Cannes 2016: The Transfiguration

I covered Cannes Film Festival this year, and I will be posting my reviews on here daily. My pieces are on a website known as The Upcoming and have been published in something called Swipe magazine.

Director Michael O’Shea combines neo-realism and vampires in his debut, The Transfiguration, a gritty, self-conscious, often restrained and sporadically violent reworking of the teen horror genre. O’Shea explicitly states his influences throughout , invoking classics such as George Romero’s Martin and recent horror staples like Tomas Alfredson’s Let the Right One In. This is perhaps too greater display of intertextuality for some, but the homage O’Shea pays to his forebears contributes to an interesting exploration of teenage weirdness and isolation.

Eric Ruffin plays Milo, a fundamentally strange and insulated young man, obsessed with watching old horror films on his laptop or, more appropriately, staring incontinently at the ceiling, listening to the sounds of shrieks and bloodletting. He lives in a tough estate in Queens, New York, tolerating or avoiding the vicious gang who patrol the area. There, Milo meets Sophie (Chloe Levine), and a strange, icy, fretful relationship develops between the two. Each has individual anxieties that are laid bare by their connection: Milo’s preoccupation with vampirism, and Sophie’s suicidal thoughts and tendency to self-harm. Milo violent instincts – to enact and observe – are insatiable, and openly test the bonds of their relationship.

O’Shea uses of an out-of-view long lens camera that creates an enigmatic aura around the leads, and it effectively reflects the lead characters’ disconnection with their environment. It is rare to see New York portrayed so bleakly. Some of the film’s dialogue is slightly underwritten – Sophie describes her self-harm as a kind of “release” – and the moments of violence are unsubtly coupled with a screeching score, undermining the openness and visual candidness of the rest of the picture. But overall the film intrigues: the motivations for Milo and Sophie’s actions remain unclear, which does not exasperate but rather reflects a universally understood teenage angst in a novel, inconclusive way.


Published by

Joseph Owen

PhD, Carl Schmitt, Modernism and Sovereignty at University of Southampton

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