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Earwig

Lucile Hadžihalilović

Earwig marks the English language debut of French writer-director Lucile Hadžihalilović (Evolution, Innocence) and is a creepy, deeply strange film with a heavy atmosphere of dread. Earwig is set in a gloomy liminal world of drab olive greens and muted browns, which loosely resembles post-war Europe. The where and when are deliberately ambiguous (an unverified birth certificate mentions 1951; “WRECK OFF THE HEBRIDES” reads a shred of newspaper) allowing the viewer to assign their own interpretations or psychological readings of the film’s consistently surprising plot.

“a creepy, deeply strange film”

The focus of the story is the relationship between a taciturn middle-aged man (Paul Hilton) and a young girl (Romane Hemelaers) whom he cares for. Again, the exact nature of this relationship is teased and shrouded in mystery, an approach amplified by the fact that it’s around 24 minutes into the film before we hear a single line of dialogue. The girl has something wrong with her teeth, and the man spends a lot of time engaged in various strange, seemingly medical procedures. Perhaps one of the most useful comparisons for the surreal netherworld of Earwig comes from the fact that the brace-like device the young girl wears was designed by Marc Caro, one of the directors of the 1991 film Delicatessen

There are also abstract sequences of shape and movement that call to mind the work of Peter Strickland; glass is a recurring motif, whether admired and lovingly polished, or wielded in a moment of brutal bloodshed. The film’s intensely disorienting soundscape is beautifully realised, and there is a nice supporting performance from Romola Garai (director of the recent Amulet) and a very creepy turn from Alex Lawthor (The End of the F***ing World). 

Earwig eludes easy categorisation, and will likely leave you with as many questions as answers come the end credits, but stick with it and you’ll be rewarded with a disquieting, unsettling and challenging watch with a style all of its own.


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