Arkham, 1975: Jonathan Davis' father has disappeared. His tracks lead to Germany, to the Swabian-Franconian Forest where he was stationed after the Second World War. Jonathan sets out to find him and bring him home, but deep in the woods he discovers a dark mystery from the past.
Directed by: Huan Vu
. Starring: Paul Dorsch
, Jürgen Heimüller
, Ingo Heise
, Philipp Jacobs
, Michael Kausch
, Olaf Krätke
, Marco Leibnitz
, Ralf Lichtenberg
, Patrick Pierce
, Erik Rastetter
, Friedrich Schilha
, Leander Schmidt
, Marah Schneider
This film contains elements of science fiction, horror, drama, and mystery, but none of these genres describe it properly. I think it would be best to describe it only as a quality adaptation of Lovecraft, because in the literature he is also a genre for itself.
For me, it is one of the best adaptations of Lovecraft's energy out there. It's adapting the story "A color out of space" and shows more the fear of the unknown instead of pure 'Horror'.
Vu did a great job in TRANSLATING Lovecraftian narration from literature to a visual medium: Here's how he did it (and that's also all the things I loved about that great adaptation):
a) The POETRY and beauty in showing DETAILS. Caused by the very slow pacing, silence and often montage image powered narration, a lot of scenes sequences don't use dialogue or voice narration, but instead show the 'consequences' of the color: from dead birds to oversized fruits to beautiful landscapes in each season to going-insane actors. Close up, wide angle, slow - combined with beautiful orchestral music or silence or sound design to exaggerate the natural noises. It shows what happens while describing it - just like Lovecraft described the scenes, landscapes, situations, dialogues (it is a strength of his writings).
b) The SOUND design. The slow pacing leaves space to show - silence. A lot of seconds don't feature dialogue or noises or music, just actor's exploring or the mood. It takes a slow approach to allow the viewer to 'feel' and get into the story, without overwhelming him with overboarding sensations. It creates space to FEEL and to build tension, like Lovecraft did it in so many stories. Also, there is a lot of (beautiful) orchestral sound design, sometimes with classic suspensehorror techniques, but not overly used. Other times the noises are very exaggerated, like birds singing, church bells ringing... to let the audience really soak in the surrounding and keeps him observing the scene. Just like the protagonists slowly explore the change in nature and humans as fate takes its course. Personally, I got reminded of Solaris by Tarkowski, which features also very slow pacing and beautiful sound to create a rather atmospheric mood-film to brood and think (also, beautiful images about a distorted space... as the color goes off into 'space', the same feeling is created in this film). Also I had to think of Richard Wagners 'Götterdämmerung' cycle, which feels very ethereal, powerful and dramatic at the same time. Every bit is used in the right situation to enhance it.
c) LESS IS MORE: DON'T SHOW THE HORROR! Lovecraft's most used technique. LC never described the horror itself, but stayed with 'indescribable' horror, instead he wrote how the protagonist FELT while looking at it (monsters, strange entities, what ever it may be). This adaptation get's that technique right, again: over the course of the film the protagonist encounters various people going mad or even changing into.. something.. worse. The camera stays a long time on the actors face, their hands, the door, just details, instead of SHOWING the cruel thing. Due to the story and story-telling-logic, at some point the horror-object HAS to be shown, but the film does it in an elegant way: showing it through distortion, blurred lenses, wide angles - things that never let you see the FULL horror, just parts of it.
d) The SLOW PACE builds TENSION on it's own. Like previously mentioned the narration rhythm stays very slow to show details, consequences and enhances the protagonist's sensation of his surroundings, as he slowly explores and understands the fatal effects of 'the color'. I think that is a genius move to slowly sink into the poetic, slow, describing atmosphere of Lovecraft, who often used similar techniques to make the viewer uncomfortable. Silent, but effective.
e) Nostalgia and melancholic tone that unveil a DREARY, UNSETTLING MOOD. As a German I've seen the landscapes and places where the film is set. The lost country houses (shot in a museum, actually), the costumes, the empty, somehow poor and inanimate living-spaces of the protagonists feel stale, unsettling and show German TRISTESSE. That dreary mood unveils what Lovecraft is really good at: making the reader feel helpless and hopeless in face of cosmic entities, monsters and all those things a human can't keep up with. Also, I feel that a lot of camera angles are slightly 'off', like too low, too high, too tilted and when it comes to people going-mad... too close. You can't escape their expressions. (Sadly, that technique isn't used too often not consequent enough.) So, to me, the effect of film and writing are the same, even though they are achieved with different methods. I think, that is why this adaptation really FEELS lovecraftian.
f) The COLOR of the color. It is a really great concept to start off the film in black and white - it distances the viewer in an unsettling way, giving space for him to imagine the rest. You'll forget about the fact of 'color' in general for the first half of the film - and also it sets you back INSTANTLY to a previous era, sparking the feeling of nostalgia. Sure, you CAN'T show a NEW color in film, and yes, that is surely a setback (as LCs color is 'unknown' and 'indescribable'), but for me, the film found an artificial solution that works somehow very well: In the second half, the color is finally introduced - and they chose one of the most 'unnatural' colors in nature. Pink only shows in flowers or poisonous frogs for example, not a 'natural' color that settles you down and calms you. Color psychology done right: pink and violet is a very unsettling color in itself, often used for digital sci-fi elements... manmade, artificial - not-natural to us.
The only set-back I could think of: it was crowd funded and therefore there was nearly no money at all for a huge film like that. I imagine it could have been even MORE exciting with more funding behind it. BUT: The team did an AWESOME job with the tiny budget they had to create something BEAUTIFUL as this. Wowie!
So, overall I really enjoyed the slowness, poetry and nostalgic vibe of the film, which really helped to set the mood for a REAL Lovecraftian watching session.
I give it 10 stars BECAUSE I know how hard it is to really translate a powerful piece of writing into something visual.
Review by thedarkhorizon from the Internet Movie Database.