Venice: Beau Knapp feeds his body with a swarm of mosquitos in Filip Jan Rymsza's silly-creepy view of our financial ecosystem.
Filip Jan Rymsza's creepy-silly “Mosquito State,” an itchy mental breakdown that extrapolates a single insect bite into a Cronenberg parable about our financial ecosystem, asks for some context before we can dive into its crepuscular plot.
It is August 3, 2007. We are on the brink of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, but nobody seems to know yet. Good things happen. A young senator named Barack Obama is sparking a new generation of American hope. "No Country for Old Men" and "There Will Be Blood" will open within a few weeks. The iPhone was just invented. People feel immortal. Especially rich people.
Wall Street believes it can predict the future, data is the world's most valuable currency, and quantitative analysts are valued as modern seers. Quants like Richard Boca (Beau Knapp), whose homemade algorithm has enabled his company to amass a mundane amount of money regardless of where it comes from or who else needs it. Richard is hunched over in his own body, always staring at the floor. He finds it difficult to communicate with his status-obsessed employees. Watching him mingle with the other members of his company in one hell of a nightclub is like watching Dr. Frankenstein's laboratory assistant with the cast of "billions" is hanging out.
When a beautiful woman named Lena (Charlotte Vega, who finds exactly the right harmony with the stagnant dream mood of the film) goes home with Richard to his massive, hotel-like penthouse – a brutalist symphony of cold granite and floor-to-ceiling glass with a view of Central Park – Their first inclination is that their presence was paid for. These two people get along very well (Richard is electrified by Lena's admission that "our model of progress is unsustainable"), but he feels an even greater kinship with the female mosquito that hides in the collar of his shirt.
Richard can't be mad at the insect if it leaves a baseball bite on his cheek. More like a tumor, actually. He even leaves a glass of water on the table so the little lady can lay her eggs. And when his colleagues don't trust an urgent message in the algorithm's latest data – a message warning them to stop trading immediately or to destabilize the entire market – Richard decides that the only way to make yourself useful is through it to hide in his apartment and feed a whole swarm of mosquitoes with his body. For the rest of the movie.
Filip Jan Rymzza's "Mosquito State," unfolding like the unholy chimera created by a mad scientist trying to fuse "The Fly" with "The Big Short," is such a wantonly disgusting lump of body horror that it is Can Be Hard Not To Take It The film is more serious than it takes itself. It never seems strange to be strange even when you feel Rymsza smiling across the screen at your discomfort. The Polish-born director aims with his latest feature film (his first since 2007, the less repulsive, but similarly floating “Dust Cloud”) at a border area between sense and nonsense, order and chaos.
And that's where it lands, spawning its elliptical conspiracy nightmare. Too stiff and numb to feel like a midnight movie, and also too drunk with its own ironic bloodlust to transform into a candid portrait of insanity, Mosquito State is more of a broken time capsule than anything; A look back at a world that had not yet realized that it was eating itself alive. This retroactive feeling of powerlessness is irritating, but the irritation keeps your focus.
It is almost impossible to understand why someone would spend years of their life making a film so bad and feverish, but perhaps even more difficult to overlook how clearly Rymsza sees through it – how finely he creates a living space in which his vision can be found can multiply. The film is arch-shaped and funny from the moment it opens with a CGI mosquito flying through Manhattan (think of the opening credits of "Men in Black") and buzzing around Richard's colleagues while they dialogues from the days of the Cans like "Hey, is the iPhone? !? "Illustrated title cards that correspond to the mosquito mating process (e.g.“ THE BLOOD MEAL ”) divide the film into chapters and at the same time close the gap between hilarity and horror. Frequent, long-lasting, extremely extreme close-ups of the mosquito, theirs Eggs fall exactly into the latter category. Morale improves once you discover that Rymsza is not just telling a story, but creating an ecosystem.
That ecosystem depends on Knapp's implosive lead performance, the gravity of which holds the rest of the movie in place with amber-like determination. Bubbling with an insane commitment worth comparing to Michael Shannon's work in the 2006 film adaptation of Bug, Knapp embodies Richard with the blinking clarity of a religious zeal just beginning to see the light. It's a characterization that depends on full surrender to half an understanding, as Richard doesn't seem to know where this is going, just that he's been feeding the wrong bugs since arriving on Wall Street. This revelation slips into the delusions of a paranoid schizophrenic, but the film insists that Richard is not half as sick as the world around him. Even if his whole body is covered with boils. Even if he begins to carry around a baby monitor, he can lovingly watch his brood of mosquitoes as they buzz around his apartment (which gradually mutates from Nicolas Winding Refn-like coolness to Seijun Suzuki-like humidity, the windows of which seal the film in a bloody sack with primary colors). At least Richard looks beyond himself in a way that the other financial brothers never could. That is what the future liberals want.
Some movies try to keep you entertained; This one holds your attention like a bite that you can't stop from scratching even though you know it will only make things worse. It's extremely hostile and repulsive, but also too annoying to ignore or not to look anymore. And while the movie all but ends, Mosquito State spreads like a rash until it gets there: angry and fleeting and hard to know where it might lead next, even when we all know what the future holds brings. We all know that bloodsucking is just beginning. But Rymsza's film never ceases to itch for a better morning.
"Mosquito State" premiered out of competition at the Venice International Film Festival. Distribution in the USA is currently being sought.