French director Lucile Hadžihalilović is fascinated by the volatile relationship between children and the adults who care for them. Her debut feature Innocence (2004) follows young girls at a mysterious boarding school, isolated from the world until they reach a certain age. Evolution (2015) is set at a seaside community where boys are held in a hospital by a group of women who perform experiments on their bodies. In both films, the children are confused by their circumstances, while the adults never find it necessary to explain anything. Love is mostly absent, with parenthood and childhood depicted as ritualistic rather than tender. Hadžihalilović’s latest feature Earwig, her English-language debut which recently made its North American premiere at the Toronto Film Festival, takes a different approach. It’s told from the point of view of a guardian, unhappy in his position and yearning for a way out of his responsibilities.
Albert (Paul Hilton) is tasked with the care of Mia (Romane Hemelaers), a quiet girl with ice cubes for teeth. The ice is frozen from her own saliva, and Albert must change the teeth every few hours. Aside from this contact, he keeps his distance from Mia, who spends most of her time wandering the dingy apartment they share. Albert’s only source of joy is his collection of wineglasses, which he stares at with longing. Occasionally he will pull his finger around the rim of the glasses, soothing himself with the music. Even when he isn’t touching them, the sound of humming glass permeates the score, lending the film a haunted feeling.
This is a heavily gothic movie, set in a world bathed in darkness and decay. Each scene is filtered through sickly yellow and green light, with only rare glimpses of the sky. Characters speak sparingly, and when they do the words are cryptic, minimalist whispers. Albert is especially terse and morose, haunted by the death of his wife. Though it’s not explicitly said, the shared trauma of postwar living weighs heavily on every scene. This becomes especially clear after we meet the other adult characters — the morose Celeste (Romola Garai), her implied love interest Laurence (Alex Lawther), and an enigmatic, sinister man (Peter Van Den Begin) whose provocations force Albert to reckon with his past.
Earwig is deliberately opaque, forcing the viewer to pay close attention to every detail, with no guarantee of payoff. Unlike Hadžihalilović’s other films, it never gives the child’s perspective. The audience sees Mia as Albert does, clouded by his fear of building any attachment to her. The film plays like a storybook with no narration. The story moves confidently forward, treating us to gorgeous cinematography with grand compositions. One scene in particular is an obvious homage to an iconic moment from Nicolas Roeg’s classic 1973 horror film Don’t Look Now. Despite the appearance of style over substance, at its heart Earwig is an emotionally rich look at the burden of parenting while ravaged by trauma and survivor’s guilt.
Your list of must-see, fun, insightful, and very New York art events this month, including art made during the first stock market crash, a homage to feline friends, and the 10-year anniversary of a crucial public art initiative.
Astrid Dick was told that she could not paint stripes because Sean Scully and Frank Stella have done so before her, a patently foolish statement.
Hrag Vartanian, Hyperallergic’s editor-in-chief, is one of the guest jurors reviewing applications for the two-month residency in Utica, New York.
Paddy Johnson answers your questions about art fairs, visibility, and frustrating studio visits.
The 26th Ji.hlava International Documentary Film Festival’s Philippines retrospective highlights early documentation of the country, local responses to the Marcos dictatorship, and contemporary work.
Hear a band of improvisers led by Rajna Swaminathan and a performance of Morton Feldman’s “For John Cage” in programs inspired by the exhibition, “New York: 1962-1964.”
The country music legend says the museum will be part of a “Dolly Center.”
Herzog and de Meuron’s design for the Museum of the 20th Century in Berlin has been accused of poor energy efficiency and called a “structural nightmare.”
From residencies, fellowships, and workshops to grants, open calls, and commissions, our monthly list of opportunities for artists, writers, and art workers.
Looking for some holiday gift inspiration? We’ve got you covered with this roundup of accessories, games, and more that have been flying off the shelf this season.
SCAD’s booth at Design Miami/ features glazed tiles by alumni artists Nicolas Barrera, Lauren Clay, Gonzalo Hernandez, Cory Imig, Abel Macias, and Nikita Nagpal.
Plaintiff Cheri Pierson accuses the disgraced financier of a “brutal” sexual attack at the Manhattan mansion of Jeffrey Epstein.
At the heart of What if the Matriarchy Was Here All Along? is the idea that matriarchy never really died but rather has transformed.