Review: Tilman Singer’s Debut, ‘Luz,’ Is Mind-Blowing

Tilman Singer’s debut feature Luz is… wonderful. I found myself at a loss for words after viewing it, because I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to get out of the story, but I was riveted for the duration. Shot on 16mm, Luz looks like it came from a different era. Singer pays tribute to Cronenberg, Argento, and Fulci (and I really see the Fulci!), but I also see a lot of Kubrick in the shot compositions. Forget all those guys, though. Whatever you can pick out that may have come from another director is negligible compared to the journey Singer carries us on in just over an hour’s run time.

Luz is a cab driver who, in school, had a brush with a demon. Now, years later, the demon has come for her again. She is the object of its desire and it must have her. Luana Velis plays the title character. She is the film’s gravity; while everything is ready to fly off the rails, she holds it together. Jan Bluthardt plays Dr. Rossini, who is called in by the police to determine what has happened to Luz after a car crash that killed one person. Julia Riedler plays Nora, a woman who knows Luz from school and meets Dr. Rossini before he meets Luz. The cast is rounded out by the interpreter, Olarte, played by Johannes Benecke, and police commissioner Bertillon, played by Nadja Stubiger. This is an amazing ensemble, who each contribute an important piece to the increasingly bizarre and horrific drama that plays out in the police station. Riedler is magnetic and Bluthardt is bold, bordering on unhinged (he actually reminds me a bit of Erwin Leder in 1983’s Angst}.

It’s frustrating to even to say anything about this film other than, “you need to see it!” The cinematography is gorgeous, the score is perfect, and if I didn’t know this was Singer’s debut feature, I would have assumed he was a seasoned vet. Luz is a very particular type of horror film, full of ever-tightening threads that never leans on any trope, at least not in an expected way. Every shot invades your personal space and breathes on you, and you want it to.

Luz debuts tonight in New York and Los Angeles with a national release to follow. It is distributed by Screen Media Films (The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, Cold Blood).

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