In modern cinematic history, one of the tensest scenes came from the first ten minutes of Inglorious Basterds. The steely eyed and iron jawed Christoph Waltz shedding the charm and graces of his Nazi officer Hans Landa into order to root through the lies of a French famer harbouring Jews in his floorboards. A silence deafens and is caught upon the dust of a summer air as bloodshed and murder are surely seconds away. The farmer, stoic and syllabled in his response, allows tears to stream his eyelids and roll down his cheek as his emotions in the palpable air uncover this hidden and frightened family. Unnerving, vicious, and brutal in its unravelling, Waltz is often praised for is brooding and dastardly villain.
So why am I brining up this scene during a review for another film? Because Denis Menochet was acknowledged less for his role on the other end of the table. Holding the gaze of a vicious killer, he was able to meet the acclaimed actor and battle him too. In latest surreal drama Norfolk, Menochet takes that electrifying gaze and funnels into a disturbing yet enthralling performance.
Norfolk revolves around the titular town where a man and a boy live in ruin. Seemingly residing in a rural dystopia, the pair battle invisible enemies throughout the glades and marshlands, attempting to build up protection and self-defence. As the boy falls in love with a local girl, much to the chagrin of those around him, the man soon finds himself at the mercy of a gaggle of elders attempting to seek revenge for his murdering misdeeds.
That’s the plot, I’m sure of it. After all, the chaotic series of events can’t really be quantified by a small, 50 word blurb chattering on about what the hell is going on. Chances are you wont truly get it until five minutes into the end and that’s very much detrimental to your viewing experience. As a big fan of the weird and the unusual, it isn’t the case that I simply couldn’t twig the story through the chaotic flutter of brown tinged imagery. But there doesn’t seem to be a rhyme or reasoning for it, the premise is unclear and cluttered within the need for avante garde scenes and alluring dance spectacles. The confusing is off-putting and not engaging – making the completely normal run-time seemingly longer and tedious.
The films main successes come from the two male leads. The generations that separate them aren’t echoed by their talents as each palpable arc collides in a glorious way. The self-discovery of the Boy played by Barry Keoghan is an enchanting watch. The blossoming of love enthused with the shattering of his idealistic worship of his father makes a catastrophic coming of age tale (you know, once you’ve figured out that’s what’s going on.) And despite the many unexplained scenes, Menochet grips you with his intense gaze. Fierce and brooding, it is his stoic ferociousness that helps you follow the turning, and twisted film. His begrudging distaste for humanity and his undercurrent of grief babbling away in his quiet madness makes it a fantastic watch.
Norfolk is a good film which could’ve been better with more cohesiveness. If in doubt, however, watch the film for Menochet’s spectacular turn.
Norfolk is out in cinemas now!