Nominated for: Best Feature Debut

Gregory Kirchhoff’s Dusky Paradise is a staple indie flick. The apathetic Jacob (Kes Baxter) finds himself in a new location (an unnamed paradise), is greeted by an overbearingly curious older neighbour Matteo (Martin Umbach), and eventually stumbles across an adventurous female character, Zoe (Charlotte Krenz). The story has been told before, perhaps most notably as Garden State, and as a character, Jacob is also not new (see Luke Wilson in The Royal Tenenbaums), but the film does an excellent job in revisiting the classic indie tale.

Arriving at his parents’ house in the paradisiacal setting, Jacob heads to Matteo’s house to collect his reason for being there: a tortoise by the name of Hector. Initially being offered a drink or lunch, Jacob rather bluntly refuses and heads home to poorly construct a home for Hector, in one of many comically plain scenes. As the story progresses Matteo tries time and time again to get Jacob to open up, as does Zoe when they eventually meet in an art gallery (something Jacob refuses to understand), and during the course of the film, naturally he does. Dusky Paradise is not a film about a story, it’s one about characters, and it handles the fairly obvious progression in an able manner.

“I can’t say you’ll be surprised, but you’ll certainly be happy”

The feature is primarily about feeling lost, whether caused by grief or failed ambition, and each characters handles it in a different way. Jacob shuts himself off from everyone; Matteo tries not to be alone; Zoe simply pretends she doesn’t feel it. Each of the actors approaches their role in a very different manner, and each demonstrates genuine talent throughout. The scene in which Jacob finally allows himself to mourn is particularly poignant and stunningly handled, as is a conversation had over a dinner date, which is detailed in a genuinely original manner, simply showing one side of the conversation, cutting out Jacob’s lines entirely.

The soundtrack comes courtesy of Lucas Zavala and ‘Oh So Quiet’, and it blends seamlessly with the often silent action on screen, picking out emotion and setting with utter deftness, but of particular note is the cinematography – and it truly is stunning. Dino von Wintersdorff creates a golden hue throughout the whole picture, and the large framing captures the sense of isolation and loss incredibly well. Simply, Dusky Paradise is beautiful.

To be honest, chances are you’ve seen Dusky Paradise before in several iterations, but it is certainly worth another watch. The actors are wonderfully cast, the director clearly knows his stuff, and each member of the crew is at the top of their game. I can’t say you’ll be surprised, but you’ll certainly be happy.

James Baxter-Derrington


Image: Gregory Kirchhoff

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