Our emotional connections are seldom explored with such complexity as we see in Gabriel Bier Gislason's latest film, Attachment. The way in which Gislason considers the depths of love is as heartwarming as it is disturbing, with viewers subjected to an uncomfortable truth: that love and devotion are real horrors wielding unrelenting power.
In some respects, the full extent of what “attachment” means is brazen from the very beginning of the film, when we open on a woman begging someone to wake up. Within a matter of seconds, a sinister undertone permeates. Yet, the sudden transition from this ominous scene into a relatably awkward meet-cute between Maja and Leah, helps us quickly forget the sense of foreboding we just felt.
But Attachment doesn't allow us to forget for long. In quick succession, we not only discover Leah's tense relationship with her mum, Chana, but also that Chana is seemingly the cause of Leah's problems. An idea that's amplified further when Leah begins to suffer from seizures and trance-like states the more she ignores her mum's phone calls. Soon, we come to believe Chana is the sinister entity in Attachment, a belief continuously played upon by her deep connection to Jewish folklore and superstitions.
These folklores, especially the Dybbuk, are the lens through which the warped intricacies of love are told. Without them, Attachment would feel far too trite, too tired; by including lore many viewers won't know, a new dimension is added to the all-too-familiar trope of demonic possession. Nevertheless, while Attachment ultimately plays into the generic conventions of this popular motif, it does so in a way that gnaws at your nerves until the very end.
From the moment Maja, Leah, and Chana come together, a haunting conclusion is set. An unavoidable end we're forced to slowly watch unfold, its determination as unforgiving as the Dybbuk's Malice. Although the Dybbuk is a significant symbol throughout, the horror it signifies is a far more tangible reality any of us can experience: the weight of love. Love which, for good or ill, uses any means necessary to protect.
The brief pockets of false serenity woven throughout Attachment are perfectly executed to leave us feeling all the more exposed when we learn that Chana's greatest crime, if any, is her devotion. A devotion which has helped save Leah before, and will save her again, only this time the price is far steeper.
Even when Attachment attempts to offer us a comforting yet sorrowful resolution, we hold our breaths wondering if the threat has truly passed. We, like Maja, suspect this may only be the beginning rather than an end.
Attachment doesn't have the sensationalism of big budget horror, yet it's far more memorable. It lingers long after viewing, which is a credit not only to its story, but to the cast that told it so brilliantly.
Attachment is available on Shudder from February 9th