Putting us on a pile of rugs and ripping them all away, Piercing is having no go of the expected.
Obsessed with, well, piercing, only the more fatal kind, husband and father Reed (Christopher Abbott), on a business trip, decides he is finally going to impale someone. Entering the picture is Jackie, a sex worker (Mia Wasikowska), making up a large fraction of a very small cast.
Piercing is strangely a film about especially graphic desires that never feature so heavily as the sense of unease and anticipation that is the lifeblood of Eyes of My Mother Director (and here too Screenwriter) Nicolas Pesce’s latest. Together the leads are supremely unnerving as we vainly attempt to trace how this narrative will unfold.
Most distinctive of all for its production design and stylistic choices which attempt to place the film in an earlier era, viewers will instantly recognise the 70’s lo-fi motifs replete from beginning to end. An emblazoned credits crawl, synth-centric tunes, payphones at will and a heavily interior staging evoke, even if the effect is heavy-handed, colour-filled semblances of a bygone time.
Abbott throughout manages to internalise what is both darkly disquieting and darkly humorous about Piercing. As good as he is, with his hurried glances and pained purpose, Abbott is still no match for Wasikowska’s fathomless figure evinced so keenly within minutes of her introduction. Together building a strong sense of unease, the impacts of their dual expressions are only matched by surprisingly efficient and counterintuitively subtle sound design which in Piercing’s key moments, irrespective of any transpiring visuals, achieves a grand degree of agitation.
A blinding about-turn in a latter act transfixing attention and producing an involving effect like nothing else before, Piercing, an arrestingly unresting piece, succeeds above all for those performers permitted to thrive absent typical creative constraints.
Piercing is screening as part of the Sydney Film Festival