Some films are a trap. The post-modern French philosopher Gilles Deleuze broke down the cinematic experience into three varieties of images: the perception-image, the action-image, and the affection-image. These images relate respectively to the perception of sight, the interaction between characters and their positions, and to emotional experience. In Without Name the images are a hypnotic poison. The three varieties of images are presented in such a compact way that your senses are magnectically caught by the screen. There is no way out but to watch the film until the end.
It starts by introducing the land surveyor Eric (Alan McKenna). He takes a job in a plot land inside a deep and dense forest. He has to measure the land but some strange events begin to unfold. He doesn’t really know who has hired him and where exactly he is, as the site is not on any map. His personal life seems to have driven him into a dead end road: his marriage is falling apart and he has a very distant son. He is having an affair with his young assistant Olivia (Niamh Algar), an inquisitive woman who brings him more trouble than help. Everything evades Eric’s control and you feel tempted to rescue him from the void in which he is falling.
Without Name‘s narrative is a clever construction of stimuli with the purpose of giving you fear and goosebumps. Eric’s disturbed state causes commotion. His motivations are similar to the clumsy police officer Jong-goo in The Wailing – Read our review here. Eric is also trying to decode the secrets of the dark woodlands surrounding him. Just like the South Korean character, he surrenders to the environment. He finds some notes written by the former surveyor, who has mysteriously abandoned the job as well as the house where Eric and Olivia sleep. The notebook describes “The knowledge of the trees”, including a hallucinogenic mushroom that grows in that hidden forest. Soon both Eric and Olivia succumb to the drug.
The plot then becomes a little bit predictable. Eric’s fragile psyche evolves into a pitiful condition. Suddenly people disappear. He can hear plants talking. His girlfriend leaves him alone. You become anxious to anticipate how the filmmaker Lorcan Finnegan will solve this mystery. Is it a simple tale of a revengeful mother nature?
The film goes very well in the first half, when the acid-trip descends into some sort of eco-horror.
Unlike Wernor Herzog’s filmography, in which the concept of individual ambition is pitted against the forces of natural world, Without Name has a silly ending. In the fiction Fitzcarraldo (Herzog, 1982), for instance, the Herculean hero takes a Sisyphean turn, which explains Herzog’s general animosity towards those who see themselves as masters of the natural world. The same happens in the documentary Grizzly Man (Herzog, 2005), in which a man is devoured by bears because he thought he had tamed them. The human ambition versus nature is present in several of Herzog’s movies.
Finnegan, though, chooses a very different solution, with plenty of spectral lights and visual effects, thereby losing some of the film focus.
Without Name is out this weekend in the UK. It is also showing at Glasgow Film Festival on 18th and 23rd of February. For more info about the festival, click here:
Watch the film teaser trailer below: