Fantasia programmer Tony Timpone billed this film as the most unsettling film at the festival this year. That is saying quite a mouthful. Of course, drawn in by this I couldn’t wait to see first time director Nicholas Pesce’s film.
The Eyes of My Mother is a horror and an old fashioned one. One that relies more on atmosphere rather than gore. Though there is plenty of violence to be found during its taught 76 minutes. As such the less said about its story the better. It is definitely a film in which it is better to go into things blind. That being said, what I will say about it is that it should dissuade those that see it from believing that all small rural towns are idyllic and quiet. At least those in the Midwestern United States.
Young Francisca (Olivia Bond – first film) lives a lonely existence. Her only company is her doll and her mother (Diana Agostini – The Godfather: Part III, Sweet Liberty). Her mother was born in Portugal and was a surgeon. On the farm, using the bodies of the animals, she imparts her knowledge of the body and its parts on the impressionable youngster.
Their quiet existence comes to a crashing halt when a stranger (Will Brill – Not Fade Away) comes and violence ensues. Soon she has lost both her mother and father (Paul Nazak – first film). This violence leads Francisca (Kika Magalhaes) down a lonely path that allows her to indulge her darkest tendencies.
After having experienced it I am not sure what to say about it. Timpone was right in that you exit the film in a little bit of a haze due to what you just saw. It is horrifying. Mostly due to the note perfect acting by lead Kika Magalhaes. She makes Francisca a rather innocent and submissive young woman. It makes her very sympathetic no matter what she is doing. Then there is the other side of Francisca. The way she moves all robotic-like is creepy au bout. Francisca is really not sure how to be human as she has led such an isolated existence.
Totally an adult film. By adult film I mean one that involves sexual moments (as odd as they are) intertwined with frightening brutality. Pesce, who also wrote the screenplay, is not playing here. He is serious…deadly serious. The fact that everything, especially the most horrific things, happen in a matter of fact type fashion makes it all that much more disturbing.
Pesce chose to film in black and white and it was right on the money. Not only does it look great and crisp, but it takes the focus off the gore that occurs without making the film less scary. The violence that happens still packs a punch without having to rely on flowing red blood. The lack of colour keeps some of the violence implied rather than obvious. Are those stains on the fridge door blood or just dirt? Even sound, other than the beautiful score, is kept to a minimum. Pesce has successfully meshed horror with an art film in the process. A pure gothic style horror. Beautiful horror.