By Woojung Kim, Staff Writer
Renowned Japanese director Kiyo Kurosawa’s “Daguerrotype” is his first film shot abroad, his first film in another language and his first film with a European crew. A daguerreotype is a photography form invented in the 1830s that captures images on a silver plate and requires the subject to be completely still for the duration of the shutter time. “Daguerrotype” offers an intriguing premise, but is held back by failed horror techniques and a lethargic plot movement.
The film is set in a small suburb of France where a Parisian, Jean (Tahar Rahim), visits a run down mansion to interview for the position of an assistant to photographer Stephane (Oliver Gourmet). He gets the job, despite his lack of experience. The reclusive photographer lives and works in the mansion with his 22 year old daughter, Marie (Constance Rousseau). After the passing of his wife, he begins to descend into the belief that the true form of photography can only be obtained through the daguerreotype. Stephane quickly grows consumed in attempting to resurrect his wife by taking life-sized photos of his daughter. The psychological horror is there, but Kurosawa does not succeed in pulling it to the surface; the audience is never as petrified as they should be by Stephane’s obsessive attempts to revive his wife.
While Stephane’s obsession grows, Jean and Marie begin to fall in love. Having to witness the torture Marie has to endure from her father, Jean is determined save her from her father’s hands and escape the haunting sphere of the mansion. But as could be expected, this is a feat that is more challenging than it initially appears. Jean and Marie are prevented from fleeing the mansion by what seem to be supernatural forces.
Like most, predictable horror films, Kurosawa does not use the jump-scare technique to evoke a reaction of fear from his viewers. Instead, he rightfully chooses to build the tension in a slow-burn, methodical way. However, this buildup of tension also results in a plot movement that is too plodding to sustain the audience’s interest. The original intrigue begins to fade from the viewer’s mind and they are left only with a jittery anticipation of the end credits.
Kiyo Kurosawa’s “Daguerrotype” opens with the promise of living up to his earlier works, but fails in its inability to maintain a sense of fear. While the plot is certainly interesting and using the forgotten technique of the daguerreotype offers a unique storytelling mechanism, the film does not connect with the audience — not on an emotional, sympathetic and, most importantly, frightening level.
“Daguerrotype” was released on VOD on Tuesday, Nov. 7.