Directed by Gigi Hozimah
Written by J.A. Marlowe
Starring J.A. Marlowe, Jenny Hutton and Alexander Moitzi
Indie Film Review by Hannah Sayer
Shot on location in New York City, Gigi Hozimah’s feature film debut He Belongs To Us is an experimental exploration of a young man’s grief and trauma. The film is described as a surreal art house horror film and it blurs the real with the surreal in a bold and interesting way.
The film opens with a familiar piece of classical music: Mozart’s “Lacrimosa (From the Requiem Mass in D Minor)”. On screen there is a figure whose face is covered with a mask who is dancing in what seems like a real world setting. This opening scene introduces the man who will continue to haunt Remy, played by J.A. Marlowe, throughout He Belongs To Us. There is a red tint to this opening shot which slowly fades away which continues throughout the film to inform the viewer visually of the transition from the real into the surreal. The colour red signals these surrealistic nightmare sequences.
The film follows Remy who is haunted by memories of his neglected childhood and consumed by grief after his mother’s death. Memories of his past are haunting him as are the supernatural beings which haunt his nightmares. He has lost his job and has trouble sleeping and the film introduces us to only two people who are constant presences in his life, his girlfriend Victoria played by Jenny Hutton and his friend Roman played by Alexander Moitzi. Remy becomes paranoid as his nightmares begin to affect his everyday life and a betrayal from those closest to him leads to the film’s unsettling climax.
The blurring of the real and the surreal in He Belongs To Us becomes disorientating as it is difficult for the viewer to differentiate between what is real and what is not. The film successfully implicates the viewer in the story and allows for Remy’s grief and situation to resonate. The film works well as a character study of one man’s grief and inner turmoil and through staging the majority of scenes within Remy’s apartment the atmosphere evoked is claustrophobic and intense. This reinforces that Remy’s paranoia is building and that his nightmares are gradually blurring with reality.
Due to the film’s length some of the scenes in the apartment become repetitive and are not very exciting when juxtaposed with the bizarre and surreal horror sequences that are intercut throughout. At times the acting feels restrained and doesn’t grab the viewer’s immediate attention. However, this style often plays to the film’s advantage in the scenes which are meant to feel more subdued when juxtaposing the surreal scenes.
Overall, He Belongs To Us is an atmospheric and experimental character study which works best when it focuses on its elements of surrealism.