III (three) is an impressive achievement for Russian director-writer husband and wife team Pavel and Aleksandra Khvaleeva, who reportedly made the film on a budget of just €15,000.
Set in a remote rustic town in the heart of Europe, it follows two sisters, Ayia and Mirra who are surrounded by death as a mysterious disease spreads through the local population. As their mother succumbs to the infection, the pair turn to a bother-like figure and local holy man, Father Herman for answers.
But as the town turns to god with little else left to hope for, and new cases appear every day, leaving the doctor helpless Mirra too falls ill.
Ayia has strong faith and is sure that something can be done to save her sibling, and after stealing her away from confinement to Father Herman’s home, she happens upon a book that seems to hold the answer she is looking for.
With the priest’s help, she embarks on a journey into Mirra’s mind in an effort to pull her from the abyss and back into the world of the living.
III may be a shoestring budget production, but it certainly doesn’t look like one. From the breathtaking landscape in which the day sequences are set to the dark, nightmarish world that exists in Mirra’s psyche, this film looks the part.
The film is dynamically shot using aerial angles, heavy grading and a sinister palette of colours to evoke feelings of remorse, fear and desperation.
All is bleak in this non-descript town and even the close bond between the sisters can’t withstand the crushing onslaught of the shadows that lurk around each corner, in the real world and the imagination.
Cast performances too are compelling, with the screen sisters, Polina Davydova and Lyubov Ignatushko showing amateur actors how to make a mark on your first film.
And bar a few typos on the subtitles, there’s little to complain about this arthouse-esque feature from a crew with surpringly little experience or means to achieve such big things.
Although the idea behind the film may not be the most innovative, with Pavel Khvaleeva confessing to be a fan of films such as The Cell (2000). The change in period and different character dynamics make it different enough to stand alone. The end result is a successful attempt at a modern day fairy-tale brought to life on celluloid that will keeps audiences intrigued from beginning to end.
Although III isn’t terrifying, it is thought provoking and memorable.