Most reviews of Spanish director Sadrac Gonzalez-Pelleron’s second feature film, Black Hollow Cage will probably revolve around the sci-fi element of a mysterious black box. In fact, the film is more about human grief and the quest for forgiveness.
The action takes place in a vaguely futuristic home set in an environment where architecture and nature coexist. There is a parallel between the black box out there and the one the protagonists inhabit, with its sleek dark walls fabricated out of what appears to be a hybrid of dark stained wood and tarnished metal. In the opening sequence, tinny squeaks and percussion of mundane objects such as cupboard doors or a plate making contact with a countertop, stand out against the otherwise auditory tranquility. Banal sounds resonate while the chirping of birds is ever-present off screen. A similar sound dynamic appears to highlight dramatic bursts of emotional grief. Where much of Black Hollow Cage relies on its aesthetics and visual expression (gestures seen through glass, a child who cannot speak, another whose eyes are more expressive than her words), there are scenes completely void of dialogue followed by piercing screams of anguish.
Though these moments are well delivered, especially by lead actress Lowena McDdonell (13-year old Alice), there is something slightly hollow about the characters. Fitting, considering the film’s title, but disappointing for character development. Evidently, focus was given to mise-en-scene, and this may have hindered the depth of the characters’ motives and personalities, or the fleshing out of the events leading up to Alice’s prosthetic arm and a dog she calls “Mom”.
This is a loop oeuvre that doesn’t over-emphasize the time travel aspect. With its creepy strangers, its ambiguity between good and evil, teenage angst and survivors’ guilt, it is worth seeing for its atmosphere and odd plot elements which are often left open-ended.
Screening : Cinema du Parc, October 8th, 2017.