In an era where everything has been done to death and nothing feels new, it can be refreshing to watch a film that embraces those familiar visuals. Such a treat is Luz, a film so in love with the grainy visuals of the 70s, it almost fools us in believing it was indeed conceived at the golden era of delicious Italian gialli.
It follows the titular Luz (Luana Velis), a taxi driver in Germany, who stumbles into a police station after an accident. An uninterrupted, static shot lets us observe Luz as she uses a vending machine and then suddenly screams at the man behind the desk. Within the first few minutes, Luz has established itself as one strange beast and things will only get weirder from here.
Luz, it turns out, grew up in Chile and apparently brought a powerful demonic entity into the world, which is now trying to hunt her down and… kill her? Possess her? I can’t say, but part of Luz’s charm is its refusal to dish out answers. Much of the film’s appeal is the mystery it shrouds itself in, unwilling to be just one thing or genre, but a hybrid of director Tilman Singer’s influences. This is a purposely ambiguous film, one that offers more questions than answers and despite its fascinating treatment of a very common and familiar narrative, however, it might leave you cold due to its rather uneventful narrative.
Shot in 16mm, the film looks gorgeous; the grainy film stock has texture to it and not a single frame fails to look staggeringly good. Everything within Singer’s frames has its place and while it certainly looks pretty, it makes for a controlled, almost clinical viewing. There’s not a lot of energy onscreen because nothing exists on its own; every glass, chair and actor has been purposely placed and it drains all impulsivity out of the film. The film’s colour palette is stale and leans to greys and browns, obviously on purpose, but a pop of colour every now and then would have made Luz feel a little more alive.
What Singer does excel in, is the creation of impending doom. It feels like the narrative is constantly on the verge of explosion, the threat of violence and demonic possession always shadowing the characters. At its best, Luz is a very tense film, especially when Tilman refuses to cut and trusts his actors and the undeniably ambitious production design to do their jobs.
At 70 minutes, the aim is to be lean and mean, but it’s mainly just lean. While its time-hopping narrative gives plenty to think about, the film never finds its edge. Despite great effects it feels tame and stagnant, even a little pretentious at times. It can’t rack up enough energy to pull off an energetic finale, leaving a slightly bad taste in the viewer’s mouth. The film is at its best when Luz is hypnotised by a doctor and made to recreate the events of the night with just a few chairs subbing for her taxi. It’s all brilliantly simple, but performed with ease by the actors, especially Luana Velis who seems blissfully unaware of the horrors that she has unleashed.
Velis plays Luz delightfully straight, possibly because the script doesn’t offer much to work with - the film constantly feels like an overstretched short with its narrative holding very little meat on its bones, everything feels drawn out to the point of boredom which kicks in halfway. As a short, this could have been a really effective twist on the good old possession horror, but Singer can’t quite justify the film’s runtime with minimal substance and the over-reliance of visuals. As it is, Luz is a neat, if unpolished little possession horror-thriller and promises much for Singer, but there’s certainly room for improvement here.
Luz is available digitally June 1st