Sunday, 9 August 2015

GOODNIGHT MOMMY (Ich seh Ich seh) - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Creepy Austrian Twins

Goodnight Mommy (AKA Ich seh Ich se (2014)
Dir. Veronika Franz, Severin Fiala
Prd. Ulrich Seidl
Starring: Susanne Wuest, Elias Schwarz, Lukas Schwarz

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Here's a Pop Quiz as administered by Austrian filmmaker Ulrich Seidl:

1. If Mommy's distinctive mole is missing after reconstructive surgery, is it best to burn a hole in her face with the sun's rays blasting through a magnifying glass?

2. If you are angry with Mommy, is it best to place an icky beetle on her face and watch it slither into her open mouth as she sleeps?

3. If Mommy's tummy is full of beetles, is it best to slice said tummy open to release said bugs?

4. If you're tired of listening to Mommy, is it best to Krazy Glue her mouth shut?

5. If Mommy is hungry and needs pizza, is it best to slice through her Krazy-glued mouth with an Exacto Blade?

The answers to these and other questions can be found in the new Ulrich Seidl production of Goodnight Mommy, the directorial debut of his longtime collaborator Veronika Franz and her life partner Severin Fiala.

To say the film is creepy is, at the very least, an understatement, but creepy it is and scarier than most anything you'll set your eyeballs upon this year. Oh, and yes, the movie provides plenty of chuckles of the most malevolent kind to catch you off guard and relieve (somewhat) the unbearable tension.

It also helps that for most of its running time, the picture is stylishly directed and gorgeously shot on REAL FILM - yes, REAL 35MM film.

Goodnight Mommy is a deceptively simple tale about a pair of identical twins (Elias Schwarz, Lukas Schwarz) who welcome Mommy (Susanne Wuest) home after a stay in the hospital for extreme reconstructive surgery. Mom is covered in Mummy-like bandages, barely hiding the puffy, swelling bruises and pus-oozing scars, so even she can forgive the boys if they don't immediately recognize her as their mother.

Alas, Mommy's become both addled and stern - reasonable enough to anyone who can understand the extreme pain she's in which must be quelled by oodles of happy drugs, but to the boys, it's cause for alarm, especially since Mom is being extra-cruel and downright dismissive of one of the twin brothers. It also doesn't hurt matters that Mom has poisoned a stray cat the lads have brought into the home after rescuing it from an ancient crypt beneath a forgotten graveyard just outside the deep woods surrounding the stately modern country home.

Not only does Mommy not look like Mommy, she's not even behaving like Mommy. If she's an imposter, the lads needs answers and they'll stop at nothing to get the truth.


This is an incredibly well made film on virtually every level. Mr. Seidl, one of the world's greatest living filmmakers proves to be an ideal producer and mentor for this project. In both documentary (Animal Love) and drama (Dog Days), he's demonstrated an uncanny ability to uproot and expose humanity in the most abominably extreme human behaviour. Such is the case here and it's no surprise that half of the directorial team, Veronika Franz, has been Seidl's chief screenwriter and collaborator on so many of his greatest works.

The pace is stately, but never dull. The chills and weirdness are stretched to expertly rendered degrees which feel almost unendurable, but endure we do. It's simply impossible to take one's eyes off the screen. When the visceral horrors begin to ramp up, you might even require an upchuck receptacle.

There's one unfortunate detail to the whole affair which does indeed disappoint. The story is saddled with a rather obvious red herring which you occasionally hope won't bear fruit in the expected manner. When the BIG REVEAL happens, it's everything you've been praying against. It works on an almost satisfactorily and rudimentary level, but is a huge comedown from a film that you feel is taking turns you'd never expect. For the most part, you don't expect any direction it goes in, except for this one thing. When a trope is meant to throw you off the scent and becomes the very stench wafting across your nostrils, you can't help but leave the cinema a tiny bit dejected.

All that said, though, it's a terrific feature debut which, at the very least points to eventual work that will live up to the promise displayed and might, if Franz plays her cards right, match that of her magnificent mentor.


Goodnight Mommy played in both the TIFF 2014 Vanguard series and the 2015 Fantasia Film Festival.