The Queen Of Fear : ‘Sundance’ Review
The Queen Of Fear usually subverts the conventional pathos of a film about anxiety. While most films lead to borderline paranoia or hysteria, Valeria Bertuccelli & Fabiana Tiscornia’s film deals with it as something that just detaches you from the everyday ongoings, perturbing you with a fearful haze that sometimes has no reason to exist.
For a theatre artist, the greatest accomplishment apart from the resounding applause from the audience is being believed to hold the stage all alone. So when Robertina (Valeria Bertuccelli) readily distracts herself from her one-woman-show, she is not just taking the greatest opportunity of her life too lightly but also succumbing to her overgrowing apprehension.
Rather than preparing for the role and mostly skipping the rehearsals with a half-hearted effort, her interests have come down to persuading her overly emotional house-maid, calling the men of the alarm-department in the middle of the night and getting an old-cherry tree to be a centerpiece in her play. While she is grappling with her anxious outtakes Robertina also discovers that one of her old friends is dying. With her husband’s absence and her inability to completely structure the reason behind her constant fear and melancholia, she decides to leave the country to meet him.
The film then becomes an exploration of exactly why she is in this constant state of dismay. By doing so the director duo touch over major themes of loneliness, guilt, grief, and crises of not being able to hold onto anything that could make one feel particularly alive. Robertina, who has been living a posh lifestyle for quite some time also becomes deadly conceived in the walls of the house that she has chosen to live in. The directors create a melancholic backdrop of the house where people (sometimes animals) are deeply unsatisfied, jealous and isolated without pointing at the reason for it being that way.
The eccentric characterization of the woman who is at the center of the film is not deeply unsettling like most films about anxiety. By stepping the film in a tone that is somewhat a mishmash between an absurdist comedy and an exploration drama that has a dash of low-key spookiness, the directors give Robertina a sort of sympathetic foreground. While we see her abandoning her rehearsals to go out of the country in a haste, we also see her caring for a dear friend. While there, she also finds out that her lavish lifestyle has taken her off the basic important aspects of life, i.e responsibility, and decision making.
I don’t wish to sound condescending in any way but the only real problem that the film faces is the typecasted supporting players. The gay friend with Cancer who gives you an insight into the wrongs in your life, the other friend who takes you to the stage when in self-doubt are both laden with cliches that don’t make the efforts of the actors worthy enough. However, Valeria Bertuccelli who serves as a triple threat here (Writer/Co-director/Actor) is astonishing. The kind of depth she plunges into Robertina is breathtaking.
The Queen of Fear, which trods on the legacy of anxiety is really about the fear of starting over. In one of my favorite moments from the film, Robertina gifts her dying friend with a token of Buddha which needless to say ends up with her. The fear is about losing oneself to a different version of the life we have always intended. What does one do? Blow with the wind or learn to face new demons?