SPELLBOUND *** UK / Switzerland 2022 Dir: Robin Rippmann. 11 mins
Films can get interpreted differently by the audience. We each whether we like it or not bring our backgrounds, experiences, and life to the viewing experience. This brings us to Spellbound (2022) by Director Robin Rippmann who as I see it brings elements of Gothic romance to the screen.
The Gothic as illustrated in the classic work of Ann Radcliffe, Emily Brontë, and Daphne du Maurier coalesces quite well in the film. The definition of the romance of a Gothic nature is a romance that deals with desolate and mysterious and grotesque events type of romance, a novel dealing with idealized events remotes from everyday life.
Spellbound (2022) features James (Nikolas Salmon) as an everyman who is tormented by dreams and unknowingly by a female ghost. This ghost Jennifer (Liza Callinicos) turns out to be something else at the conclusion. Jennifer implements folk magic in terms of linking hair samples together, placing them in cabalistic circles of unknown material. The moments when this is happening on screen are thoughtfully and meticulously staged with the purpose of them not clear. The audience only sees Jennifer in a partial closeup or bits of her face, eyes, smile, and hands within the chiaroscuro lighting. The resulting incantation sends James on what turns out to be a dream trip to a remote sea cliff with the gothic romance influence and taste of Lovecraftian mythos.
The journey is set up with lots of moments of silence punctuated by small sounds, jump appearances of female figures etc. and the startled confused face of James. The ending may seem low-key for the moment, but it fits well with the previous events.
Spellbound (2022) whose title will become clearer at the end is a competent film that looks pretty on screen, has a good cast, and has good production values. The picture however seems like chewing gum that you toss away after the flavour has gone out. Robin Rippmann mentions one of his favourite Directors is Mike Flanagan of The Haunting Of Hill House TV series and others. Flanagan uses the slow burn technique in of the genre which is a substitute for creating a story. This makes Spellbound (2022) for me a bit of a self-indulgent film that emulates the style of someone else, not the Director. People that are in love with the process and not the content. This is not to say that an individual voice will not emerge for the people who made this in time.
Spellbound (2022) works but you will get a feeling that you have seen this material before. Now up the stakes.
Review by Terry Sherwood