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NIFFF 2023

Review: Pandemonium


- Quarxx takes us on a journey through the angst-inducing circles of a hell more human that Dantesque, an obscure place where humanity is refused any form of redemption

Review: Pandemonium
Hugo Dillon and Arben Bajraktaraj in Pandemonium

Presented in a world premiere within the Ultra Movies section of the NIFFF - Neuchâtel International Fantastic Film Festival, Pandemonium - the latest effort by French multi-media artist Quarxx - takes an unflinching approach, inviting the audience to immerse themselves in an angst-inducing, cruel and unforgiving world from which any escape is impossible. Monsters, or rather those who choose to contend with darkness, are a key part of Quarxx’s wild universe. We saw this first in his debut feature film All the Gods in the Sky [+see also:
film profile
, which tells the story of a brother plagued by guilt and his sister who is confined to her bed on account of a tragic accident. It’s a courageous and powerful film depicting two characters who are united by a tragic fate, two outsiders trying to make sense of their own staggering realities. Pandemonium - whose protagonists must contend with their own guilt and with the choices which seal the fate of their subsequent unearthly existence - follows in the same vein.

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Production on Pandemonium lasted three years, a long but necessary gestation period which allowed Quarxx to explore his own inner demons up-close in order to enable him to offer up his own vision of hell. Pandemonium is composed of three indelibly interweaving stories. The first, which acts as a guiding thread for the film’s narration, revolves around a road traffic accident which sees a mysterious character called Nathan (Hugo Dillon) trying to escape his tragic fate. Helping him to accept this destiny, which he hadn’t banked on, is Daniel (Arben Bajraktaraj), the motorcyclist who caused the accident and a kind of guide to an afterlife which doesn’t promise anything good. Our two (anti)heroes are faced with the harsh reality of the Last Judgement, and their actions are examined and weighed on the scales of good and evil. Unfortunately for them, the scales direct them towards the gates of Hell, an anything but agreeable place where pain is part and parcel of daily life.

Despite the tragic nature of the situation, Quarxx manages to downplay it thanks to his caustic humour, which transforms their descent into hell into a moment of pure surrealist horror. Unwillingly thrust into Hell, Nathan is surrounded by the bodies of people who have been judged to be guilty, like him. Among these is a child-princess with anti-social traits (the incredibly promising Manon Maindivide), accompanied by her monstrous footman (Carl Laforêt) who has a weakness for marmalade tarts and haemoglobin. Theirs is a story of madness and obsession, the carefree nature of childhood and uncontrollable homicidal instincts. In addition to this young, psychopathic princess, we come across a duo composed of a mother and her daughter (the incredible Ophélia Kolb and Sidwell Weber), who are united forevermore in pain and suffering. Quarxx tells us their story: the mother’s struggle to accept the suicide of her daughter who was bullied, and the guilt she feels towards a teen who had showed signs of her suffering but who hadn’t received the help she so desperately craved.

A triptych dedicated to the exploration of guilt and divine punishment, Pandemonium is radical but distressing, charming yet poisonous. It’s a leap of faith into the arms of characters forced to wrestle with darkness to the point of no return.

Pandemonium is produced by French firm Transgressive Production.

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(Translated from French)

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