Anyone watching the opening sequence of The Survivalist might think they’ve stumbled across the wrong film.
The post-apocalyptic drama opens like a documentary: a red line snakes its way across the screen along axis of a graph, representing global population, increasing steadily, along with oil levels. Both lines then plummet.
It’s a stirring sequence that sets the tone for the rest of Fingleton’s film. The Survivalist’s is a world, in the not so distant future, where oil supplies have all but run out and civilisation has fallen apart. The film hones in on three individuals struggling to survive – and the terrifying lengths they go to protect themselves. It paints disturbingly bleak, often violent picture of how primal instincts reign in the face of threat.
The film follows the ‘Survivalist’ – played by Martin McCann – living out a solitary existence in a forest, on the margins of the crumbling world. His subsistence lifestyle is abruptly disturbed by the arrival of an emaciated woman (Olwen Fouere) and daughter (Mia Goth) in search of food: he must decide whether to leave them to starve or invite them into his fragile world.
What is unique about Fingleton's film is that it plays out almost as a silent movie. No words are exchanged at all in the first fifteen minutes. Interactions play out through gestures and glances, tiny negotiations of power. Never patronising, Fingleton invites his audience to infer its characters' histories and kinks, from subtle signs and signifiers. Simple objects are given deep significance.
There is something of a younger Michael Fassbender in Martin McCann as the unnamed lead. He is the picture of solitude in his claustrophobic forest shack, and Mia Goth is haunting as the calm antithesis to McCann's vulnerable masculinity. Irish theatre actress Olwen Fouere puts in a chilling performance as the film's ruthless pragmatist.
Scenes of sex and nudity never feel gratuitous or fetishistic, exposing The Survivalist's pervading sense of the primal and the animalistic. Grim duties like the disposal of dead bodies or the self-cauterising of wounds are unembellished and make for visceral watching.
Incredibly spare camerawork puts the onus entirely on its actors – they improvise most of their lines – and there's no music at all except for the lilt of a harmonica. The snapping of twigs or the heavy breathing of lurking predators are the only real sounds in the film, and its sparsity is all the better for it.
As a suspenseful and deeply moving picture of what remains of humanity when civilisation breaks down, The Survivalist is an understated masterpiece.
The Survivalist UK release date 12 February.
|What||The Survivalist film review|
|Where||Various Locations | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Leicester Square (underground)|
12 Feb 16 – 31 Mar 16, 12:00 PM – 12:00 AM
|Price||£ determined by cinema|
|Website||Click here to go to the film's IMDB page.|