Land surveyor Eric is hired to chart some woodland in the Irish countryside for a housing development. Assisted only by student Olivia, the work proceeds slowly amidst some cryptic murmurings from locals about leaving the area alone. He soon discovers that there are powers in the wood, and they have been there long before the coming of man and will not relinquish the land easily.
Unlike many stories inspired by Celtic folklore, where mysterious forests often house malevolent fae or act as a gateway to a mystical purgatorial realm, in Without Name it’s the woods themselves that are the supernatural presence. The otherworldly antagonist is not some mere physical entity operating within a subset of established behavioural rules that can ultimately be used against it, but rather the indomitable might of nature, which endures the intrusion but remains safe under the protection of ineffable powers far more ancient than those presented by the physical imposition of these petty mortals. Indeed, the title is a literal translation of what the woods are referred to, defying man’s attempts to even designate them, let alone claim then as his own.
Similar in set-up and themes to Corin Hardy’s The Hallow, the film is less an outright horror and more a psychological study of one man’s deteriorating sanity as he becomes lost in the overwhelming power of nature. Eric finds himself trapped in a woodland prison formed of near-identical slim and branchless trunks acting as the bars of a disorienting wooden cage where direction and distance seem ever shifting, spinning in a vortex of rural phantasmagoria. The ethereal majesty of the untouched woodland evokes the same kind of beguiling hypnosis as the misty beauty of Welsh art-genre movie Yr Ymadawiad, the mystical power of the landscape pulling you in as much as it does its lost characters.
Appropriate for a film about fragmenting perceptions, the dreamlike visuals leave you unsure of what is truly going on and what is merely a nightmarish hallucination. It’s a testament to the imagination of the camerawork that a scene of three characters getting stoned on mushrooms is amongst the least psychedelic moments of the film, the trippiness instead coming from the unleashed force of the nature, realised in an earthy psychedelic blaze of muted tones and disorienting camera shots.
Without Name is less a story and more an experience, and while its unfocused style of reality warping may make a little difficult to focus on, it also allows you to just sit back and experience the ride.
WITHOUT NAME / CERT: TBA / DIRECTOR: LORCAN FINNEGAN / SCREENPLAY: GARRET SHANLEY / STARRING: ALAN MCKENNA, NIAMH ALGAR, JAMES BROWNE / RELEASE DATE: TBA