Katie Hogan takes a look at ‘Glasshouse’, as part of FilmHounds’ ongoing Fantasia Festival coverage.
Stories about plagues, diseases and viruses that rage throughout the world are going to have a different place in the cinematic universe from now onwards. Anything which predicts what is to come or even the possibility of what could happen will give audiences a slight twinge of pain and sickness. For example, the South African film ‘Glasshouse’ explores themes of survival and grief in the wake of a global event that could feel close to home for some.
In the film, there is a jarring combination of period costume drama; twisted to fit the strange times the characters live within. The costumes are one of the most noticeable elements in Glasshouse. Dressed in peasant-emulated garments and Victorian-eques era costumes, the characters that inhabit the glasshouse resemble creations from science-fiction stories which HG Wells and Jules Verne could have easily created. Although it is never explained why everyone reverted back to wearing these styles of clothes — with the arrival of the stranger — the aesthetic slightly changes. It is one of the indicators that times are about to change and a new era is about to begin.
As a film with a mixture of different genres, the film does flirt between different modes. From the very beginning, there is an ominous presence to the house — especially from the all knowing matriarch, Mother, who presides over ‘her children’ and the rituals they perform. She provides structure and order, teaching the younger inhabitants about the legacy of the house. But the lack of information and uncertainty does begin to frustrate — but so is also the nature of the film. The characters themselves are not to be trusted; as their memories could prove false. Instead of making the film more enticing to watch, each and every character in the story is virtually un-trustworthy; and thus difficult to ultimately care about what happens to any of them.
Glasshouse might not be entirely obtuse in its story all about a disease that killed off nearly the entire planet, but it also doesn’t hide away from the affect the disease has had on those left behind. The real horrors and the truths behind the glasshouse are only really revealed in the last 10 minutes — which is a shame. There is a moment that is quickly passed over and hinted at ominously in a last-minute voiceover which could have been the original plot. As a slow-burning science fiction laced thriller, Glasshouse makes no promises with its characters and explains very little about its universe throughout its underwhelming narrative.
Glasshouse screened at this year’s Fantasia Film Festival. The film is currently seeking international distribution