Review by Brídín Ní Fhearraigh-Joyce
Earwig (Lucile Hadžihalilović, 2021) has the strangest film premise you’ve ever heard of. The film opens with a girl, fitted with an ice teeth apparatus that must be replaced daily. She carries two glass apparatuses on the side of her mouth, collecting her drool. She appears to have never been outside. She has a carer who must rehabilitate her as her mysterious benefactors refuse to sponsor her reclusive lifestyle any longer.
Perhaps twenty minutes of an opening goes by without a word uttered. This adds to the sense of the movie appearing timeless and unreal. Director and screenwriter Lucile Hadžihalilović commented in an interview with Dazed magazine that the film “breaks the logic of time. You’re not sure about when things happen, if it was before, or if it was later. Simply by repeating this moment, the whole thing becomes even more dreamy, and there’s suspicion over the timeline of everything.” The film is dizzy and blurred, with character background events happening in remembered dreams. A key drowning scene happens from two perspectives at different times – with neither showing making sense as to why this is happening. Chronology slips away and is elusive as all other aspects of the film.
The film’s wandering aimlessness is daring but frustrating. If you are interested in staples such as plot, character, and dialogue this would not be your cup of tea. The dialogue is exceptionally sparse and fractured in the film. The film is shot in a dated almost sepia style – full of drab browns and greys, reminiscent of polaroids. At times, you can practically smell the must coming from the screen.
The film is obsessed with translucent structures. Teeth, glass, water and bottles feature prominently.Throughout its runtime, the film is haunted by different refractions and perspectives. However, what exactly these perspectives are is never actually answered by the film.
The subplot of the film never reveals its connection to the main plot. The film’s moments of death and violence seem to be the main source of illumination in the film. When the extraordinary-turned-banal existence of the girl and her carer’s life is broken, the film does have moments of glorious ecstasy.
The film is incomparable but oblique – an intentional arthouse success that challenges meaning. If you like your puzzles filmed and mythical or your arthouse movies drowsy, this is one to watch.