06 January 2016

Best of 2015: Full Contact (David Verbeek)

Full Contact. David Verbeek. Netherlands/Croatia.

Working from an air force base somewhere in the Nevada desert halfway across the world from the targets he's surveying, Ivan, a stoic drone operator played by Claire Denis’ muse Grégoire Colin, finds his life spiraling out of control following the accidental bombing of a Muslim school that he mistook for a terrorist camp. Distracting himself with the company of a Las Vegas stripper (Lizzie Brocheré), Ivan finds himself unable to maintain an emotional distance from his work and from his involvement in that attack, just as the film takes a bold, surreal turn.

Arguably the most visually astounding movie of 2015 (kudos to Dutch cinematographer Frank van den Eeden, whose work was equally as impressive in Nicolas Provost’s The Invader (L’envahisseur) a few years back), David Verbeek’s Full Contact, his strongest film to date, is a mystifying experience that defies easy characterization or classification. Without going too much into detail, it best resembles David Lynch’s Lost Highway in terms of narrative devices, not to mention the bewildering feeling it ultimately leaves you with. It’s divisive, for certain, and sometimes that alone is enough for my admiration.

However, like another polarizing film from 2015, Sebastián Silva’s Nasty Baby, Full Contact suffers from starting stronger than it finishes. But the narrative shifts in Full Contact function less like a clinical experiment on the audience’s emotional investment as they do in Nasty Baby than an audacious mode for probing the intertwining themes of guilt and rebirth. Additionally, a lot of Full Contact’s success relies on a pair of impressive, bilingual turns from both Brocheré, who somehow manages to mask her French accent flawlessly when speaking English, and Colin, whose detached presence is truly haunting. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any distribution information regarding Full Contact outside of the Netherlands.

With: Grégoire Colin, Lizzie Brocheré, Slimane Dazi, Alain Blazevic, Robert Jozinovic

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