AFF Review: The Blue Orchid
Danish fever dream mixes Cronenberg and Carruth
By Richard Whittaker,
3:20AM, Thu. Oct. 29, 2020
The difference between a mystery and a puzzle is that the enigma of a mystery doesn't need solving to be enthralling. That's what makes Danish psychedelic technothriller (and Austin Film Festival 2020 Dark Matters jury award winner) The Blue Orchid a film to be absorbed rather than explained.
Writer/director Carl Marott and cowriter Hans Frederik Jacobsen construct an undoubtedly Cronenbergian vibe, but not in the lazy body horror sense that is so often ascribed to the grand master of Canadian horror. This is David Cronenberg the psychonoir mystery writer. His mid-period films like Crash and eXistenZ, even Videodrome and The Fly, are ultimately less about the loss of humanity and more about bland men becoming fixated upon a world that is anything other than mundane, no matter the risk.
Casper (Joachim Fjelstrup) is bored of even himself, and especially of his job as a commercial photographer and videographer (how often can one film exactly a strawberry?) so when an old college friend, Nick (Ken Vedsegaard) drops into his life with a strange invitation, he's quite prepared to get in the back of a mysterious, unmarked van driven by a complete stranger, and be driven to an unknown location to do who knows what.
The Blue Orchid (Den Blå Orkidé in its original Danish) isn't pure Cronenberg: it also catches a dose of the cold sweat fever dream of Shane Carruth, whose characters often seek to find a little bit of control rather than being sublimated by strangeness.
Much of the tone of comes from the melding of Mads Forsby's throbbing, syncopated synth score adding intriguing structure to Anders Nydam's cinematography. Casper's everyday life is shot with near-geometric regularity and flattening lighting. Once he steps into his new nether world, where he has been hired to film a mysterious woman with a mysterious new camera, Nydam filters the world through gauze and mist, every frame within the nether world stripped down to neon hues from single sources,
At a scant 80 minutes, The Blue Orchid is more enigma than resolution. It's also in the brevity that Marott's other obvious influence pops up. There's something very Lynchian about the narrative, in that David Lynch isn't really that big on story (it's not the plot that takes so long to explain about Blue Velvet, for example). Marott isn't getting too metaphysical in his superstylized noir, and motivations are fleeting, but the platform for his melding is of sight and sound is undoubtedly captivating.
The Blue Orchid
Dark Matters, North American Premiere
Screening links available until Oct. 29 at www.austinfilmfestivalconference2020.eventive.org.