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Piercing is a film by Nicolas Pasce, from the novel by Ryû Murakami. A young, married man, Reed (Christopher Abbot) fantasizes about killing a prostitute. He has a beautiful young wife, Mona (Laia Costa—as an aside, she is mesmerizing in Las Pequeńas Cosas, a brilliant little short film) and a baby.
Under the guise of a business trip, he checks into a hotel and orders a prostitute, with a plan to fulfill his fantasy. When the prostitute he has requested is delayed, he opts for one that will be more immediate. An hour later Jackie (Mia Wasikowska) arrives.
Reed is a little nervous, his equilibrium disrupted by Jackie’s slightly oddball questioning. When she asks to go to the bathroom for a shower, Reed acquiesce. A little time passes and Reed checks to see how Jackie is in the bathroom. Getting no response, he enters the room to see her stabbing herself in the thigh with scissors.
Reed takes her to the hospital. Whilst Jackie is in the hospital, Reed calls Mona. She knows all about his fantasy and encourages him to stick with Jackie. When Jackie comes out of the hospital, he goes back to her place with her. At her place, Jackie gives Reed a hallucinogenic in his food. As he is disorientated, she hits him several times with a pizza cutter.
Reed regains a modicum of lucidity and Jackie, believing that she is just in a BDSM fantasy, allows him to tie her hands and gag her with a cloth. Still confused, Reed tells her he is going to stab her with an ice pick. Jackie, understandably, begins to panic.
Fortunately for Jackie, the hallucinogen causes Reed to pass out. Whilst he is unconscious, she reads his journal. It details his entire plan to get a prostitute, bind and gag her and then kill her with an ice pick and how to dispose of the body.
Reed wakes up to find himself bound and stripped, with a gag in his mouth. Jackie comes over to him and torments him with the ice pick. She removes the ice pick so as he can speak. He asks to eat, which was the same thing she said to him just before his whole plan started to go sideways. The end.
Oh, where to start. To be clear, I watch these obscure films on Netflix, so that you might not have to. Piercing is 81 minutes of pure pretension.
It is, to focus for a moment on the positive, a beautifully shot film. It is shot in a predominantly red and brown hue, very clean, modern lines and colour blocks. Quite striking, crisp images.
There is a quite inventive scene when Reed is planning his way around the hotel room and imagining how each aspect of his murder fantasy would play out. Zack Galler is credited with the cinematography, so well done that man.
The soundscape used in that scene is creepily gripping. Christopher Abbot is believably off, as the fantasist Reed, talking to himself and creating sound effects, as he acts out the coming deed.
There is a lovely split screen as Mia Wasikowska’s Jackie makes her way to the hotel room, we see Reed mimicking the action of stabbing her. The locations used really work for the camera shots and in creating a particular world for these characters.
The music in the film is also very good, as is the acting, such as it is. It is a pity that in terms of quality—acting, cinematography, sound, music—the film's elements are very good. The story, whilst intriguing, is poorly executed.
The script is patchy with not enough external interactions to contrast the peculiarity of the central duo. Reed is supposed to be presenting himself as relatively normal, yet he comes off quite Norman Bates-esque.
There is another creative sequence during his hallucinogenic phase which could have worked so much better if the entire film was not so one toned. The weirdness of the sequence is, as it should be, out of place, but not enough to make it jump out in a film that is strange in every aspect.
As a writer myself and filmmaker, I tend to love actors. They have a skill and fearlessness, when good, that is brilliant to behold. Unfortunately, their desire to please and expand their craft in some instants can have them signing on to work on artsy, nonsensical, tripe such as this.
Piercing is not a good film and I would not recommend wasting 81 minutes of your life on it. You're welcome.