Flashback: Trapped and Alone, Willem Dafoe Transcends Art in Psychological Thriller Inside

“Art is forever.” This phrase, uttered by Willem Dafoe’s character Nemo in Vasilis Katsoupi’s directorial debut, Inside, is an intriguing little quip with multiple meanings. It rattles around in your brain like pinball, much like Nemo rattles around the luxury apartment he’s trapped in after an art heist gone wrong.

“Art is forever” speaks to how we appreciate art, and it’s also a cheeky taunt when Nemo digs into million-dollar modern art in a wealthy collector’s penthouse apartment. Later, it’s a statement that will haunt and even threaten Nemo, alone in an increasingly dire survival situation with only art to feed him.

Written by Ben Hopkins (based on a concept by Katsoupis), Inside juxtaposes humanity’s most primal elements with its most advanced to carve out the contradictory and alienating nature of our contemporary world. A keen camera is capturing the home of this wealthy collector far away in Kazakhstan as Nemo breaks in and overrides the security panel with codes fed to him by his partner over a walkie-talkie. Unable to find a specific painting, he runs out of time and tries to escape, but the security system malfunctions and he is trapped inside the apartment, a heavy, intricately carved wooden door sealing the vault.

It takes a certain suspension of disbelief to believe that there really is no way out. But this highly automated smart home, which plays “macarena” if the fridge is left open too late and has a full sprinkler system in case of a fire, is so technologically advanced it doesn’t even have a phone, computer, or access to the outside . It’s a luxurious prison, a gilded cage full of priceless works of art whose value becomes zero in this harrowing survival situation – after all, you can’t eat art.

But Katsoupis and Hopkins don’t completely undermine the value of artistic expression. Nemo falls into this nightmarish quarantine – first he adapts, then he fights, literally battling the elements while the faulty home automation system blasts him with heat and then freezing cold. The water has been shut off and he resorts to collecting it from the automatic interior sprinklers and leaking moisture from the freezer. He eats caviar before he starves and stares hungrily at the exotic fish swimming undisturbed in their tank high in the sky.

Called Survivor: Penthouse Apartment, it takes our experience in 2020 of staying at home during the pandemic (watch Nemo pretend to host a cooking show) and explores some of the trauma that results from this type of isolation and The resulting alienation caused by technology is meant to make our lives more comfortable, but mostly keeps us apart.

Nemo only has artwork to keep him company, but his desire for connection and expression doesn’t die. He develops parasocial relationships with the building staff on the security monitors, unable to yell at or bond with them. Eventually he morphs into some sort of early human, scribbling on walls, creating strange altars and structures, and developing an almost religious fervor in his isolation.

Katsoupis challenges the over-inflated value of art and reminds us that expression is inherently human and elemental. It’s closer to the top of our hierarchy of needs than we might think.

Katsoupis asks these haunting and provocative questions about humanity, but offers no clear answers or messages. Rather, he simply lets his muse Dafoe experience this harrowing journey with his strange magnetism and sense of timelessness in a performance that is at once primitive and transcendent. Nemo becomes a character straight out of Greek mythology, reckoning with the forces of creation and destruction, but it’s unclear if he’s Sisyphus, Prometheus, or maybe even Icarus.

Walsh is a film critic for the Tribune News Service.


Evaluation: R, for speech, some sexual content, and nudity

Duration: 1 hour 45 minutes

Play: Launches in general release on March 17th

Source : www.latimes.com

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