Imagine 2022 Review: SPUTUM Gobs At Class Differences
Dan Geesin paints a bleak eco-dystopia in occasionally stunning black and white.
In Sputum, we see a world utterly destroyed and almost entirely devoid of life. A fungus evolved into a sort which could eat micro-plastics, and it has multiplied exponentially, releasing toxic spore clouds around the world. A sudden concentration of these spores and microplastics is called a 'bloom', and it is deadly for humans, animals and plants alike. With rot-powder, humans try to kill the fungus and the micro-plastics, but steady exposure to the chemical has made workers addicted to it.
In this dreary world, two classes exist. There are the aristocratic Antiques, who stay inside their fortress-like homes, and the poor workers called Bakelites. Being outside has given some of the Bakelites an immunity against the bloom: they generate an antidote in their bodies, a substance called Pheno Odds in their saliva. At the Famly factory, run by the tyrannical Antique Dom, they try to artificially create this antidote, but nothing can beat the real stuff yet, and some of the Bakelites sell their spit on the black market.
One such Bakelite is Jimmin, who has the best Pheno Odds of all and whose spit is "milked" regularly at the Famly factory by the Antique girl Kalta. Jimmin has some plans of his own, and tries to secretly wrest power away from the Antiques. But when he and Kalta start to develop feelings for each other, it attracts a very disapproving attention from the other Antiques, first and foremost Dom...
Geesin had several ideas for a film in mind, and melded a "science fiction Romeo and Juliet" narrative with a micro-plastic eco-horror story. What shows immediately is that the cinematography is, pun intended, drool-worthy. Every scene is in stark black and white, lighted by a single bright light source, which gives the film an uncomfortable, claustrophobic look which fits the story well. The industrial score also needs mentioning, creating a positively nasty atmosphere. Jimmin and Kalta are well-played by Yannick Josefszoon and Jade Olieberg, and supermodels Kim Feenstra and Ovo Drenth show up as the bitchiest nurses you'd never hope to meet. Stealing the show, however, is Guido Pollemans, who chews the scenery as the villain Dominic Dom, and who channels his inner Michael Ironside to do so. Gore and fungus effects are done well too.
What is off-putting though are the scenes of people drinking each other's spit, with some even happily exclaiming "it's still warm!". I found that hard to look at but that might have been a personal Achilles' Heel of mine. A bigger problem may be the level of attention demanded from audiences. Everyone speaks a strange formal version of English, not unlike the language used in Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange, and it makes trying to follow what's happening rather hard. When the finale starts, Dan Geesin switches into full art-house mode, and it may leave a large portion of his audience scratching their heads about what happened and why..
But I always appreciate it when someone ambitiously swings for a home-run, whether he hist of fails, and in the end, there is lots to be liked about Sputum.
Do make sure you have the kind of stomach for it though, as it will not be to everyone's taste...
Sputum is currently in Dutch cinemas, and is touring festivals worldwide.