Dir.: Rupert Jones; Cast: Toby Jones, Anne Reid, Sinead Matthews, Cecilia Noble; UK 2016, 100 min.
Debut director/writer Rupert Jones has crafted a sublime psychological thriller, enhanced by yet another standout performance from Toby Jones as the tortured anti-hero.
Set in a large London Housing Estate, Carl (Jones) lives in a poky 1970s style flat after being released from prison the year before. One morning Carl wakes up, and finds the body of a young woman he vaguely remembers as Abby (Mathews), in his bathroom. He seems to recall how they ending up dancing together before he possibly locked her in the bathroom. The stairs outside his flat become a kaleidoscope, strangling him in always new twits and turns. The police show up, and so does a helpful neighbour, Monique (Noble). Toby is convinced that he has done something wrong – but can’t work out exactly what or why. When his mother Aileen (Reid) invites herself over – very much against his will – images of Abbey and Aileen co-mingle, Toby certainly suffers from displacement activity – a repressed guilt complex, which will revealed in the final reel.
This is 10 Rililngton Place meets Kafka’s The Trial: Jones even looks spookily very much like Richard Attenborough as the murderous landlord. The grimy atmosphere in the flat is another parallel – but whilst Attenborough’s John Christie was sheer evil, Carl is suffering from a trauma. He is hectically trying to cover up the traces of whatever he might have done; objects, he wants to destroy or find, becoming his enemies. Carl is paralysed, whenever he meets authority, be it the police, or his boss at the garden centre. His anxiety increases the longer his mother stays in his flat, and when she reveals that’s she has bone cancer and wants to spend a lottery win on a last family visit to Canada with him, Carl is close to breaking point.
Let’s just be clear over one thing, and director Jones underlines it – “that Kaleidoscope is a psychological thriller, a tragedy, but not a horror feature”. The score, using a harp concerto by the German/American composer Albert Zabel, really intensifies Carl’s desperate state of mind. There are also echoes here of Bernhard Hermann’s score for Hitchcock’s Vertigo: But whilst Scottie was suffering from Vertigo (and love sickness), Carl is haunted by a past, that remains partly an enigma. DoP Philipp Blaubach (Hush) creates elliptical camera movements, showing Carl permanently fleeing from himself, whilst the long tracking shots mark him like a hunted animal. Overall, Jones has made the most of his limited budget, avoiding any gore, and staying consistently within the parameters of unsettling psychological drama. AS
ON RELEASE NATIONWIDE FROM 10 NOVEMBER