Dir. Bruno Dumont
Reviewed by Matt Adcock
I like to think of myself as a hardened film watcher and even though I’m a signed up Christian I still enjoy a good tale of violence, sex and erm desert scenery as much as the next Baptist.
This however is an oddity – the tale of David, an independent photographer, and Katia – his neurotic lover… They go scouting in the desert searching a natural set for a magazine photo shoot, staying in and around the one horse town of – you guessed it – TwentyNine Palms.
The film is 95% a character observation, in very little happens; they drive through amazing Joshua Tree filled desert, scratch up their Hummer on the rocky roads and trails. They making love all the time (and he has the loudest orgasms I’ve ever witnessed a bloke having on screen!), she regularly freaks out, he gets cross and they fight, then kiss and make up, they go out for meals, shop for food etc…
But there is a very very minimal hint of menace in several incidents e.g. a car passes Katia walking alone at night and it pulls a 180degree turn to come back and look for her, or a monster truck driving redneck wheelspins dust all over the couples red Hummer etc but even those who are avidly looking for signs of how it might end would be lying if they correctly predicted the outcome of all this.
I won’t spoil the ending for you – but I must say that this film is not an 18 rating for nothing… and the shocking events of the last 5 minutes hit me like a sledgehammer to the face!!
The director described the minimalist approach like this:
"Here, it's not so much the subject that matters as the air itself, the atmosphere, its hue. In this way, Twentynine Palms is a horror film – an extreme horror; built up innocently, dependent on a delicate plot – the natural account of a couple of tourists engaged in wild sex – that, all of sudden, is reversed, attaining the ultimate."
Be warned – this does get extremely nasty at the end, but for a weird little atmospheric road movie it’s worth a watch…
Darkmatt Rating: öööö (Excellent, slow paced but ultimately grim)
"she was holding tight - to stop her sliding off the rock..."