LIFF27 - The Future - Cinema Review

'Scherson boldly - and at times surreally - tackles concepts as wide ranging as spirituality, the supernatural, the impact of emotion upon us and our surroundings, and even our place in the universe. Varied levels of success are achieved'

Central to the success of The Future is the small cast director Alicia Scherson has assembled. Nobody here gives anything less than a good performance; at the core, there is excellence. Rutger Hauer and Manuela Martelli individually are superb, but regularly bring the film to its zenith when sharing the screen. Martelli inhabits 19-year-old Bianca comprehensively, revealing complex layers to the character throughout (also, try to avoid finding out how old she actually is until after you’ve seen the film). Hauer’s role as an ageing former Mr. Universe could at many points have slipped into caricature or farce; instead the veteran actor controls and crafts his performance with precision. It’s a wonder Hauer hasn’t yet been snapped up by the likes of Quentin Tarantino for a truly career-galvanising role.

The cast provides a solid foundation upon which Scherson is able to unfold an unorthodox story, taking in an eclectic array of themes and ideas. Recently orphaned Bianca and her younger brother Tomas (Luigi Ciardio) are quickly left to their own devices by the authorities, and there is no way you could predict the direction the plot takes from there. Scherson boldly - and at times surreally - tackles concepts as wide ranging as spirituality, the supernatural, the impact of emotion upon us and our surroundings, and even our place in the universe. Varied levels of success are achieved, but nothing ever feels out of place.

Essentially a film about both Bianca and Tomas filling the void left by their parents’ death, The Future sees the siblings both seeking out father figures and exploring taboos. Scherson is never afraid to blur the lines between the two, be it Tomas seeking guidance on approaching adolescence through watching pornography and emulating his questionable mentors, personal trainers Libio (Nicolas Vaporidis) and BoloƱes (Alessandro Giallocosta), or Bianca’s simultaneously sexual and paternal bond with Maciste.

As both director and screenwriter, Scherson is dismissive in her presentation of sex when not attached to a meaningful relationship, even if that relationship encroaches upon uncomfortable taboos. In the hands of a less skilled filmmaker this could become a seedy and sordid story, but Scherson handles her material with bravery and focus making The Future a captivating experience throughout. Ideas of strength and weakness, especially masculinity, also persist alongside a powerful and intriguing use of light and dark. It’s no coincidence that Maciste’s name translates from Italian as “strongman”, or that Bianca’s can mean both “white” and “blank”.

One or two less successful elements do hold Scherson’s film back a little. The narrative voice used - that of Bianca looking back from an indeterminate point in the future - is never quite developed enough to make it anything more than a curiosity, which considering the opening lines of Bianca’s narration feels like something of a missed opportunity. It’s likely that Scherston wanted to keep things intentionally vague, but a little more clarity could have elevated her film even further. The ending also feels somewhat out of nowhere, almost as if Scherson wasn’t entirely sure where and how to finish her story, so she just allowed it to stop.

Any flaws here are both minor and forgivable in what is one of the most compelling films of the year, one which will linger long in your memory. If you’re anything like me, you’ll be making more and more connections, turning over lines and interactions, images and scenes, in the hours and days after watching The Future - something that only great cinema can make you do.

The 27th Leeds International Film Festival (LIFF) takes place from the 6th-21st November at cinemas around the city, including Hyde Park Picture House and Leeds Town Hall. Tickets and more information are available via the official LIFF website.

By Ben Broadribb. Ben is a regular contributor to Film Intel, having previously written at Some Like It Hot Fuzz. He is normally seen in the wild wearing t-shirts containing obscure film references. He is a geek, often unashamedly so. He's also on and Twitter.

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