German-born, New Zealand-based Florian Habicht's first feature is a rude, earthy, avant-garde spin on fairy-tale conventions shot in the primordial-looking Northern Aotearoa region. Habicht's most startling notion was to record the dialogue first, then shoot the film with different actors, most clearly cast for their exaggerated faces and physiques; the resulting disjunction gives the performances an air of eerie surreality. Simpleminded Gert (Nicholas Butler, voice of Steve Abel) works for blustering Hugo (Warwick Broadhead) at the Woodland dump, and leaps at the offer to drive Hugo's daughter, the greedy, imperious Plum (Teresa Peters, voice of Mardi Potter), to her wedding in nearby Maidenwood. Hugo promises a hefty reward for successfully completing the task, but shy Gert, who has a secret crush on Plum, would do it for free. Unfortunately, the journey is fraught with mysterious danger, starting with the odd fact that Plum has been engaged to wed several times already, and each time her groom mysteriously vanished on the eve of the wedding. As the radio broadcasts news reports of atrocities and promotions for the traveling Grimm Brothers Circus, Gert and Plum make a brief rest stop and return to find the car no longer working. They trade it for a donkey and proceed. Lured by the strains of an accordion playing circus tunes, they get lost in the woods and shed their clothes in hopes of being able to retrace their steps in the daylight, then enjoy a night of forbidden erotic bliss in a strange cottage. They later give their donkey to a disgusting tramp (David Hornblow) for a handful of magical beans and are separated: Mute strongman Gustav (Matthew Sunderland), a runaway from the circus, kidnaps Plum, while the despairing Gert is tortured by Hugo's brutish emissary, Goerdel (Tony Bishop, voiced by Lutz Halbhubner), in the guise of a parish priest. The bedtime-story voice-over narration by Margaret-Mary Hollins is creepily at odds with the disturbing visuals, which bring to the surface all the cruelty and sexual violence hinted at in traditional fairy stories. Shot in glistening black and white on a miniscule budget, the film is a singular achievement, if not one suited to all tastes and sensibilities. It's a creation on the order of David Lynch's ERASERHEAD (1977) or Guy Maddin's TALES FROM THE GIMLI HOSPITAL (1988), polished to a self-consciously decrepit sheen and located at the intersection of myth and highly personal psychological disturbance.
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- Released: 2003
- Rating: NR
- Review: German-born, New Zealand-based Florian Habicht's first feature is a rude, earthy, avant-garde spin on fairy-tale conventions shot in the primordial-looking Northern Aotearoa region. Habicht's most startling notion was to record the dialogue first, then sho… (more)