The Scopia Effect Movie Review
Written by Simret Cheema-Innis
Released by Spirit Entertainment
Written and directed by Christopher Butler
2014, 85 minutes, Rated 15 (UK)
DVD released on 15th February 2016
Joanna Ignaczewska as Basia
Louis Labovitch as Dr. Edward Stanton
Akira Koieyama as Akira
Genevieve Sibayan as Bahula
Jessica Jay as Kate
The Scopia Effect is the debut of director Christopher Butler, a name we should all be keeping a look out for and, bearing in mind that his work is so multi-layered, it’s probably best to re-watch his movies.
The film follows Basia (Julia Ignaczewska), a Polish girl who has settled in the UK, has a stable job, nice friends and a decent home, but every week she visits a therapist to overcome anxiety and depression stemming from a past childhood trauma surrounding the death of her mother. The therapist suggests a type of regression therapy which requires her to undergo hypnosis. During this session, Basia transcends into an unknown territory, not only reliving the sinister events that led to the moment her mother died, but also unlocking a portal to past lives who died traumatically or before their time.
Here lies a careful blend of sci-fi, horror and thriller, but the film can be quite testing with the various narrative streams covering different periods in time such as 15th Century England and 18th Century Japan, although spectacularly shot and authentic. This is another reason why it’s important to watch the movie again, so that you can keep abreast of what is happening.
The Scopia Effect is terrifying in a sense that it’s believable, people do have regression therapy and it’s a fact that some react in different ways that can be traumatising. Actress Julia Ignaczewska pulls off a naturalistic and convincing performance, her struggle is agonising as she desperately tries to decipher reality over her newly acquired nightmarish visions. And the nightmare gets progressively worse and abstract, as does the movie, when she descends into hysteria where returning back to any normality is near enough impossible.
Butler has done his research; for example a really empathetic scene shows Basia in a mental health respite ward where the staff are very caring and considerate, a contrast to the sterile mean and unattached staff members/characters often portrayed in asylum-based movies. One health care worker in particular tries to calm Basia, sitting by her bedside during one of her psychotic breaks, the subtext screams ‘What happened to this young girl who had everything going for her?’ And this is the point; mental health issues can happen to anyone at any time.
You get a sense of this movie being an emotional journey for both filmmaker and audience. We start with what feels like a low budget movie with a film graduate aesthetic, but it grows into something sentimental, visually stunning and borderline epic.
Although the audience can get a little lost with the constant changing timelines, by the end of the movie we understand that the story is about reincarnation, even if we don’t know whether the other characters were directly from Basia’s past life or just lost souls who were attracted by her unleashed dark energy.
At this point it probably doesn’t matter too much because we’ve been swept away by the intense cinematography and transcendental visuals, you really feel what Basia has been through, much like how you would feel after watching Enter the Void by Gaspar Noe.
The Scopia Effect is memorable regardless of the narrative flaws because it makes you think for days after about life, reincarnation and even pick up on things that were embedded in your subconscious while watching the movie.
When a movie can create such a philosophical and spiritual resonance, then it must be special and perhaps we should be thankful that a compassionate director who is willing to share these thoughts, questions and possibilities made a film in the first place.
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