Updated: Dec 4, 2019
Directed by: #GiacomoGabrielli
Written by: #VincentFrattini
With its intense and emotional material, B309 is a tremendous display of trust between actor and director as Giacomo Gabrielli brings Vincent Frattini’s script to life with uncomfortable realism. Based on Frattini’s real-life experiences of dealing with homelessness and sexual assault as a college student, B309 explores the dehumanisation of those seemingly abandoned by society. Frattini’s character of Mark is assigned that number when visiting the homelessness advisory service, he ceases to be who he is and becomes another cog in a system that no longer works. Despite his issues, he is not seen as a high priority and from there becomes a victim of violent sexual assault with damaging psychological trauma resulting from these brutalisations.
The film is most powerful when there is no dialogue and Mark has to live in this reality of fear and desperation, isolated within himself with no refuge to be found. When characters do speak it can feel over explanatory with exposition or obvious emotional melodrama, just having Frattini’s intensely physical performance accompanied by the overbearing sound design makes B309’s haunting realities more gripping. It's the wordless storytelling combined with the gritty cinematography, long uninterrupted takes of Mark’s life capturing the inescapable truth of his circumstances. Just seeing Mark walk through the dark streets, Gabrielli is able to create this unnerving sense of dread as it feels the world could swallow him whole from the physical and psychological detachment the character suffers.
Frattini is the power behind the film, fearless in facing the horrors of his past and using his performance to highlight these vulnerabilities. While the dialogue in his script and the supporting performances leave something to be desired B309 is still striking in how it portrays life suddenly cascading into unrecognisable dread. That sense of security being ripped from you and being left to fend for yourself, leaving one emotionally fragile. Mark’s sudden displacement does not seem to be directly connected to his sexual assault, just another horrible event that contributes to the character’s dehumanization. As Gabrielli and Frattini make the sequence visceral and uncompromising, inspired by the filmmaking of Gaspar Noé. It’s a consensual encounter turned violent as the camera never cuts away from seeing Niels Justesen’s character become more aggressive and the audience is left with the brutal images of Mark bound, gagged and screaming while being raped and beaten.
An exposed and frightened character after losing his home seeks emotional intimacy and is betrayed and abused in the most callous of ways. Gabrielli has his editing revolve around this sequence with B309 making it the centrepiece, a before and after moment for the character and audience. Frattini combined with effective makeup feels like a different character in the final scenes, the kind spirit stamped out. While the film is based on Frattini’s own experiences it does feel that the film wants to focus on the more shocking elements than the aftermaths, leaving the character in a depressing limbo. Just when it feels like B309 is starting to get into an intense narrative rhythm, it frustratingly ends as it feels Mark’s story seems to have only completed its first act. Whether Gabrielli and Frattini intend for this film to be a proof of concept for a longer film or a deliberate indictment of the conditions facing homeless people in London, B309 feels incomplete in a way.
Still striking in uncompromising fashion both Gabrielli’s direction and Frattini’s performance makes this film a difficult if not necessary viewing that highlights and champions the importance of the disadvantaged needing support.