Watching Jason Figgis’ previous feature Don’t You Recognise Me was a gruelling, yet rewarding experience. Aggressive, unrelenting and unflinching, it tackled themes of revenge and consequence head on, challenging its audience at every turn. Figgis’ new film Torment plots a similar path, but does so in an entirely different way. Where there was vitriol, there is desperation. Where anger manifested into violence, there is internal suffering and grief. The emotional beats are the same, but are rendered physical through subtle, almost imperceptible ways.
Essentially based around two apparently separate storylines, Torment explores how guilt and regret can pollute a soul, and how those individuals handle such strong emotions thrust upon them either by their actions, or those of others. Jane (Cora Fenton) is haunted by the death of a child, traumatised to a point of inaction, and struggling to relate to her ever-patient husband John (Bryan Murray). Their tentative exchanges are filled with love and respect, but also an inherent sadness that keeps them firmly at arm’s length, with the barriers of sadness too strong to break down.
Running concurrently is Jack’s story. Portrayed by Bill Fellows, Jack wakes one morning trapped in a makeshift coffin, with only a breathing tube and a camera for company. Punished for a previous crime, Jack’s emotions range from anger to regret to aggression. Interrogated by his captor, Jack struggles to understand the severity of his situation while attempts at reason fall on deaf ears.
Though Figgis shrouds the arcs of his characters in mystery, there are clear indicators that the stories are in some way intertwined. But where Torment impresses is in its simplicity. The performances are largely reserved, with sporadic outpourings of intensity, but are filmed with a voyeuristic, almost invasive style that pushes the viewer right into the centre of the drama. The editing adds to the discomfort felt while viewing, as Jane, John and Jack move ever closer toward a finale you always sense will deliver little by way of closure.
Blended with Jane’s tragic story, is a disconcerting performance from Figgis regular Darren Travers. Part personification of grief, part psychological accuser, Travers inhabits a role open to interpretation and full of malevolence. His manic, almost cartoonish character contrasts directly with the internal suffering experienced by the main characters and underlines the helplessness felt by the characters.
There are occasional missteps – odd lines of dialogue fall flat and elements of the story in the build toward the finale are a tad confused – but like Don’t Your Recognise Me, Torment is a visceral viewing experience. Well-acted, superbly edited and with a relentless, almost unpleasant electro-pop soundtrack from Gilleathain McLean and Ross Morris that delivers appropriately dour aural punishment to the viewer, this is a film worth seeking out.
TORMENT / CERT: TBC / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: JASON FIGGIS / STARRING: CORA FENTON, BILL FELLOWS, DARREN TRAVERS, BRYAN MURRAY / RELEASE DATE: UK RELEASE DATE TBA