DVD Review: Closed Circuit Extreme
Review by Kit Rathenar
It’s only fair of me to admit that I’m probably not the target demographic for a film like Closed Circuit Extreme. Then again, I really don’t know who IS the target demographic for the flood of torture/rape movies currently going around. I’d quite like to find out, if only so I can make sure I’m never alone in a room with any of them. The kind of mind that can handle films like this at anything other than arm’s length with a pair of mental tongs is one I’m not anxious to get too close to.
Tongs firmly in hand and squinting through my fingers, then, let me begin the dissection. Closed Circuit Extreme is a variation on found footage, being recorded on a set of miniature spycams that a pair of university students have concealed around the house of the man they believe to be responsible for the disappearance of their friend. On the upside, this tactic avoids the nausea-inducing shakeycam of most found footage, but instead it substitutes a whole new kind of viewing discomfort with eyeball-jarring CCTV glitches and piercing electronic “vwip” noises accompanying every single crosscut. I can imagine this style going over well, though, with a generation raised on Big Brother-style reality TV, so we’d probably better get used to it, as I bet it catches on. As a way to shoot a film it places interesting demands on the actors, as the camera can’t track them when they move; everything has to happen in the viewing arc of one of the cameras, but at the same time the cast have to appear unaware that they’re being observed. Closed Circuit Extreme achieves this with a mix of well-chosen camera placement and some carefully considered blocking, and I’d definitely accord props to veteran actor Stefano Fregni as the killer David De Santis. He does a very believable job of portraying a man who thinks he’s alone in his own house, and throughout the film his performance is convincingly both human and horrifying.
Indeed, going purely on the acting and directing, part of me wants to call this a good film (barring the strange decision to get the entirely Italian cast to deliver their lines in English, as their accents are uniformly so thick that I’d have found it easier watching this in subtitled Italian). The part of me that had to pause it several times before I could get to the end, however, begs to disagree. Sure, this is a grotesquely realistic portrayal of how a serial rapist and killer might act in his own house, complete with the repeated rape and then murder of one girl, plus the rather quicker death of another who was simply unlucky enough to get in his way. But why make such an accurate portrayal in the first place, or watch it (unless, like me, you drew the short straw to review it)? That, I can’t tell you.
Perhaps the clue is in the name – Closed Circuit EXTREME? Is this purely meant to be a test of the nerves and endurance of a viewer? Or is it a brutal piece of social commentary? Was I really meant to sit there hissing “run, run, RUN!” at the characters through gritted teeth, or feeling my stomach roil with scalding hate and anger as De Santis forced himself on a bound and semi-conscious girl? Is this film simply a wake-up call to the world at large that these things happen and they aren’t okay? I don’t know. But while I was impressed by the directing and acting of Closed Circuit Extreme, this very realism is its weakness in the end. I definitely reacted hard to what I was watching, but not because I was truly responding to the film itself. Rather, I was reacting to the fact that it recreated experiences I’m already too familiar with – fear, victimisation, rape – and reminded me of how savagely I hate those things in the real world.
Art may hold up a mirror to life, but in the process it should also show us something we couldn’t otherwise experience. And so, contrary to what it would doubtless like you to believe, Closed Circuit Extreme’s problem isn’t that it goes “too far”. It’s that in a bid to duplicate reality with too much exactness, it risks distracting the viewer from its own best features with gratuitous emotional triggering and yet still goes no further, in any direction, than reality itself does already; and so as art, it becomes ultimately hollow. Intellectually I appreciate that this film is well observed and that it’s a remarkable study in filmmaking technique, but I can’t love it and I’m hesitant to recommend it. Don’t try this one unless you really like having your endurance challenged.
Closed Circuit is out now on DVD and download from Revolver.