A girl in the city in your dreams. “Luz” has the intensity, even savagery, of modern-day fairytale, and the nightmarish specificity of a story erupting in its seventy minutes almost entirely within a single set, spectral and odd, as if haunted by a cinematographer murdered by a director as he shouted the words again and again, “Darker! Dimmer! Darker! Now the piercing beam of light!”
Director Tilman Singer, an avowed student of Dario Argento and Lucio Fulci, working entirely in 16mm, follows a young woman cabdriver (Luana Velis) into what could be a beat-down police station, where she will be pursued by a demon that loves her so very much. Which, as misfortune would have it, wreaks a welter of unwanted memories from childhood when she was a young girl in a Catholic school in Chile. What a lovely set-up, working wittily and well with limited means.
Like so many talented tyro directors with horror in their veins, Singer, as say, John Carpenter did in “Assault on Precinct 13,” wreaks each and every shred of fog and shallow of shadows necessary to make a very real world wholly unreal: it’s a thriller steeped in the sensual—light, sound—and therefore sensuous. (The canny sound design by Jonas Lux, Henning Hein and Steffen Pfauth, as well as the electronic score by Simon Waskow, play with aural flashbacks in sweetly disconcerting fashion.) Patiently, stealthily, certainly, “Luz” gets in your ears and your eyes and provides a nice, tight nightmare of patient, orchestrated havoc.
“I structured the narrative as a panic attack, of repressed memories and confusion,” Singer plainly puts it in a director’s statement. “It is purposely open to interpretation by the viewer.” Abstraction and surrealism do a dizzying dance: any explanations will be your own. “Luz” is a strong, strange, feature debut as well as the filmmaker’s diploma project at the Kunsthochschule für Medien Köln. 70m. (Ray Pride)
“Luz” opens Friday, August 2 at the Music Box.
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.