Ginger Nuts of Horror
Come on in, the water's plentiful...
Voyage to Agatis (2010)
Dir. Marian Dora, Germany, 73 mins
Welcome back to Film Gutter, and today we're getting into what look like distinctly treacherous waters. Marian Dora is a titan in the field of extreme horror, an elusive figure who creates work that continually pushes boundaries in a way matched by few other directors. Most renowned for his masterwork Melancholie Der Engel, we've so far enjoyed the flesh-cutting, blood-laden beauty of Cannibal and the flat-out depravity of Debris Documentar. Today's offering is 2010's Voyage to Agatis, another movie that comes to us with a fair reputation for its disturbing content. But is it going to provide a wondrous viewing journey?
Voyage to Agatis is a pretty on-the-nose title for this one, as we follow husband and wife Rafael and Isabelle, along with their new 'friend' Lisa, who joins them for a boat trip to the remote island. It's obvious from the get go that Rafael and Isabelle have lost much of the magic in their relationship, and resentment is growing between them. When they arrive to an unnamed town, they meet Lisa and invite her for the journey of a lifetime on their boat. Despite Rafael's slightly creepy antics, she accepts the invitation and off they go.
Naturally there's a catch, because as the journey goes on Rafael's advances on Lisa become gradually seedier, although Isabelle doesn't seem to care about the situation a great deal. When Lisa puts up more resistance to the advances, the whole situation snaps and Rafael reveals the true extent of his dark side, with Isabelle complicit on the arrangement. Lisa finds herself tied up, abused, tormented with the threat of drowning and finally hunted like an animal by the twisted couple.
So, how does it compare with Dora's previous work? Honestly, I have to say this one falls a fair way short of what we've seen so far. The artistry that marks Dora's style is there, but it feels a little forced and laboured here, lots of shots of water in the distance and sunsets feeling rather more like padding than anything. The performances are decent enough, but the camerawork is very sketchy, looking extremely homemade, shaky and off-centre. And while some might watch this and consider it shocking, it feels like something of a damp squib compared to Dora's other works – admittedly the final scene is horribly brutal, but there's nothing much before that packing much of a punch. Lisa as a character is hard to sympathise with, and so her plight doesn't really cut emotionally at the viewer.
Overall, even though we've got less than an hour and a quarter of content here, the whole thing just drags a bit with too much window dressing and not enough real story of shock to keep the viewer going. The motif of water runs throughout, but ends up rather dampening the enjoyment of things here. Add to this a frustrating visual style, a set of characters it's hard to relate to and what you end up with a pretty underwhelming experience. On the upside, the music is great and the final scene definitely feels tense, but it just takes too long to get there.
RATING: 4/10. A distinct disappointment compared to Dora's other work – while some of the usual tenets are there, this one simply seems to be lacking something. The artistry is there, but the brutality and the dark, hollow feeling that goes with any visit to this particular director's work is not quite there. 73 minutes only, but this one felt a fair bit longer, so all told it's a slightly sinking feeling for 4/10.
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