Handsomely mounted study in cruelty from Austria
In a chic lakeside Waldviertel mansion, identical twins Lukas and Elias play with pet cockroaches and amble among their mother’s modernist furniture and creepy, blurry portraits of herself. She returns from hospital, bandaged à la Eyes Without a Face, and cruelly snaps that she needs quiet rest. Where has good old mummy gone? Gradually the boys suspect she’s not who she says she is – so naturally they have to restrain and torture her until they get some answers.
The feature directorial debut of Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz, Goodnight Mommy makes skilful use of mystery, shifting points of identification and slow pacing to create creepy tension. It’s an elegantly mounted film, ‘shot on glorious 35mm’ as an end credit boasts, with extraordinary bursts of violence. But while its Austrian morbidity and Shyamalan narrative-twist-among-the-cornfields grasp at deep thoughts about grief and perversion, the film feels a specious ruse to show extreme cruelty. If Problem Child filtered gorily through The White Ribbon sounds good to you, maybe this is your thing.
Goodnight Mommy screened at Glasgow Film Festival and is released across the UK 4 Mar.