Irina is dying. A predator who stalks streets at night looking for blood, she has lived over a century; tormented by memory, living in a run-down motel by the sea, Irina has reached the end...
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UNDERNEATH is a collaborative piece featuring four emerging directors, creating five distinctly different cinematic pieces all bound together by common themes of madness and ancient cruelty... See full synopsis »
Irina is dying. A predator who stalks streets at night looking for blood, she has lived over a century; tormented by memory, living in a run-down motel by the sea, Irina has reached the end. Her perceptions skewed, her body and mind revolting against themselves, she waits for an exit. Her private hell is echoed by the motel manager, driven by an obsession to protect Irina and keep her secrets safe, and a broken prostitute whose desperate plight may be worse than Irina's. It's the tale of three people living a life on the fringe, trapped in world of literal and figurative decay.Written by
We are told that Chris Alexander's Blood for Irina is a portrait of 'three people living life on the fringe trapped in a world of literal and figurative decay'. The credited inspirations are Herzog, Franco and Rollin but there is more going on here. With its intense focus on a woman's psychological and physical disintegration, its repeated images of blood and suffering and the almost spiritual concentration on close-ups this works as both chamber piece and meditation on a Passion. The Passion of Irina, if you like. We're in the company of Bergman and Dreyer.
There is a lot of Lynch here too – we think of the initial, hypnotic shots of smoke and fire in 'Wild at Heart' as we watch the swirling blood in water set to classical music, of 'Twin Peaks' as Irina draws back red curtains to reveal her city (her stage?), of 'Eraserhead' as we travel through her quiet, desolate urban/industrial landscape. But the most interesting reference to Lynch is surely the large stone resembling a human ear that lies in the lake next to an eerily staring baby doll. We think of 'Blue Velvet', of images of innocence in a 'strange world' of degradation, but this stone is also Alexander's original touch, an indication of the way we need not only to watch but to listen to this film. The stone and the doll are both partially submerged and as we look at them we reflect on the way in which all of the staring but essentially lifeless figures in this film appear to be strangely submerged, as if they are decaying bodies suspended in formaldehyde. When Irina stares at her first victim through a café window she could almost be looking into an urban fish tank. Equally, all the grim interaction and individual agony of the characters is made to sound submerged by Alexander's expressive, experimental and highly expressionistic score, as if we are listening to an ultrasound scan. The tragic significance of this particular sound is made poignantly clear in the closing moments of the film.
Alexander creates many moments of dark visual poetry. The motel's sign hovers in a cloudy night sky like a sad, sordid neon moon, a beacon of decay and death. The black blood running from Irina's mouth as she claims her prey is mirrored by the black water running from a drain mouth, creating an overwhelming sense of rot, erosion, putrescence and sickness. And in one brilliant shot, a close up of the chipped paintwork on the bottom of the door to Irina's room appears at first to be the outline of a cityscape filmed at sunset. It is the perfect image of Irina's world – everything reduced to this flaking point.
Alexander's microbudget film and his central character are similar beings. This is a fringe film, an outsider standing in a small room looking out at a city in which it might expect to pass almost unnoticed, finding only a few intense companions. Be one of them. Irina will give you a night you will not easily forget.
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