Piercing

Review by Elena Lazic @elazic

Directed by

Nicolas Pesce

Starring

Christopher Abbott Laia Costa Mia Wasikowska

Anticipation.

An intriguing cast and poster.

Enjoyment.

This is freaky and I can’t look away.

In Retrospect.

Either too crazy, or not crazy enough.

Mia Wasikowska and Christopher Abbot play wicked games in this psychosexual horror.

Based on a novel of the same name by Ryū Murakami (the author behind Takashi Miike’s Audition), the second feature from Nicolas Pesce plays with the limits of control. The film’s mannered, minimal visual style and tidy set design echo our main character’s steely resolve: Reed (Christopher Abbott) has put together a precise plan to dispassionately call and murder a prostitute in a hotel room.

The calculated way in which he spreads his tools on the bed and rehearses the murder makes the neatness of his appearance look more a sign of madness than of stability. But, of course, as soon as the intended victim Jackie (Mia Wasikowska) shows up, nothing goes according to plan. Reed had not considered that his prey might be just as deranged as he is.

Their game of cat and mouse is genuinely surprising and unsettling, merrily going into truly uncomfortable body horror. But there are touches of humour here, too – in Wasikowska’s broad performance, and most enjoyably in Abbott’s subtle looks and delivery. His entire body seems imbued with the history of Reed, whose childhood trauma and root of his madness is progressively, elusively revealed. Jackie’s own reason for her affinity with (self-)mutilation is never discussed, but her reaction to Reed’s story delicately reveals a tacit understanding, even a degree of empathy.

The artificial city of colourful tower blocks where the film is set suggests a stifling society where neuroses of all kinds must thrive. Perhaps the most obvious sign of a civilisation bubbling with violent impulses is in the film’s soundtrack, composed exclusively of themes from giallo films such as Dario Argento’s Tenebre. But the chamber piece ultimately feels a little too slight and shifty to justify its runtime. Ending just as its long-teased crescendo of reciprocal madness begins, Piercing is a little too smart for its own good.

Published 15 Feb 2019

Tags: Christopher Abbott Laia Costa Mia Wasikowska

Anticipation.

An intriguing cast and poster.

Enjoyment.

This is freaky and I can’t look away.

In Retrospect.

Either too crazy, or not crazy enough.

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