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NIFFF 2018

Review: Cutterhead


- Danish filmmaker Rasmus Kloster Bro debuts with a claustrophobic huis clos with no obvious way out

Review: Cutterhead

Danish director Rasmus Kloster Bro chose Neuchâtel International Fantastic Film Festival (NIFFF) as the setting for the premiere of his first, and somewhat intriguing, feature film, Cutterhead [+see also:
interview: Rasmus Kloster Bro
film profile
. In competition for the HR Giger "Narcisse" Award (International Competition), the film, which was well-received at Cannes Film Market, plays perversely on the audience's primal fears.

As simple as it is relentless, the story told in Cutterhead awakens certain instincts and uncomfortable sensations that almost seem to break through the screen. Trapped between a desire to run for the hills and the need to know how the story ends, the audience sweats it out along with the characters it would very much like to help out.

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It all starts with a bog-standard visit to a construction site where they’re building the Copenhagen Metro. Rie – the PR girl dealing with the promotion of what seems to be a perfect example of intra-European collaboration – delves deep into the yard to interview some of the champions of this wonder. Propelled onwards by the possibility of coming away with a few decent stories, Rie doesn't seem too worried by the confined spaces that await her... and that might make some risk-taking claustrophobics sweat a little, masochistically forcing themselves to see the film out to the end.

As foretold from the beginning, the supposed technological perfection that Rie is supposed to be showcasing hides a much less brilliant reality. Between illegal workers and risky manoeuvres, the construction site seems to have taken control of its guests, like a victim ready to rebel against its tormentors. Suddenly, what already seemed like a confined space turns into a real prison. Rie, Ivo, a Croatian miner, and Bharan, an Eritrean worker, find themselves having to share more than they ever thought possible: water, air, anguish and madness, hoping to be saved from what seems to be a very dangerous fire. 

The limitations that space imposes cinematographically are transformed by the director into unexpected opportunities: such as the opportunity to explore the psyches of three characters with seemingly different experiences and values. Not content with reducing his three characters’ living space to the bare minimum, Rasmus Kloster Bro forces them to take refuge inside their own bodies, huddled in the last glimmer of hope that remains inside them. And so, lost in the depths of themselves, Rie, Ivo and Bharan experience the limits of their humanity, between survival instincts and the grief of potentially fatal implications. Squeezed in a deadly grip, Rie and Bharan, the only two survivors of a drama with catastrophic proportions, seem to revert into monstrous foetuses, living on pure instinct alone.

In Cutterhead, Rasmus Kloster Bro tries to distil the very essence of humanity. An essence with an inebriating and nauseating scent that seems to float between the surgical, white, immaculate bandages of its survivors. A disturbing film that cleverly tests our limits and that forces us to reflect on a less-than-brilliant reality. 

Cutterhead was filmed thanks to the support of the Danish Film Institute’s New Danish Screen programme. It was produced by Beo Starling  and is being sold internationally by LevelK.

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(Translated from Italian)

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