LIFF26 - Vanishing Waves - Cinema Review

'the film builds dramatically and poignantly and the director shows assurance in allowing it to grip you slowly and gently'

It is horrible to criticise a film for being too ambitious but, maybe, Kristina Buozyte's Vanishing Waves would have been even more stunning had it tried to weave in slightly fewer grand ideas. In a well-managed two-hour runtime, Buozyte touches on notions of masculine fantasy, repressed sexual desire, the un-said in relationships, scientific ethics, the nature and state of our mind, death and what it constitutes.

All of that happens in a film which at times can seem bizarre but for the most part is a brave experimental Sci-Fi, full of ideas, exploration and a desire to use the genre to greater ends. This might not all become immediately apparent, seeing as the whole thing starts rather like your common or garden Erotic Thriller, a genre mainly consigned to the memory of 1980s studio executives.

Plugged in to a machine which allows him to enter the consciousness of a coma victim, Lukas (Marius Jampolskis) at first sees nothing but colours and shapes. Then he finds himself on a beach. There's a woman (Jurga Jutaite) there. She's attractive and alluring and her only desire seems to be to want to have sex with him. We have entered the area of male fantasy and, for a time, the film teeters on the brink of being a touch fatuous.

The recovery though, is something approaching epic. Vanishing Waves (originally titled Aurora, which is much better) becomes a film featuring, but not about, eroticism, as Lukas struggles with ideas of leaving the consciousness his perfect image of himself inhabits. His fantasy is all in the mind of another (helloooo, Inception) but his reality is falling apart as well as, potentially, is the reality of the coma victim.

Eventually Buozyte moves the film on to be more of an exploration of ethics in scientific study and of our understanding of how and when a person dies. Lukas' actions in the final third don't necessarily fit with the sometimes horrible traits of his character but the film builds dramatically and poignantly and the director shows assurance in allowing it to grip you slowly and gently. The final important scenes include a naked chase along a beach in near darkness, which may go down as one of the most beautiful scenes shot this year.

If there's a major problem throughout it is in the performances. Jampolskis is OK as Lukas, but he isn't leading man material and he definitely isn't hero material and Vanishing Waves suffers from lack of a central presence. Vytautas Kaniusonis too as his boss Mantas is awful, a blank face where much, much more is needed. For those reasons it would be more surprising if Hollywood did not come calling at this for a remake with major talent than if they did, such is the film world in which we live. For now though, search out Buozyte's film and be inspired, amazed and consistently surprised.

The 26th Leeds International Film Festival runs from 1st November to 18th November at venues around the city. Programming includes several UK premières, the popular Night Of and Day Of The Dead and a selection of competition films in the Official Selection.

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