This bizarre and elegant tale of gore and horror is not for the faint-hearted and squeamish. The novice helmer Nicolas Pesce will torture viewers with plenty of mutilated bodies, sadistic pleasures and – above everything else – deeply dysfunctional and psychotic minds. Throw in a little bit of TLC, maternal warmth and lesbian affection, you will end up with a masterpiece of creepiness.
A mother (Diana Agostini), who was previously an eye surgeon in Portugal, lives with her husband and their young daughter Francisca (Kika Magalhães) in a secluded farm somewhere in the remote American countryside. She gives her daughter anatomy lessons from a very young age, probably unaware that Francisca would soon use her acquired skills in the most unorthodox ways imaginable. One day an intruder named Charlie breaks into their house and kills her mother, but the criminal is soon subdued and becomes a prisoner and guinea pig for the little girl’s morbid experiments. Francisca soon grows up, and the intensity of the anatomic and psychological escalates to the highest level imaginable, as she recruits new victims to submit to her sadistic ordeals.
The Eyes of my Mother skillfully blends interrupted motherhood (twice, but you must watch the film in order to understand why), female psychosis, isolation and religion in one big pan. The sharp black and white photography renders the grueling scenes more watchable and gives the film an eerie veneer, in a way similar to Hitchcock Psycho (1960) – the director opted for black and white because he wanted to spare audiences from the violence of the colour red in the famous shower sequence.
The Eyes of my Mother is very Lynchian in the portrayal of a disturbed and twisted mind. In many ways, Francisca is both puerile and repulsive, in a way not too different from Frank (in Blue Velvet, 1986). The film has also elements of Cronenberg, in his pathological obsession with the human body, with all of its limbs and cavities. The changes that she will perform on the bodies of her victims may remind you of The Fly (1986) or Crash (1996), and they are certain to make Josef Mengele jealous.
Francisca’s detached reality and gruesome little world will make you cover your eyes, cringe and retch. The occasional utterance in Portuguese and the Fado music will alienate you further, giving a final touch of eccentricity to the movie (although you might notice that some of the accents are feigned, if you are a native Portuguese speaker). This is a surreal universe of which you wouldn’t want to take part anyway. You’ll be glad to be on your seat, safely removed on the other side of the fourth wall.
The Eyes of my Mother is out in cinemas across the UK on Friday March 27th. The film was produced by the young master of the dysfunctional Antonio Campos – click here for our review of the equally disturbing and superb Christine, from last year.
Watch the film trailer below: