News from the Locarno Festival

Sightseers by Ben Wheatley

Sightseers by Ben Wheatley



Ben Wheatley is undoubtedly the most notable new voice to be heard in British cinema in ages, and his third feature Sightseers, funnier than his two previous films, certainly lives up to expectations. Ben Wheatley is an odd filmmaker, totally independent and anarchistic in his own way, managing to combine two major but very different strands in British cinema, the socially-aware naturalism of a Mike Leigh type film, and the equally naturalistic horror strand represented by Pete Walker (i.e. the two extremes of the same everyday, working-class dimension of British cinema).

One could also add in a pagan influence since Robin Hardy’s The Wicker Man is referenced in both Kill List (2011) and Sightseers. But Wheatley is not simply revitalising a moribund genre. He draws on his movie-fan memory and national popular culture to invent new cinematic forms and stylistic devices, which, combined with a surprising use of music and visual gifts, are really exciting.

There is certainly something experimental and unusual in his feeling for film that makes him fascinating to watch. A concentrated dose of misanthropy and pitch-black humour, Sightseers could be seen as an off-beat and inverted version of Mike Leigh’s Another Year, with its dumb and nasty suburban couple, ready to knock off anyone they come across on their caravan holiday, whether from jealousy, plain orneriness or pure viciousness.

The scenario is chock-full of incredible ideas and Sightseers pushes nihilism and a typically British tastelessness to the far edge. Ben Wheatley is a genuine auteur who will continue to astonish us with a mad and nightmarish vision of life that is utterly his own.

Olivier Père

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