In 1996, English director Mike Figgis was deservedly nominated for an Oscar for Leaving Las Vegas. Now, 13 years later, he presents Suspension of Disbelief, an erotic thriller that feels more like an art school project than the work of an accomplished filmmaker, in what is an unsuccessful attempt in pushing the boundaries of the thriller genre.
Sebastian Koch plays Martin, a successful screenwriter who teachers at a local film school. His latest work is currently in production, and has his very own daughter Sarah (Rebecca Night) cast in one of his leading roles. In the meantime he hosts a birthday party for his offspring, where the beautiful and elusive stranger Angelique (Lotte Verbeek) attends. In a hazy, alcohol and drug filled night, the pair appear to get it on, only for Angelique to die mysteriously on her way home the following morning. With a police investigation ongoing, the victims twin sister Therese (also played by Verbeek) turns up, confusing matters greatly as Martin falls for this seductive and beguiling woman. While he teachers the art of writing a thriller screenplay in his class, his philosophy appears to be shadowing that of his own personal adventure, as the lines between cinema and reality are suitably blurred.
Suspension of Disbelief feels like a strange project for Figgis, as though he is experimenting with editing software for the first time, and implementing a series of needless quirks and techniques that give off the impression that he’s being innovative. It’s all so unsubtle too – we don’t need to be spoon fed information, part of the cinematic experience is working hard to reap the benefits. Each character is introduced with a needless biography of who they are and what they do, leaving little for us to work out of our own accord. When we are first introduced to Therese the word TWIN fills the screen in bright blue writing, followed closely by a dictionary definition of the word. I mean, come on.
Suspension of Disbelief is just a complete mess of a film, from the amateur framing and lighting used, to the inept implementing of sound – with a terribly annoying, quirky jazz number that accompanies various scenes. The film is very clumsy too, and in no way is this sexy. You can’t just tell two actresses to kiss and expect that to qualify as being erotic. With very few redeeming features, Figgis may argue that many criticisms of his film were factors that had been deliberately explored in an attempt to satirise the thriller genre, so perhaps one could be accused of taking this at face value. However satire requires intelligence and wit and this is lacking in both.
This picture is supposedly deconstructing cinema and the conventionalities of a crime thriller, however this comes across as being a bit rich, as this doesn’t quite deserve the right to be so analytic when it’s neither well made nor written itself. Though certainly creative and ambitious, all that transpires is a pretentious and self-conscious piece of cinema.