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February 07, 2020

The Lodge

the lodge.jpg

Veronika Franz & Severin Fiala - 2020

Five years after their feature debut, Goodnight Mommy, the Austrian team of Franz and Fiala have made returned with an English language film. The Lodge has been described as slow burn, but slow freeze might be more accurate. The most basic of elements are shared in both films - two siblings, a female adult, an isolated house.

Teenage Aiden and his pre-teen sister Mia are both still in mourning for the death of their mother, who committed suicide. Their father has long planned to marry Grace, the daughter of a man who lead a religious cult. The small cult became notorious for the death of all the members except for Grace. Aiden and Mia are uncomfortable with the idea of Grace becoming their step-mother having read about her in an internet search. Their father, who has no qualms about Grace's past, leaves the three together in a remote house during Christmas vacation, where they are promptly snowed in.

One of the things I like about the two films by Franz and Fiala is that they show and understand how siblings interact and support each other independently of their parents. Mia is almost always seen with a doll, the kind that looks like a miniature adult such as "Barbie". Aiden pulls out the arm of a doll Mia is holding, which Mia reattaches. It's the kind of action that if done by someone else might be malicious, but is intuitively understood as part of the playfulness and private humor between siblings. That the loss of the mother has still not been fully processed is indicated in the scene of the Thanksgiving dinner where the father and two children are sitting at a table with a setting for four.

There is also the visual repetition of people barely seen through frosted windows, or as reflections on glass or mirrors. As in Goodnight Mommy, nothing is necessarily as it appears to be. Where The Lodge perhaps requires a more subjective understanding is with its religious themes of guilt, sin and redemption. What does work is the general atmosphere of creepiness, the sense of loss of control.

Adding to the sense of unease is the atonal string score by composing team of Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans. As Grace, Riley Keough continues to impress taking a role that may not be entirely sympathetic, and hey, Alicia Silverstone, nice to see you again, if briefly. Lia McHugh as Mia gives the older actresses competition with the most emotionally visceral performance.

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at February 7, 2020 07:09 AM