Two days and nine films into the Philadelphia Film Festival it doesn't seem to carry all that much weight to say that Pal Sletaune's Next Door is by far the best film I have seen here.
Well how about this: it is very likely the best film I have seen all year and I would go as far as to say this is a landmark film in its particular genre, one of the very best films about sexual obsession, violence and paranoia ever made.
Next Door is an absolutely ferocious powerhouse of a film, grabbing firm hold from the opening scene and not slackening its grip until the potent final image has faded from the screen. Wow. Just wow. Equal parts Hitchcock and Lynch this is a dark, twisted, surreal trip into the depths of the human psyche.
As was the case with Texture of Skin - another screening today that had me thinking Lynch although in a rather different way - Next Door is a film best appreciated cold. As such I will give only the barest facts. John has been left for another man and is slowly retreating into a state of isolation and obsession when he is approached by Anne, his strikingly attractive neighbour who asks for his help moving a heavy object in her apartment. The object to be moved is a heavy cabinet that Anne wishes to use as a barricade across her front door and John is quickly drawn into a dark, labyrinthine, physics defying world where all is obviously not what it seems by Anne and her powerfully seductive "sister" Kim. To know any more than that would take away from the experience of the film itself.
Anchoring Sletaune's dark vision here is the work of lead actor Kristoffer Joner. Joner gave a solid turn in Vinterkyss (Kissed by Winter) but he is absolutely stunning here, riding the emotional crests and valleys of this piece effortlessly, giving a flawless portrayal of a man pushed well beyond his limits in every possible way. He is simply riveting, at times lost and helpless at others tapping into a cruel potential for violence. Sletaune takes Joner to a very bleak place - the film contains some shockingly graphic sexual violence - and Joner is more than up to the task. The female leads are exceptionally strong as well and the production designers deserve huge credit for making the women's apartment into a character all its own, but this is Joner's film from start to finish and if it doesn't make him a star then something is very, very wrong.
Naboer is a very difficult film to write about as almost anything I could say could potentially spoil some element of the film and it is far too good to risk doing that. Seek it out. It is worth the effort.