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Credited cast:
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An "experimental" film, a category I usually avoid, but this worked out better than expected
17 April 2014 | by (Amersfoort, The Netherlands) – See all my reviews

I saw this film at the Imagine film festival 2014 in Amsterdam. When reading the synopsis on the festival website, it had all the looks of something "experimental". That had put off many people, I think, as there were only 13 tickets sold (maybe also counts that it was scheduled on a weekday at 11:20 AM). I must admit to usually avoiding movies that are advertised as a novel idea, style or format, but the description had that little something that still attracted me for reasons yet unexplained. And I did not regret my choice, after all.

As Tombville hardly has a feature film length (67 min), the festival had programmed a warming-up with the 25-minute short Syndromeda, sufficient together to fill a standard time slot in the festival schedule. The IMDb synopsis describes Syndromeda better than I can: "Leif finds himself progressively encroaching upon a delirious, hypnagogic mental maze, tugging at the intersection between dream and reality". It was watchable but primarily confusing, just as the IMDb synopsis I quoted. As a warming up, however, it worked perfectly. The Tombville near-feature that was to follow, could not possibly confuse us more than this one. Particularly the lights on the alien ship in Syndromeda he (Leif) thought seeing fly overhead, looked exactly like the ceiling lights in the hospital where he was taken when found naked and collapsed in the woods. This is just an example, but the general idea is that much is left to our imagination what was true and what was not. It could be either way, and still matching what we saw on screen.

I'm not complaining, and was fully prepared for Tombville that was equally and deliberately non-transparent from the outset. Obviously, something dramatic happened in the youth of our main character, causing his peculiar journey where much was left in the dark (literally) and much had to be read between the lines. At first, our main character did not even know his name, but after some pain inflicted on him he suddenly remembered it to be David. He had to borrow some boots (he was bare footed from the start), was unable to pay, and was ominously threatened "or else..." when he would fail to pay back the next morning. He is mostly referred elsewhere at many doors he knocks on. Only some of the time he is asked to come inside.

In all cases he seems to start with the wrong questions. He asks for a phone (we have none), but a few minutes later we hear one ringing, and an ancient model (of course, black) appears on the counter. He asks for a nearby railway station (there is none), yet we hear the sound of trains passing by, the latter repeated several times when further in his journey. It has no useful purpose to continue describing the confusing events, as I hardly understood them myself, and I assume that is all by design. Safely sitting in my comfy chair this was not so much a problem for me. Yet it was far worse for David who was struggling all the time how to proceed, and he only met unfriendly people not very eager to help him out.

All in all, I was surprised that the movie caught and kept my attention for the whole duration, in spite of the dearly missed plot or the lack of purpose for this daunting journey. I'm less pleased with some of the noises without purpose, like the clocks and the trains passing by. And, I think, that it would have been better to reveal part of the underlying plot somewhere in the middle, also offering the opportunity to add some extra scenes to augment the running time. I assume that the same script writer can easily think of some extra similarly mysterious scenes along the same line. The ending is now too sudden and too convoluted to absorb at once. It would be better when handed over in smaller parts, but that is easy for me to say. Anyway, I'm very much alone in my positive attitude toward this movie, as it ranked nearly last (only two scored less) for the audience award.

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