A Portuguese eye surgeon (Diana Agostini) raises her daughter in isolation on a secluded farm, teaching her about anatomy, death, the usual things. One day, a visitor brings awful things their way. Years later… or earlier… or in someone’s memory, the girl, grown (trained dancer Kika Magalhaes) explores the reaches of her bleak imagination. She’s chillingly, fecklessly monstrous. Nicolas Pesce’s startlingly precise yet elliptical genre-exploding gem “The Eyes of My Mother” is dank with dread and darkest portent, a feverish dream of arresting images and awful implication. Despite “Eyes” telling the story of a serial killer, the worst actions take place off-screen. What we do see on screen, from sex to violence, is trauma enough. Sounds of butchery are more indelible than mere makeup effects. “Never go in the barn” is the key warning. The black-and-white images could pass for high art stills or low-rent hallucination, but Pesce and cinematographer Zach Kuperstein’s visual invention work through weird psychology as well. Executive produced by Borderline Films, which is responsible for “Christine,” “James White,” “Martha Marcy May Marlene” and “Simon Killer,” among other highly stylized features. A Sundance 2016 premiere. 77m. (Ray Pride)
“The Eyes of My Mother” opens Friday, December 2 at the Music Box Theatre.
Ray Pride is Newcity’s film critic and a contributing editor to Filmmaker magazine.
His history of Chicago “Ghost Signs” in words and images will be published in Spring 2022.