
Written by Stuart D. Monroe
Released by Screen Media
Written and directed by Tilman Singer
2018, 70 minutes, Not Rated
Released on July 19th, 2019
Luana Velis as Luz Carrara
Johannes Benecke as Olarte
Jan Bluthardt as Dr. Rossini
Lilli Lorenz as Margarita
Julia Riedler as Nora Vanderkurt
Nadja Stübiger as Bertillon
There’s an inherent beauty in the way horror is handled by other countries. America, after all, is a true melting pot (and a young one at that) with a sensibility that has been cooked, recooked, and bastardized to the nth degree. We approach horror in an almost tongue-in-cheek fashion, even when you’d think the style would be deadly serious. European horror on the other hand? There’s much more of an artistic feel to it. Maybe it’s a maturity thing.
Director Tilman Singer’s freshman outing (and his thesis, no less!) is a sight to behold and a bit of a mystery to follow, but you won’t mind the confusion. To paraphrase the great Mel Brooks, “It’s a German spectacle!”
Cab driver Luz Carrara (Luana Velis) wanders into a police station, dazed and shocked after bailing out of her moving cab. The next thing we see is sultry Nora Vanderkurt (Julia Riedler) seducing a doctor (Jan Bluthardt) at a local watering hole. It’s a hard driving party where the drinks and drugs are disappearing rapidly over Nora’s story of having run into Luz years after their torrid lesbian affair in a Catholic school in Chile. She’s a bit obsessed with Luz. Right about the time Nora drags the doc into the bathroom and unearthly light starts shining from her mouth and her eyes go all white, you understand that something evil is living within Nora. After transferring to the doc, the hunt is on and no one at the police station is safe from whatever Luz awakened with her teenage blasphemies.
From the opening scene of Luz, you know you’re in for a visual and auditory nightmare that refuses to let you go. Shot on 16mm and scored with heavy synth, the look is that of an ‘80s film that was ahead of its time. The setting is all hard surfaces and bland colors, clashing wonderfully with what the rest of your senses are taking in. It’s actually hard to believe something that looks this striking is coming from someone who hasn’t directed a feature film before.
The violence and bloodshed (when it’s there) flashes at you seemingly from nowhere due to the trancelike state you’re in. Singer has a veteran patience for letting it all build and do the work naturally. While that can be taught, you instinctively know this is a language that he speaks. Someday, Luz will be looked back on with interest as the earliest work of a signature voice making huge waves. The talent is undeniable, screaming at you from the screen.
The early limitations scream as well. The narrative thread is hard to follow. While some of that is an unintended result of Luz’s visual and auditory power, some of it is simply unfinished ideas. There’s a disjointed quality that shows an imbalance between the style and the substance. When style over substance is an artistic choice, that imbalance isn’t as glaring. Singer seemed to have more in mind for these characters, all wonderfully portrayed, but eschewed the depth in favor of a signature look.
Ultimately, it’s still going to pay off. Luz is a standout film full of images that are hard to get out of your head with a lovingly retro sheen. The demon in question is a powerful one indeed, and portraying that effectively with a micro-budget and no splashy gore is a sublime touch. There’s also a not-to-subtle subliminal warning about being careful what you screw around with echoed in the blasphemous repeated prayer and barely controlled lust.
Destined to be remembered as a distinctly striking but flawed first effort, Luz nonetheless forces itself on your person with a power that’ll lodge itself firmly in your subconscious…and maybe have you asking questions you don’t want the answers to once that dress comes out of that briefcase.
Think of it as an early German draft of Fallen and you’re there.
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