Stars: Joanna Ignaczewska, Louis Labovitch, Akira Koieyama, Genevieve Sibayan, Jessica Jay, Haruka Abe, Morgan Ackermann, Bookie Anifowose | Written and Directed by Christopher Butler
When watching a low-budget genre movie it’s always a little disheartening to discover that the film’s execution doesn’t quite live up to its ambitions. Sadly, such was the case with The Scopia Effect, a film that possesses an intriguing premise with which it does disappointingly little. Alarm bells should have rung in the opening titles when the name of the movie is helpfully defined for the audience, despite the phrase never actually coming up in any other part.
Basia is a Polish emigre working in England, a trait used both to highlight her nomadic nature (important to the plot) and to still be able to cast an attractive blonde woman in the lead (important to the producers). She’s having some anxiety problems brought on by repressed memories, so her therapist decides to hypnotise her in order to unlock said trauma. She doesn’t actually seem *that* troubled and appears to be pretty emotionally healthy, so it immediately comes across like a bad idea. It’s unsurprising, then, when the treatment results in her vividly reliving violent events from past lives.
But that’s not the worst of it. Her visions soon take on a frighteningly real physical aspect, with Basia seeing her former selves – a young French lover, a wise Japanese father, a young boy to name a few – in her waking life. She starts to take on aspects of their personalities and, through flashbacks, we see the paths that took their lives to such violent ends. The more we learn, however, the more it seems like there’s something separate and sinister that connects them all.
Or that’s probably how they pitched it, anyway. In practice the film tries on different narrative hats – workplace drudgery, slow-burning philosophising, sultry period romance – but never wears them for long enough to identify with the characters and makes its scenes come off as under-written pastiches of stories the filmmakers would like to tell but for which they don’t have the budget. Basia’s story is one that drifts in and out of focus; natural, you would think, for a film that’s about transitory personality and interconnectedness, but it means that we never get a true sense of her character and she becomes merely a body floating through space for much of it.
There’s some interesting cinematography and music, especially in the flashbacks which do succeed in creating alternate moods, but it’s hard to pin down anything particularly memorable about the present-day scenes, which is supposed to be the narrative anchor of the whole thing. It’s so uneven, in fact, that the abrupt last-act twists don’t quite click with what’s gone before and turn the whole story – previously a potentially vast meditation on human connection – into a rather inane thriller, presumably for the purpose of stakes. I guess?
In the end The Scopia Effect is left as less than the sum of its parts. But at least there are a lot of parts.
The Scopia Effect is out now on DVD from Spirit Entertainment.