Moody and mysterious (or perhaps the term is "willfully obtuse"), this stylized, philosophical murder mystery is unquestionably a beautifully realized vision. If only it were clear that Eran Palatnik's feature film debut is genuinely complex and
thought provoking, rather than the pretentious twaddle it frequently resembles. Set in an alternate past (or perhaps an alternate future -- there's no real telling) made up of mixed and matched snippets of the past and present, it revolves around the dour figure of John Abbott (Martin Donovan), a
government investigator who's been sent on a mission to the remote town of Sutheridge. A woman has been murdered, and a curious design drawn on her flesh. Why was she killed, and was she connected to the revolution against the autocratic government that rages underground, both figuratively and
literally? In this never-never world people travel by mule cart, "thinking machines" are powered by steam, church and state are one (though since it's never entirely clear which church or what state, the import of this union is murky), and Abbott is a man who puts his trust in God. But the
Sutheridge murder tests his faith: The suspects are puzzling, the local police chief (John A. MacKay) oddly reticent, the clues enigmatic and elusive. Abbot's room is broken into, a new murder is committed, Abbott is brutally beaten while following a lead, the chief witness is both provocative
and hostile, and radio reports suggest that the rebels are gaining ground. Abbott feels both his sense of self and his understanding of the world crumbling. Shot in less than three weeks, this film's lush cinematography and rich, carefully detailed art direction are a tribute to the filmmakers'
skill and imagination. But the ambiguous narrative is ultimately more frustrating than thought-provokingly enigmatic.
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- Released: 1999
- Rating: NR
- Review: Moody and mysterious (or perhaps the term is "willfully obtuse"), this stylized, philosophical murder mystery is unquestionably a beautifully realized vision. If only it were clear that Eran Palatnik's feature film debut is genuinely complex and thought… (more)