Luke (Todd MacDonald) is an alternative medicine doctor with a sleeping problem. For all intents and purposes, he should be happy, as he prepares for his wedding to his highly strung, long time girlfriend Katherine (Kate Kendall) but something just doesn’t feel right. Plagued by dreams about a mysterious woman in 16th Century Poland, Luke undergoes psychotherapy to try to tap into his subconscious. But it is not until he meets a patient named Amelia (Katie Jean Harding), that he feels as though he is reconnecting with someone he has known before.
Review by Louise Keller:
Ethereal themes about spirituality, reincarnation, connection and destiny are intertwined in this high-art tale about two sets of lives centuries apart. It’s an ambitious debut film, and Polish born writer director Annika Glac combines interesting concepts with haunting imagery. But I found this a frustrating experience. The storytelling craves for a lighter touch as we follow the protagonist’s world-weary journey weaving in and out of denial, confusion, trauma before heading for the light of ultimate clarity. I would have preferred a lighter hand on the music, too, which often overwhelms the dialogue and imprints a chaotic monotone that the film would otherwise not observe.
Belladonna begins with arresting images of a cloaked figure in a forest. There is a familiar house, lush green fields, a passionate young man, a fire, devil worship and an old man with demands. There are naked embraces and kisses in the rain. The imagery offers the joy of beauty and happiness contrasted by fear and despair. A voice over reassures us this is only a dream and on the count of three, we will awake.
Then we meet Luke (Todd MacDonald, excellent) with his demanding and neurotic partner Katherine (Kate Kendall, effective). The development of their relationship is confusing and little about it has appeal. The scene in which Katherine persuades Luke to tag along to a Laughter Club in a park, in which strangers manically laugh as they stand around, is curious indeed and it is not until the newly engaged couple are in a bridal gown boutique and Luke catches sight of an attractive stranger, that the storyline begins to take shape. Luke’s initial meeting with Amelia (Katie Jean Harding, lovely) as a patient in the doctor’s surgery plays awkwardly – as does a later scene when doctor hangs out with patient after appointment. Medical ethics must apply even for a doctor in the alternative medicine field.
The disintegrating relationship between Luke and Katherine is overdone and we never understand what drew them together in the first place. But the connection between Luke and Amelia is credible and there’s something pure and innocent about it. We lurch from the present to the past without warning as the rhythms of the subconscious and reality take form. The script would benefit from more time in development, as would the ending, which feels as though it has been hurried after an otherwise leisurely told tale.
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CAST: Todd MacDonald, Kate Kendall, Katie Jean Harding, Indiana Avent, Anne Cordiner, John Jacobs, Katia Mazurek, Daryl Pellizzer
PRODUCER: Malgorzata Corvalan, Annika Glac
DIRECTOR: Annika Glac
SCRIPT: Annika Glac
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Marcus Struzina
EDITOR: Marcus Struzina
MUSIC: Volmer Haas (songs by Lamplight & Bobby Flynn)
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Isadora Suite
RUNNING TIME: 92 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Glass Kingdom
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: November 11, 2010