The film looks like a cross between the chiaroscuro of Fritz Lang’s murky expressionist films and Dreyer’s crisp portraiture.

   Its classically shot dialog scenes

 interpose tilted or high-angled shots that bring Hitchcock to mind. FJ Ossang’s 2017 film, 9 Doigts, presents as something like a gangster film, or a surrealist thriller, except that its plot is very nearly incoherent. It doesn’t help that small plot points remind viewers that despite the black-and-white film stock, this story is absolutely contemporary. After the characters end up on an ocean liner, we hear more than once about the huge continent of plastic and waste that threatens to swallow up the ship (in addition to some destination or Siren-call delusion of repetition and dementia called Nowhereland).

My probably too-hasty takeaway is that this is not a film to follow cognitively but a film to absorb affectively. Ossang tosses out rational coherence but presents a film that powerfully conveys the paranoia, panic, and dual sense of urgency and impotence that characterizes this moment of upsurging proto-fascism, crumbling civil society, and the material traumas of climate change. Here is true affect wrapped in Daliesque madness.

As if to underscore his film’s diremption of rationality and affect, the mad doctor stands before a bizarre planetary map and states what religion scholars know from JZ Smith, “map is not territory.”

 

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