Simultaneously bleak and alluring, INSIDE/OUT is independent filmmaker Rob Tregenza's French-produced narrative of random occurrences in a mental institution. Jean (Frederic Pierrot) is a patient in a remote mental hospital, from which he continually attempts to escape. On and off the hospital grounds, Jean regularly encounters a sadistic local law officer...read more
Simultaneously bleak and alluring, INSIDE/OUT is independent filmmaker Rob Tregenza's French-produced narrative of random occurrences in a mental institution.
Jean (Frederic Pierrot) is a patient in a remote mental hospital, from which he continually attempts to escape. On and off the hospital grounds, Jean regularly encounters a sadistic local law officer (Mikkel Gaup), with whom he fights. Monica (Berangere Allaux), another patient at the hospital, is
romantically attracted to Jean, and jealous of the attention that Grace (Stefania Rocca), an organist in the institution's chapel, gives to him. Meanwhile, Roger (Steven Watkins), also a patient, receives a visit from his parents. Although the three are silent for the duration of the visit, Roger
breaks down and cries when his parents leave.
One day, Monica sneaks from her ward into Jean's. She finds him asleep, undresses, climbs into his bed, and lies with him until a nurse comes and takes her away. A dance party is arranged for the inmates, who are upset by the loud music until a harpist (Eareckson Mary Tregenza) plays a quiet piece
that lulls them all. An Episcopal priest (Tom Gilroy) who heads the chapel carries on an affair with Grace, but she abruptly ends the relationship. Later, Grace teaches Monica how to play the organ. Monica overcomes her jealousy and befriends Grace.
Jean finds Monica in an abandoned house with both the law officer and a hospital orderly (David Roland Frank), and he shoots the officer dead. Later, Grace finds Jean painting images on a wall in the sanitarium, and assists him. When they finish, Jean makes sexual advances, but Grace breaks free
of him and runs away. Jean finds Monica crouching in the corner of an empty room and embraces her. Elsewhere, Grace entertains herself by playing the organ, while Roger blows a trumpet on the hospital grounds.
As its title suggests, INSIDE/OUT is a film of opposites. Abstruse to the point of bafflement, it is nonetheless involving and, at times, entrancing. The tone is predominantly melancholic, and writer-director Tregenza (who also served as the cinematographer and editor) imbues the film with a drab,
wintry feel, filling it with images of decay and emptiness. Yet INSIDE/OUT is also seductive, both in its beautiful, wide-screen cinematography and in its otherworldliness. The locale and time period are unspecified (although it appears to be a small American town in the 1950s), and the film is
virtually nonverbal. Motivations go unexplained--the law officer's antipathy toward Jean, for example--but rather than provoking frustration or confusion these absences make INSIDE/OUT literally dream-like, filled with events that are unaccountable yet somehow acceptable.
Tregenza is a true stylist. While his film might not, as he has boasted, evoke "the entire history of cinema," it does successfully incorporate seemingly antithetical filmmaking approaches. INSIDE/OUT alternates fluid, all-encompassing tracking shots with long static takes. It is starkly realistic
in its harsh visuals, yet includes touches of fantasy. The film may be described as impressionistic, since events are simply recorded without being interpreted, but it occasionally moves into expressionism (mostly through the soundtrack) to emphasize a particular character's state of mind.
Tregenza manages to keep these oppositions balanced, through an assured command of the medium and with a rich appreciation of the affect of form on narrative.
Such a film might have come across as pretentious or deadly dull if Tregenza and his cast (who, given the lack of dialogue, communicate more though gesture and facial expression than through words), had not addressed their material with the discipline, conviction, and intelligence that they
display here. INSIDE/OUT may be less grand than Tregenza envisioned, but even at its most ponderous, it is an eminently interesting film. (Violence, nudity, profanity.)
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