As her friend Nora (Julia Riedler), possessed by a demonic entity, enthralls police psychiatrist Dr. Rossini (Jan Bluthardt) with weird tales of their past at a Catholic girls school in Chile, a young cabdriver (Luana Velis) takes shelter in the police station where the now possessed Rossini will hypnotize "Luz."
The second buzzed about German language 16mm student horror film to get a theatrical release this year, writer/director/coeditor Tilman Singer's "Luz" exhibits artful craftsmanship, especially in its sound design, but its fuzzy storytelling may lose many. More weird than horrific, "Luz" accomplishes a lot with a little, making Singer a filmmaker to watch.
In a long shot, we see Luz enter the lobby of a police station sporting a backwards baseball cap and a banged up face. She seems dazed, eventually demanding of the desk officer 'Is this how you want to live your life?,' a phrase, like many in this film, which will be repeated. For a scene in which little happens, it runs long, creating mood (the entire film's running length is just 70 minutes).
We then cut to a bar in which Nora and Dr. Rossini are the only customers. Nora is intrigued by Rossini's pager, questioning him until he admits his profession. She orders several rounds of drinks, tells him about Luz's special 'gift' of implanting suggestions, then of her trying to help a classmate who believed she was pregnant by chanting an obscene rendition of 'Our Father.' The Rossini who leaves the bar is not the same man who entered and we see that he has been paged by the station holding Luz.
There detective Bertillon (Nadja Stübiger) and police translator Olarte (Johannes Benecke) have set the stage for Rossini to hypnotize Luz in order to get to the bottom of just what happened to her, her cab and her passenger. This is where Singer's filmmaking is at its most impressive. Ironically, this is also where his storytelling becomes most frustrating. As Luz reenacts the cab ride that brought her to the station, we hear the sounds she heard - airplanes indicating an airport, traffic, etc. - as we watch her pantomime such things as putting luggage into her cab's trunk. But the luggage and its passenger are there for us to see, alternately appearing as Nora and Rossini (who eventually strips down and puts on Nora's clothes, stored in his briefcase). Margarita (Lilli Lorenz), the girl who thought she was pregnant, also appears inside a satanic circle of candles, flashbacks and the present merging into one.
Singer goes full circle, ending with the same shot he opened with, the voice of a terrified Olarte from his sound booth informing us of the danger we initially did not see. "Luz" is certainly unique and definitely a calling card, but as a film it fails to wholly satisfy.
Robin also gives "Luz" a C+.
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