What the utter fuck was that?
Two zoologist brothers lose their wives in the same car crash, when a swan flies into the windscreen. What follows is a meditation on grief full of absurdist dark humour and a yearning for completion.
Let me take a moment to sketch out the world this takes place in. Fallast, played by Geoffrey Palmer (from As Time Goes By, and Butterflies, and a hundred other things), owns a zoo. He prefers black and white animals because he’s colour-blind. He is good friends with Van Meegeren, a surgeon who occasionally comes over to the zoo and, at the request of Fallast, amputates a limb off an animal to give it a unique selling point.
Van Meegeren is a bit too enthusiastic about amputations. And Vermeers. He’s constantly trying to get people to sit for reconstructions of Vermeer paintings. He’s hoaching and weird. He’s shagging this woman in a red hat and zebra knickers, but he wants to be shagging Alba.
Alba is the other woman in the car with the two zoologists’ wives. She was driving when the swan ploughed through the windscreen. She survives but Van Meegeren amputates one of her legs. This causes her a variety of emotions, one of which is a rancour at the lack of symmetry in her body.
The zoologists come to visit Alba regularly in order to ask her questions that might help them come to terms with their grief. Eventually both of them become her lovers and father a child by her.
Simultaneous to this, they become obsessed with decay. They watch on loop a David Attenborough documentary about the origin of life, and its evolution into many species, and then try to see its end by taking time-lapse photography of each animal decomposing. This starts small with some shrimp, and soon escalates to them nicking anything that kicks the bucket around the zoo.
They are both enabled and ratted out to the boss by tour guide and scamp Plate, played by Jim Davidson (from Big Break, and racism). There’s also cutting about at some level of intermediate management in the zoo Van Hoyten, played by Joss Ackland (also from a thousands things such as Marple and the like, but notable for being the voice of Watership Down’s Black Rabbit of Inle), and Milo, played by Frances Barber (again from Marple and Poirot, and for you WoWheads out there, the voice of Lady Ashvane). The pair of them spend the film shagging or talking about shagging, and I’m not really sure what other purpose they serve, if any. Also a dude wae nae legs kicks about on crutches.
As the brothers’ obsession with decay grows, so too do they regress, adopting identical dress and acting in unison. Turns out they are Siamese twins who have separated, and now they long again to be whole. Alba also has this sense of being unfinished, and puts herself back under Van Meergen’s knife, even though he tries to do her hair like Vermeer models while she is out under anaesthetic.
The film ends as the brothers seek to find a human subject they can film decomposing.
Bizarre doesn’t really cover it. I’ve tried to tell things logically and clearly, but actually watching this feels like smoking bad hashish. It’s shot beautifully, with bright, violent colours, and thematically satisfying symmetry. But wow, do you really not know where this is going if you come in with no background. The soundtrack reminds me of Requiem For A Dream, all strings and longing.
An interesting watch. Trips balls.