Suspension of Disbelief Movie Review
Oscar-nominated filmmaker Mike Figgis (Leaving Las Vegas) continues to explore experimental styles of cinema (see Timecode or Hotel) with this playful in-joke about the act of artistic creation. It's an ambitious idea that never quite overcomes the indulgent approach, but the gimmicky touches and mysterious noir vibe hold our interest even if the characters are never very clearly developed.
At the centre is screenwriter Martin (Koch), who lectures at a London film school as his long-awaited new script is finally going into production. His daughter Sarah (Night) has landed a lead role in the film, and Martin celebrates this with her at her 25th birthday. He also becomes fascinated by her friend Angelique (Verbeek), who turns up dead in a canal the next morning, leaving him as the prime suspect. A police inspector (Cranham) is especially suspicious since Martin's wife (Fox in flashback) went missing 15 years ago. Then Angelique's twin Therese (also Verbeek) turns up to twist things further.
Figgis continually throws us out of the story by referring to the film within the film. For example, characters are continually picking up movie scripts that describe them picking up movie scripts. And Figgis further tweaks us with on-screen captions, split-screen angles and movie-set camera gags, plus of course the fact that a central character is an identical twin. But because of all of this self-referential trickery, we can never engage with the story or characters at all.
We're always aware that this is only a film, which kind of undermines the opening quote from Jung about how readers suspend their disbelief because they put themselves into the stories they read. It's intriguing to watch the characters get caught up in their tangled mess of stories within stories, but without any resonance for us, it's just academic. Martin actually asks his students whether his film should have an ambiguous ending, which sparks a discussion about lazy screenwriters. Figgis certainly isn't lazy, but he still fails to make us care what happens.