Tuesday, 29 April 2014
Having carved out a career in music documentary including 2008’s We Dreamed America, director Alex Walker dips his toes into waters new with debut feature, Fossil (2013), a psychological thriller that follows a couple on holiday in the south of France whilst they attempt to revitalise their stagnant marriage. Paul (John Sack) and Camilla (Edith Bucko) arrive at their picturesque holiday cottage surrounded by a thick atmospheric cloud. Words clash and their worlds collide as the pair continue to repeat their loveless, formulaic routine. The holiday is supposedly a chance for the couple to reignite the spark in their once close relationship but each laboured romantic attempt endeavors only to tear the couple further apart.
Arriving back at the cottage following a huge row, the couple find an American man named Richard (Grant Masters) and his French girlfriend, Julie (Carla Juri) frolicking around in the pool, much to the chagrin of Paul. Camilla, however, sees the couple as an opportunity to lighten the mood and invites them to stay. Initially, the visitors provide some light relief but as they proceed outstay their welcome Paul becomes irritated, competitive and jealous and as tensions rise, circumstances spiral beyond self-control leading to a horrific act that will permanently alter their fates forever. Director, Walker embraces his audience with sun-kissed visuals, glazing the environment and the characters with a sticky, hot sheen.
Shot entirely on a RED One camera that forms an evocative palette of lightly filtered beauty, the holiday cottage and its grounds become captivating in their stillness, forming the perfect stage for the film’s turbulent central couple. The mise-en-scène recalls French cinema from the 60s with Le Mepris (1963) and La Piscene (1969) both heavily influencing the film’s overall appearance, yet the performances from both Paul and Camilla couldn’t be more British. Performed with a sense of middle-class realism, Paul and Camilla’s predominance fails to wane upon the arrival of their interruptors. Their importance is marked by scenes of intimacy, whether it be Camilla’s insecurity in her aging looks or Paul’s perseverance in making his marriage work, the viewer is constantly teased with scenes that generate empathy for the unlikable protagonists. The couple clash persistently with snappy and unfeeling dialogue, the raw deliverance of which evokes the “stiff upper lip” attitude and conflict explored in Joanna Hogg’s Archipelago (2010).
The confinements of the cottage and its immediate surroundings create a sensorially dense undercurrent that continues to simmer until the film’s unexpected, boiling point finale, this is all thanks to Patrick Burniston’s subtle, yet perfectly matched score. The beauty of this impressive thriller lies not only in its breathtaking visuals but in its perfect composure of rapid, blossoming tension. Engrossing, thrilling and boldly executed, Fossil is a remarkably confident feature from Walker. A breath of fresh air that captures perfectly the essence of a discordant couple, the bitter aftertaste of a marriage turned sour and the reason why, no matter who or where you are, you shouldn’t talk to strangers.
My review originally appeared on CineVue - Leigh