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Retrospekt [2018]: ‘TIFF’ Review

The sophomore film 'Retrospekt' of Esther Rots is a pulsating time ticking bomb, brewing with mystery and anxiety, waiting to take you off guard. It is baffling and equally thrilling.

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The sophomore film ‘Retrospekt’ of Esther Rots is a pulsating time ticking bomb, brewing with mystery and anxiety, waiting to take you off guard. It is baffling and equally thrilling. Shown from the perspective of the lead protagonist, we inhabit Mette’s (Circé Lethem) consciousness and see the events in the film unfolding through her fractured memory. Though it sounds like a gimmick in the blurb, it never appears as one.




The non-linear narrative never feels disoriented in time and space, rather we experience the trauma and pain of Mette’s psyche, and gradually piece together each part of the intricate puzzle. Esther’s meticulous writing and commanding direction invest us emotionally in Mette’s retrospection of the event leading to the catastrophe that damaged her psychologically and physically, leaving a permanent scar on her subconscious.

Mette is a domestic violence counsellor and a mother going through an eternal crisis of purpose of existence while on a maternity break. She is driven by the passion to help women embroiled in domestic abuse even if that means putting herself at risk while she is pregnant and helping a woman from her abusive husband. It irks her to be away from the work and her frustration is apparent in her feeling of helplessness that emotionally perturbs her. Esther thoughtfully injects the hypocrisy and prejudice in the society that takes women granted for the motherhood.

The dilemma of the purpose of existence intensifies, and it hit hard when the argument takes an ugly turn with her husband, Simon(Martijn van der Veen), who doesn’t agree to take leave for their newborn second child. This crisis tempts her into grabbing on an opportunity when it knocks on her door. She extends her help to Miller (Lien Wildemeersch), her former client, and give her shelter in the house without putting a thought to it.

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Soon she finds herself in the middle of chaos, she loses control of her situation. The delirious and unpredictable behaviour of Miller and her toxic relationship with boyfriend, Frank, put Mette in a fractious position. The looming threat of Frank spying on Mette’s home put everyone at the risk. The whole frantic state snow bowls in a direful accident that changes the course of Mette’s life. It is in these moments of solitude; she retrospects her life leading to how she has turned now. The effort to recall the past makes her flurry and brings a tsunami of pain clear in the montages of her daily routine.




 

Esther deftly plays with the irregular time jump to evoke the inherent pain of memory loss, and Circé Lethem’s agile and believable performance further bolsters it. The absurd and sinistral sound design along with the fable-like music add an extra dimension to the whole frustrating time jumps and memory loss gamble. The songs are used to the great effect as they further help to understand the psyche of Mette’s trauma and accentuate a parallel emotional narration.

★★★1/2

‘RETROSPEKT’ WAS SCREENED AT THE 2018 TORONTO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL. CLICK HERE FOR OUR COMPLETE TIFF COVERAGE.

DIRECTOR/WRITER: Esther Rots
PRODUCER: Gijs van de Westelaken, Hugo Rots, Chantal van der Horst, Esther Rots, Ellen De Waele
STARRING: Circé Lethem, Lien Wildemeersch, Martijn van der Veen
EDITING: Esther Rots
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Lennert Hillege
SOUND: Dan Geesin
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Kurt Rigolle
ORIGINAL SCORE: Dan Geesin

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