Shot as a thesis project by writer/director Tilman Singer LUZ has been building quite a reputation on the festival circuit. The fact it never seemed to be available for remote review just heightened my curiosity. Having finally gotten my chance to see it, I’ve been left somewhat underwhelmed. LUZ is filled with atmosphere and brilliant cinematography, but the script is ultimately too sparse and confusing for its own good.
The film begins with Luz (Luana Velis) walking into a near-empty police station. We then cut to a bar where Nora (Julia Riedler) is talking to Dr. Rossini (Jan Bluthardt), the topic is an old friend of Nora’s, Luz. Her actions during the conversation resemble a cartoon seduction scene, ending with a most unusual kiss. We quickly find that Dr. Rossini is heading to the police station, to examine Luz. The police station is about to become the site of a most unusual battle between humans and a love-struck demon.
LUZ isn’t a bad film. Running a brisk 70 minutes and beautifully shot on 16mm it has the feel of vintage Euro Horror with its look and fragmented storyline. However, like many of them it’s also a huge triumph of style over substance. The film bounces between flashbacks and the very minimalist set where Luz is under hypnosis. Trying to unlock what was going through her mind when she jumped from her moving taxi unlocks many other memories. The demon can also jump bodies and it quickly becomes hard to tell what is going on.
A bit of uncertainty is a good thing in a film like this, but being totally off balance and confused much of the time isn’t. It’s frequently impossible to tell if we’re seeing the past, present or future, or if somebody is possessed or not. The constant use of the blasphemous prayer Luz originally used to summon the demon, as clever as it is, helps confuse things further.
Beautiful to look at but frustrating to try to follow LUZ will appeal to those who are into nonstructured and nonlinear films. For others, it’s a matter of how much effort they’re willing to put into it. And how much the film’s look makes up for the plot.