Rear Windows, anyone? That’s a tempting throwaway title with which to dismiss For No Eyes Only, a new German movie that updates Hitchcock’s immortal classic to the internet age. Yet as novel as the idea of replacing telescope with webcam might be, Tali Barde’s debut feature is a neat—if messy—take on voyeurism gone viral, a fascinating reappraisal of Hitch’s themes at a time when they’ve become more relevant than ever. Indeed it’s easy to imagine this tale unfolding even without a chair-bound protagonist; unlike James Stewart’s emasculated hero, the lead of Barde’s film is borne less by boredom to peer into his peers’ lives than the abundant, anonymous possibilities of online life.
Tali Barde’s debut feature is a neat—if messy—take on voyeurism gone viral, a fascinating reappraisal of Hitch’s themes at a time when they’ve become more relevant than ever.
It’s a bold move for any filmmaker, first-time or no, to take on the narrative and thematic heft of one of a master director’s most revered works; all the more so for Barde, who brashly made his movie at the ripe old age of 22. But who else but one so young could bring to this story the authenticity it needs? Like last year’s excellent, under-seen short Noah, which unfolded entirely and engrossingly across a series of computer screens, For No Eyes Only thrives on the fluency of a “digital native” director for whom this once-outlandish perspective is nothing but the norm. “Can you imagine a life without the internet?” is a question asked at one point; Barde is one of a new generation of filmmakers who can’t, and who are bringing with that ignorance an insight to push screen storytelling in exciting new directions.
Like the Pulp Fiction–Star Wars mash-up that decorates the lead’s desktop background, Barde’s film is a result of remix culture as much as anything else, freely aping old ideas in a new and interesting way. That it openly—and sometimes opaquely—acknowledges them is part of the fun: here sneaking a Hitchcock cameo to rival that of Rope (until it’s laboured, alas), there coyly copping a shot from Dexter’s opening credits, For No Eyes Only delights in playing a game of spot-the-reference that nicely attests its own awareness of how directly dependant it is. That’s endearing, if just a little disappointing too; perhaps Barde is wise not to waver from what works, but changing only context costs the film the chance of existing as something much more than a cute curio.
His script has a tendency to tout its issues a little too earnestly, framing ideas of Facebook friendship and the extinction of privacy in a way that tends to jar with, rather than add to, the drama.
Plotting’s the strongest point in the film, no surprise given the ostensible source material; it’s in his necessary divergences—the unique characters; their interaction; the dialogue—that Barde falters. His script has a tendency to tout its issues a little too earnestly, framing ideas of Facebook friendship and the extinction of privacy in a way that tends to jar with, rather than add to, the drama. Still, they’re valid points of inquiry; Barde may meld them messily with his transplanted narrative, but they’re enough to invest us in interrogating the vagaries of virtual society. Strong work from newcomer leads Benedict Sieverding and Luisa Gross helps plug the gaps, theirs a believably burgeoning chemistry rooted in the truth of teen relations.
Technically, the film tends to show the bareness of its budget—a commendably cheap sum short of €10,000, make no mistake—with camerawork that might kindly be called coarse. Some nice shots do their part to abate an uninteresting aesthetic, patched by Barde’s own editing, which regularly ranges from slick to showy. Greatest crimes come courtesy of the score, these compositions oft-overbearing and almost unfinished sounding. It’s cruel to expect too much of what’s essentially a post-college project between friends, but commercial release begets standards For No Eyes Only falls short in meeting. Still, never is it tempting to take the title literally; Barde and co have done good work here, crafting a calling card to be looked back upon with pride.
[notification type=”star”]54/100 ~ MEDIOCRE. Barde and co have done good work here, crafting a calling card to be looked back upon with pride.[/notification]