Vinyan: The ViewLondon Review

ViewLondon, 1 October 2009
By Matthew Turner

Four out of Five stars

Superbly directed, emotionally devastating drama-slash-horror, heightened by incredible sound design and powerful performances from Sewell and Beart.

What's it all about?
Directed by Fabrice Du Welz (who made the similarly creepy Calvaire), 'Vinyan' stars Emmanuelle Beart and Rufus Sewell as Jeanne and Paul, a married couple living in Phuket, who are devastated by the loss of their young son Joshua in the 2005 Asian tsunami. Six months later, Paul has given up all hope, but when Jeanne thinks she sees Joshua (with his back to the camera) in a video recording, she becomes convinced he must be living somewhere up-river and pays a riverboat guide, Sokghai (Ampon Pankratok) to take them into the heart of the Burmese jungle.

When things go horribly wrong with Sokghai, Paul and Jeanne find themselves in the hands of local fixer Thaksin Gao (Petch Osathanugrah), who immediately demands more money, but promises that he can take them to Joshua. However, the further up-river they travel, the darker their situation becomes.

The Good
The most striking thing about 'Vinyan' is the exceptional sound design work. The film opens with a stunning crescendo of sound, accompanying strange images of bubbles and light that suggest a sort of hellish version of the tsunami itself; this is just the first of several stunning sound moments, the most disturbing of which is Paul and Jeanne's horrifying encounter with a shrieking old couple.

Emmanuelle Beart delivers a powerful performance as a woman torn apart by grief, while Sewell is excellent as the guilt-ridden husband trying to keep everything together for the sake of his wife. There's also strong support from Petch Osathanugrah, while credit has to go to the casting director for finding the two terrifying, presumably non-professional actors who play the shrieking old couple.

The Great
At its heart, Vinyan is a deeply disturbing tale about the horror of grief, with strong echoes of both Don't Look Now and heart-of-darkness stories such as Apocalypse Now. To that end, Du Welz orchestrates some truly shocking sequences and some striking visual images, but the horrific darkness of the climax may be too strong for some tastes.

Worth seeing?
Vinyan is an extremely well made, superbly acted and emotionally devastating drama that's essentially a powerful and extremely dark art-house horror. Highly recommended, but not for the faint of stomach.

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