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December 14, 2013

Movie Review: The Looking Glass (2011)

Directed by Colin Downey
Movie Review by Greg Goodsell

Scene: Two 1950's scientists in a planetary observatory. One of them spots something in his telescope.

Scientist: Dr. Mason! Dr. Mason! … I'm sorry. I guess it was nothing. A sudden light reflection, it startled me!

Dr. Mason: No doubt a comet or a meteor!

Scientist: No, it seemed to be a drill-shaped thing, revolving. I don't know,  It must have been imagination, but it did make me realize how desperately alone the earth is. Hanging in the space like a speck of food floating in the ocean .sooner or later to be swallowed up by some creature floating by!

Dr. Mason: Oh come, now!

Scientist: Time will tell Dr. Mason. We can only wait … and wonder how … and wonder when ...

This scene, scored with the same library music found in Night of the Living Dead (1968)  is from the classic 1959 clunker Teenagers from Outer Space (1959) and is played off a TV set in The Looking Glass. The existential dread serves as commentary in regards to the plight of its protagonist, Paul (Patrick O'Donnell).

In a stretch of Ireland where the wind is always howling and the ground is covered with dead leaves, father-to-be Paul is experiencing a deep personal crisis. His pregnant girlfriend Claire (Natalia Kostrzewa ) is prone to mood swings, and her mother Agnes (Sanne Hulst ) has all the maternal charm of a cobra waiting to strike. A doctors she screens vintage natural childbirth videos to Paul to further unnerve him. She also speaks of her horribly burned patient who survived his self immolation, who now wanders the countryside setting things on fire with lighter fluid and matches. Distracting Paul from his family-to-be is a nearby public park where “men go  to have meetings.” A rent boy ( Rodrigo Rodrigues) who services the needs of visiting British military men, Paul is drawn into such a meeting at an old disused castle. Agnes' intentions are revealed and her burn patient is employed a henchman to further things along …

While David Lynch has declared that its very unlikely that he will return to film making, it's great that his movies continue to inspire young directors to create their own fiercely personal projects. With its fear of parenting, sexual revulsion and bleak backdrop, The Looking Glass is clearly informed by Lynch's curtain-raiser Eraserhead (1977). The character of Paul numbly stumbles through the story like Lynch's shock-haired Henry. The burn victim recalls Lynch's Man in the Planet and the character of Agnes is what would have happened is Mary X's mother was given a far meatier role. The best way to describe The Looking Glass is Eraserhead set in rural Ireland where the dreaded baby has yet to arrive.

As with Eraserhead, The Looking Glass can be “about” many several things. Paul's growing fascination with the male hustler may in fact be about is repressed homosexuality coming to the surface with his impending fatherhood. There are flashbacks to Paul childhood as an eight-year-old boy (Lorcan Melia ) who grew up under the thumb of his alcoholic, abusive uncle. Viewers may be at a loss as to what The Looking Glass “means,” and director Colin Downey in his alternate audio commentary admits that his film may have a variety of underpinnings that only the individual can decide.

Viewers who gaze into The Looking Glass should know beforehand that it's a borderline horror entry that will reward more patient viewers. Some may dismiss it as a pretentious claptrap, while others will be drawn to its alienated characters and brooding atmosphere. Your call!

In addition to the audio commentary by Downey, there are interviews with the film's actors and the theatrical trailer. The DVD also has two trailers for some awfully self-important, artsy movies entitled The Exhibitionists and Machete Thinking that the user CAN'T skip on their way to the main feature. Clever …. 

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