REVIEW: THE STRANGE COLOUR OF YOUR BODY’S TEARS / CERT: 18 / DIRECTOR: HELENE CATTET, BRUNO FORZANI / SCREENPLAY: HELENE CATTET, BRUNO FORZANI / STARRING: KLAUS TANGE, URSULA BEDENA, JOE KOENER / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
The Strange Colour of Your Body’s Tears, a film of dazzling psychedelic sequences, begins with a swirling, droning noise that provokes a sense of immediate disorientation and unease. The very first shot is of a man sleeping aboard a plane. The camera closes in, focusing on his gently fluttering eyelids. He is dreaming.
The second feature by Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani is as febrile a reverie as they come; a hall of mirrors blasted into a thousand shards. ‘Sometimes he saw his real face and sometimes a stranger in his place,’ intoned Kraftwerk’s Ralf Hütter, on their classic 1977 track, The Hall of Mirrors. Interestingly, the lyrics do have an uncanny thematic bearing on the film. And thanks to an armoury of cinematic techniques, the film can go way beyond dreams. Like a peacock spreading its plumage, the kaleidoscopic majesty is something to savour. Some will argue that the delirium teeters on wilful confusion. Play the game or don’t, with its surrealist imagery, nightmarish tone, visual puns and riddles and staccato editing, The Strange Colour of Your Body’s Tears is a cinematic marvel of the highest wonderment.
As in their debut feature, Amer, the directors present a challenging and fragmented narrative but the themes are clear: the exploration of a person’s sexual life related to a conflation of pleasure, pain and death via a childhood experience.
Business manager Dan Christensen (a reference to the pioneering American abstract painter?) arrives home from a trip abroad and finds his wife, Edwige, is missing. The art nouveau apartment in which the couple live is full of strange folk who may or may not know her whereabouts. Dan spends the entire running time wandering around playing detective and bearing witness to all sorts of kinky and murderous visions.
As well as the gory works of Dario Argento and Sergio Martino, the film is influenced by 1940s Freudian psychological thrillers such as Otto Preminger’s Laura (1944). In fact, one of the characters is named in its honour and ultimately she becomes the focal point. Another Hollywood flick that may have provided an influence is Fritz Lang’s Secret Beyond the Door (1948). Even the title appears to invoke the third act of Strange Colour.
In Lang’s Gothic noir, Michael Redgrave plays an aloof architect who remarries and may want to snuff out his new bride on their wedding night. Although it delivers a cop-out happy ending, the use of the haunted past, fetishes and perversion, secret chambers and rooms, where anxiety reigns supreme, are near-identical to elements found in The Strange Colour of Your Body’s Tears. Interestingly, the films both reach something of a shared denouement. The primal experiences of youth often served gialli thrillers as motive for murder, but in Lang’s drama and Strange Colour, older sisters are directly involved and the root cause of the angst.