By Sierra Sun
Directed By Esther Rots Retrospekt had its World Premiere at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). A Netherlands and Belgium co-production and Esther’s fourth film, Retrospekt is a non-sensical, sensical psycho drama about a Domestic Violence Support worker.
© TIFF Trailers | YouTube
Mete (Circé Lethem) is many things. She’s a mother, a wife and has a strong passion for her job at a Domestic Violence Support Centre. She struggles to keep it all together when she is forced to take maternity leave while kindly taking in Lee Miller (Lien Wildemeersch), a troubled woman who has an aggressively abusive husband. With every advancing moment deeper into the fragments that make up the life of Mete, the audience is plunged into what started as an innocent act of kindness that turns quickly into a whirlwind of life altering events.
The Power of Sound
Director of Sound, Dan Geesin, refuses to let sound design take a back seat in Retrospekt. Instead, the audience quickly becomes hyper aware of the sounds that are integral to the fragmented storytelling. It brings hyper realism to the key moments where Mete experiences anxiety, paranoia, anger, sadness, resentment and shame. As if we are eerily forced into experiencing exactly what Mete feels, the audience is never left unsettled.
When asked about the choice in soundtrack (which is heavily opera based) Dan and Esther said:
“In this film, on one hand we were looking for social realism on issues of domestic struggle and on the other hand we were looking for a theatrical absurdity in life. Almost like making fun of the human struggle with extreme angles. We wanted to mesh the realism of images and sound and it ended up being dislocating…disturbing.”
Dan also adds: “The music drives the idea and feeling of a fairytale. The operatic music is romantic, absurd and dramatic. It narrates a parallel emotional development and creates distance where either the audience or Mette need a little space or hindsight. “
Emphasis on Motion
In several instances in the film, when Mete is forced to think about the decisions she made that led up to the accident, or the mere notion of being rehabilitated, we are visually jolted forward with abrupt camera movements that simulate a very forceful and uncomfortable motion. These moments are crucial in putting physicality to the mental barricades Mete experiences.
The Relatability Factor
Retrospekt is so over sensitizing that it’s easy for the audience to understand Mete’s fleeting emotions as she rushes through life. The sporadic memories and constant choppiness in event timelines are based on the flexibility of the way the film was made. Because both Dan and Esther were involved in the film’s development process all the way through, it helped build overall control throughout the scenes.
Speaking about whether the film was made chronologically or in separate instances, Dan said:
“We work on a parallel trajectory, both Esther and I work on the same material over the same time, but we use it in different ways."
“Dan already does music while the film is recording, I am then influenced by the music while we are filming; which makes it flexible.” Esther added. “We start editing with the music sometimes, or maybe in the middle. It’s a completely different experience every time.”
“There’s a sort of bleakness and decadence in chopping it up in editing.” Dan added.
For more insight on Retrospekt, find the Q & A below:
© TIFF Talks | YouTube
Why You Should See It
Although a little short of a two-hour film, Retrospekt is bound to keep the audience on their toes with the ever-so-real experience of being immersed in the traumatic memories of Mete. A fresh take on what it means to be successful as a woman, while struggling with the dangers of domestic abuse, Retrospekt is a fresh take on non-linear storytelling.
*Editor’s Note: Retrospekt was screened at the Toronto International Film Festival ‘18
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