Jhe films of French director Lucile Hadžihalilović (Innocence, Evolution) are seriously weird and quite serious about their weirdness. There are no Gilliam-style nods to the audience, but rather a restrained, studious perversity that at times sounds like a murky version of David Lynch’s Mitteleuropean.
Like his previous films, Earwig (adapted from the novel by Brian Catling) depicts an insular world ruled by baroque and sinister rituals involving children. In this case, the child is Mia (Romane Hemelaers), a young girl who has to endure the daily ordeal of having dentures made entirely of ice, while her melancholy guardian receives the occasional call from a stranger. Elsewhere, a waitress (Romola Garai) injured in an attack by the girl’s guardian sinks into a disorienting laudanum haze.
Like Hadžihalilović’s earlier works, it is exquisitely crafted but bordered on cruelty. It’s lit in a way that seems to accentuate the darkness (the color scheme favors a particularly disreputable yellow). But Earwigthe director’s first English-language film, lacks the macabre logic of Evolutionor the precision of Innocence; the audience is left to search for meaning in the darkness.