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"one of the most chilling experiences" Hollywood Reporter
Joseph Sims-Dennett directed and co wrote Observance with Producer Josh Zammit and it has toured the international film festival circuit to critical acclaim. The Hollywood Reporter billed it as "one of the most chilling experiences" and Indiewiredescribed it as "sheer ambient dread".
Observance is billed as a psychological thriller that tells of a private investigator Parker (Lindsay Farris) embarking on an unusual assignment to observe Tenneal, a research fellow (Stephanie King) from an abandoned apartment across the street. Bret, Tenneal's fiancÚ, works at Cathgate Research Centre. He is from a rich, established and influential family but one with a dark past - Bret's father's mistress was murdered by the Caretaker, later that Caretaker himself is murdered in prison by a fellow inmate. The mysterious research centre and its secretive behaviour makes you wonder whom is researching who?
Whilst witnessing bizarre happenings surrounding Tenneal through his telescopic len, Parker starts to become aware that the derelict building that he surveys her from shares a darkness that slowly threatens to consume him. Parker, in mourning himself, is a deteriorating protagonist and the voyeur soon turns victim as his ill health turns his insights to hallucinations.
As the movie progresses the narrative becomes progressively more disorientated and disjointed as it becomes a physical manifestation of Parker's own mind and he (nor the audience for that matter) can make sense of it. Much like Hitchcock's "Rear Window", where the audience themselves becomes a voyeur to the action on the screen and play a part in movie's journey. There is a lot of ambiguity in the storytelling which makes the film more confusing than terrifying, much like Parker, who is rapidly growing more incoherent. It's about then that the perspective of the film suddenly turns and we catch Parker spearing a sacrificial boar head. Yes, "Rear Window" becomes a little "Lord of Flies" and you wonder if the real beast that inspires the hunters (that sit in wait) is simply the barbaric instinct embedded within. Observance leaves the audience to sort it all out.
There has been some criticism of the film - Urban Cinefile states it is "largely incoherent, inconsistent". Some of that inconsistency may be attributed to the fact that the film was shot in Sydney and despite the cars driving on the left side of the road, the story is set in the United States. Then there is an entire cast of Australian actors speaking their lines in non-descriptive North American accents.
Observance stars Lindsay Farris, Stephanie King, Benedict Hardie, Tom O'Sullivan, Brendan Cowell and features John Jarratt and Roger Ward. Its sound design (David Gaylard, David Williams) and the music (Adrian Sergovich and Haydn Walker) are fantastic. That sound and cinematography (Rodrigo Vidal Dawson) starting with the hauntingly beautiful scenes in the beginning and together with the editing (Charles Ivory) make the film. Given this film's very low budget and 11 day shooting schedule, it's a remarkable feat.
Observance headlines Revelation Perth International Film Festival beginning 30 May. Session features a Q&A with director Joseph Sims-Bennett. Click here for details and tickets.