FILM REVIEW: THE SCOPIA EFFECT
There’s just no easy way to say it, THE SCOPIA EFFECT is not a good film. That being said, the film shows signs of craft and an emerging talent that may have just tried too hard to swing for the fences. My honest opinion is that the high concept elements of the story ultimately got in the way of some of the simpler aspects of creating a cohesive narrative.
The film is disjointed to say the least, so I will do my best to give you a run down of what this reviewer thought the story was about. As the film opens, our lead Basia (Joanna Ignaczewska), awakens in a room that appears to be made of pure light. As she begins to gather her wits, Basia sees blood and immediately awakens in a psychiatrist’s office. It is at this session that the doctor decides to put her under hypnosis. Once Basia is out, she has a vision of what appears to be her mother’s murder. It’s unclear, just blood and a knife, and Basia shouting “mummy” about 30 times.
After this session, Basia returns home and this is where the film really goes off the rails, and remains off the rails for the rest of the journey. For the duration of the 90+ minutes of film, the audience is transported to various times and places around the world. How about feudal Japan? How about disease-ravaged Africa? How about India, or England, or France?? It’s frustrating, as some of these times and places seem to have their own sub-plots that are somehow supposed to factor into Basia’s current reality. The problem is that none of these sub-plots are ever really fleshed out, and some of them appear to not matter at all. I feel like all of this is supposed to be some artsy metaphor for repressed trauma…or maybe past lives?
I never found the connection between these stories, or how they played into Basia’s present reality. In addition to these seemingly random moves across time and space, Basia’s present life is painfully boring and uninteresting. She takes dance classes, goes to work like twice, sits at home, and also has intense moments of paranoia and hallucinations followed by fits of screaming and hysterics. Honestly, It was uncomfortable to watch. I don’t mean that in the “good horror movie” kind of way. I mean that the audience is basically forced to watch a woman having a nervous breakdown. Then we’re occasionally whisked away to some seemingly random place on the space-time continuum, to watch another random series of events take place…only to return to Basia acting like a mental patient. Confused?
This brings me to my next set of issues. For one, the acting is sub-par to say the least. To have a character driven “thriller”, basically focusing on one individual on the brink of insanity, you should probably cast a strong lead. I found Basia to be hysterical and extremely childlike. I was never sympathetic to her plight. I was actually shocked to see that this actress has about 40 screen credits prior to this film. I think it may have been her best attempts at conveying the material presented. Maybe she’s not to blame.
In addition to the narrative issues, and acting issues, there were some serious inconsistencies with regard to the cinematography. Some of the scenes were handled masterfully. In fact, the scenes in Japan and France were especially professional looking.
I actually felt like I was transported to these locales. On the flip side, when we are in the present with Basia, there seemed to be some fixation with close-ups of hands. It was weird, like noticeably weird. During a conversation we would simply get a long close-up of hands…sometimes Basia’s, sometimes not. I’m not really sure what the intended meaning of that was supposed to be, and I simply found it distracting. Also, there are several long close-ups of Basia for seemingly no reason. Oh, she’s in dance class for the 10th time? Let’s get some close-ups of her smiling like an awkward teenager. Oh, she’s at home? Let’s get close-ups of her reading something. Both of these things happened a lot and for seemingly no reason.
I feel that at its core, THE SCOPIA EFFECT is an attempt at a highbrow meditation on past lives, or shared traumatic experiences. It just fails to tie any of that high-concept jargon together. I am anxious to see what this filmmaker does in the future, as there are many signs of a promising talent. I feel that it may have been a case of an auteur getting in his own way with too much high-concept thinking. You need to walk before you can run, and in the tradition of cheesy metaphors…this film seems to have been more like sinking rather than swimming.
” the film shows signs of craft and an emerging talent”