Monday, January 12, 2009

The Broken (2008)

Note: This review is part of my coverage of Horrorfest III.

The Broken

The Broken is the doppelganger story of the group, and is a riveting psychological suspense thriller. I spent most of the film with a furrowed brow. And not because I was confused, but absorbed, and working out the pieces and wondering what was gonna happen next. The movie is slow, without a lot of action, but not in the sense that it bores you, but that it engages your mind and makes you wonder where the story is heading.

The story revolves around the case of a radiologist (she deals with x-rays in a hospital), Gina McVey, who has a car accident after seeing what can only be described as her doppelganger (though that precise term is never used). Following the accident, the people around her seem to be replaced, one by one, by hollow shells that look and act (for the most part) like the people she knows, but are missing that certain something. Of course, Gina had her head shaken up a bit in the crash, so there's the question of how much of what she's experiencing is some form of psychological trauma. (In fact, the term "Capgras syndrome" is brought up by the doctors looking after Gina).

From the evidence, I think it's pretty clear in the end that there's something going on beyond the purely psychological explanation. There seems to be some kind of "dark world behind the mirror", of which we get only a glimpse, where the body-doubles come from (shattering the mirror during passage), to murder their "hosts" and take on their identity. Or something. (Tip: the whole thing with the x-rays with the heart on the wrong side - proof that the subject being x-rayed is one of the "pods" - the heart is on the wrong side because they come from the mirror world, and/or they must have taken their form from the mirror image of their victims). I felt that there was the possibility of some kind of social commentary being made about people going through the motions of modern life without a sort of human passion - we are the doppelgangers already, or something, but it wasn't necessarily obvious.

Anyway, it's a deeply engrossing film with an atmosphere not far from Jacob's Ladder, albeit with considerably less demonic imagery (although the glimpses we do get of the "monsters" is pretty unnerving - even if they do have human form). It seems to raise a lot of questions and is the kind of film that promotes a lot of thought and speculation about the plot details after the fact. Though not so much as to leave you feeling inadequately informed by the end of the picture. I give it a thumbs up.

And there's one other thing I wanted to mention. So far, of the Horrorfest movies I've seen this year, this one gets my seal of approval for inclusion of nudity - and it's not the prurient kind of inclusion, as this is, in all aspects, a very mature film. I'm hesitant to make a generalization so quickly, but I suspect we're seeing a considerable difference in cultural attitudes toward nudity here. In the bath and shower scenes, the camera neither lingers on nor avoids the areas of the actresses' breasts or buttocks in a very unpresuming and natural way. I'm used to films that would either make a point to avoid the exposure, or else go all the way and make a big deal out of it. Also, in one excellent scene, the main character, Gina, gets out of bed in the middle of the night, completely nude, and doesn't bother to cover up. When it's so easy to just have her throw on a night gown or something, I applaud the filmmakers' apparent "laissez-faire" attitude towards the scene (whoever is responsible, and for whatever reasons). Surely an American production wouldn't dare take such a trivial "risk" with the misguided censors. I know it's a little odd (and maybe unfair) to focus on this particular aspect of this great film, but I'm sick of the "fuck-or-duck" attitude towards cinema nudity, and seeing an approach like this just warms my heart.

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