The Eyes of my Mother is a 2016 horror film. Directed by Nicolas Pesce and starring Kika Magalhaes, Diana Agostini and Will Brill. The film is Pesce’s directorial debut and premiered at the Sundance festival.
The film is divided into 3 chapters; mother, father and family. In the first chapter a young Francisca (Magalhaes) witnesses her mother being brutally murdered but ends up keeping the attacker chained up in the barn and removing his eyeballs and vocal chords. In the second chapter, Francisca’s father also dies, although she attempts to preserve his body for a long as possible. She also meets a young girl in a bar and brings her back to her house, only to end up murdering her. And, in the third chapter, Francisca kidnaps a child and raises him as her own whilst also keeping the mother chained up in the barn to replace her previous pet. Things go drastically wrong when the child’s mother escapes and the authorities are alerted and close in on the demented Francisca.
I’m afraid Robert Eggers (The Witch) is going to have to move over, The Eyes of my Mother is the most visually striking horror debut of the year and is absolutely jaw dropping to witness. Although the setting is remarkably similar to The Witch (albeit more modern), Pesce opts for stark black and white and is the best use of the medium since last year’s A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night. What’s even more impressive is that, even though there’s a strong suggestion that horrific violence is being committed, Pesce holds back from the obvious, instead choosing to cut to the aftermath, such as Francisca cleaning up a puddle of blood or placing extracted organs in the fridge. This is a clinical but also alarming technique and makes for a refreshing change from predictable gore.
Magallhaes is wonderful as the beautiful but twisted central character and Takashi Miike’s Audition (2000) immediately comes to mind during the more suspenseful sequences. If anything, you could say that The Eyes of my Mother isn’t doing anything all that new and the whole tortured captive angle has been touched on by everything from The Woman to Martyrs and back to Audition again. However, it’s the dramatic visual style and minimilast sound engineering (usually just the sound of leaves blowing in the trees) that create a haunting atmosphere that carries the film through to it’s grisly conclusion.
The Eyes of my Mother is both unapolagetically arthouse and relentlessly dark. Some of the nightmarish visuals will stay with you for a long time and is further proof that black and white cinematography still has a place and can still be incredibly effective. As debuts go, Pesce has set the bar incredibly high and I can’t wait to see what he does next.
**** 4 Stars
What did you think of the film? Did you like the visual style?