Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Film Review: Dark Fortune (2016)

Copyright: Corinth Films
There’s a strong and hard-to-pinpoint sense of terror that runs deep in Dark Fortune. At moments, this hard-hitting family drama could be even confused for a toned-down horror film, all thanks to that existential fright that reverberates through not just the plot, but the characters themselves. In the film, the feeling of being scared of something is almost visceral for the viewer. The same emotion does not come from monsters, but something much worse - buried memories that have so much hidden power over the lives of those who suffer from them.

The film, directed by Stefan Haupt, is set in Switzerland where a psychologist Eliane gets an emergency call. Her hospital just received Yves, a young boy who is the only survivor of a car crash that took the lives of four other people - his parents and siblings. Now, he is alone, left with only his aunt and grandmother, who are actively feuding about his future.

They also bring conflicting reports about the family and the relationship between the parents, while the hospital gradually puts more and more pressure on Elaine to figure out what to recommend for the boy. Affected by Yves, she decided to take him to her home for an observation period, knowing that her own family life with a separated husband and two daughters is anything but ideal. Together, they start to seek what is never found outside, but only inside - the answers that could allow each one of them to overcome the noose of their private history.

Tragedy is sawn high and wide in Dark Fortune and Haupt manages to deal with it very well, staying clear of sappiness or banality. The emotional pain and distress of Yves is rarely clear or obvious. Instead, it resonates through Elaine, who is masterfully played by Eleni Haupt, the sensitive but troubled child psychologist. Her plight is the main story of the film and the complex web of relationships she harbors with other characters. In the serene and peaceful streets, apartments and public buildings of Zurich, the anguish could not seem to be any further away.

Yet, the eyes and terrified expressions of Elaine make this family drama more than real. Here, the previously mentioned vascular element comes to play - without the need to underline it verbally all of the time, the film shows Elaine having her insights. Often, the things she figures out or only suspects are plainly seen in her face, which is sometimes locked in a state of tension, while in other reveals an endlessly patient and loving parent who can save Yves if she only knew how.

However, the true terror comes from the other alternative - that the boy, through a set of dark (mis) fortunes is beyond help. Instead, what the audience through Elaine fears is the fact that he could stay like this and grow up only to be a shell or a shadow of something that once was a person, but was smothered but a single tragedy. In this sense, in spite of the slow pacing and long shots that the Dark Fortune generally uses, the film works with a unique sense of dynamic storytelling. It is condensed in the idea that the time is running out for Yves and Elaine’s opportunity is constantly shrinking.

Engaging and biting deep, Dark Fortune is a strong family drama that comes even with a tangible level of mystery that somehow, manages to fall into place. It is an example of storytelling that asks for no shiny parts and which does not capture the imagination of the viewers with any cinematographic tricks. Instead, it showcases only a well-told tragic tale that carries a thin possible silver lining - wanting or not, the viewer will be left, along with Elaine, to wholeheartedly look and root for the same small thread of hope.

Learn more about Dark Fortune here. The film will be released on December 12th, 2018 in US & Canada on Amazon Prime, retail DVD (Amazon), IndieFlix and Vimeo on Demand.