Steven Shainberg is the director behind Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus (wherein Nicole Kidman takes photographs of a hairy Robert Downey Jr) and Secretary (wherein James Spader bends Maggie Gyllenhaal over his mahogany desk and spanks her). He was in Montreal recently at the Fantasia Film Festival to host the world premiere of his new movie, and just our luck, so were we.
After a ten year hiatus, Shainberg is back with Rupture, a film decidedly less kinky but a little more kick in the teeth. You know how when a cartoon character falls in love, his heart visibly pounds out of his chest? I’m pretty sure mine was doing much the same while watching this film, out of discomfort and dread.
It tells the story of Renee (Noomi Rapace) who is kidnapped and held in a vague and shabby medical facility. Her captors insist they’re just conducting research but to Renee and her fellow “patients” it looks and feels more like torture. Semantics aside, they are taking an individual’s greatest fear and exposing them to it – not to scare them to death, but to scare them beyond it.
The film has a viscous quality to it that is immediately haunting. The medical facility is bathed in reds and purples, giving it the look of a blistering emergency. The conditions here are unclear but something feels off, and there’s a sense of threat. The film births the most sinister lock mechanism I’ve ever seen, 3 dead bolts that get thrown one after the other, establishing a rhythm and a constant reminder of what’s at stake. Boom boom boom goes the lock, and the claustrophobia sets in. Boom boom boom and the hairs on the back of your neck prepare for the ominous. Boom boom boom and Renee strains at her restraints, sweat glistening, her eyes frantic. The score takes a cue from this repetitive sound design and continues its evocative menace.
Canadian cinematographer Karim Hussain creeps around corners to give us a relentless and increasingly cramped view of our heroine and her struggles, soaked and saturated in hues of viscera. He tightens the frame like a vise so her pain is sharply in our focus. Noomi Rapace, no stranger to body horror, is up to the challenge, aided and abetted by Peter Stormare, Lesley Manville and Michael Chiklis, who are surreally spooky. Things are so peculiar that the audience sometimes titters with nervous laughter.
The end, when it comes, isn’t as enlightening as you would hope, but the end point is never as relevant as the escape: it’s the journey, not the destination.