Review: Luz (Tilman Singer, 2019)

A compellingly oblique representation of demonic possession via psychological police procedural, Luz is startling in its economy, at 70 minutes, whilst maintaining such a degree of intensity. I have seen some criticism of Luz as a “long short film,” but I honestly feel this works to its advantage, giving itself just enough time – and not a minute more – to establish atmospheric introspection on the part of its titular character in particular, but not so much time that it feels obliged to fill the space with exposition. Indeed, the opacity of the narrative is as such that one must interpret the events before us, especially as the police in question are so clearly ill-equipped to do so, and ultimately the grand majority of conclusions drawn will be unspoken and entirely affective.

Curiously, the film with which Luz shares most tonal parallel is in fact Beyond the Black Rainbow; not simply due to the presence of a menacingly patriarchal analyst pursuing a powerful yet reticent young woman, but instead the remarkably nuanced atmospheric cues both relationships seem to evoke, relying solely on what we may emotionally recognise in the face of what is otherwise a relatively incoherent plot. When a plot is as unforthcoming in terms of explanation as Luz (or, indeed, Beyond the Black Rainbow) is, the main question becomes: do I believe in the world? If I do, then I can accept my role as a visitor to a set of events whose justification may not be clear to me, but is nevertheless extant. If I don’t, then I’ve simply paid the ticket price to be presented with the work of someone who wants to write punchlines, without bothering to construct any jokes. I’m happy to say there was no question to the credibility of Luz‘s world.

The representation of possession as a phenomenon of contagion is a welcome break from the typically insular scope of such a film. Indeed, the themes of escape, travel, pursuit and re-encounter are central discursive elements. Rather than being so simple as a good vs evil narrative, symbolised through a corrupting exogenous demonic influence on a young girl who, more often than not, meets the requisite racial and economic criteria for society’s a priori assumption of innocence, Luz utilises possession as a manifestation almost of a genealogy of guilt and narrative itself. As with all possession horror, identity is at the forefront of Luz‘s concern, but rather than identity simply being a concrete notion now threatened by invasive factors, we reflect on its construction through external regimes of discourse, memory, accusation and dream.

It will take at least one more viewing for me to solidify my interpretation of the film exactly, but for a film as relatively short and laconic as this to carry such weight is as worthy as it is impressive.

I hope even if you can’t feel it, even if it tastes too different, even if you can’t live in it, you will enjoy knowing that far from your shores your love is falling like rain on empty streets, on forests and green fields, on friends of mine with silly hair-dos and filthy skirts. And though I sometimes fear the waves, I will always look for myself and all that is good beyond my terrestrial frontiers.