This is the greatest thing anyone has ever written about my work. Ever! Please take the time to read Alexander Wheill’s wonderful review of my new film EROTICIDE. His words truly make me feel vindicated for having “come out of retirement” to make my most personal film to date. Thank you very, very much!

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EROTICIDE Review
by Alexander Wheill

Perhaps one of the greatest things about shooting an independent film when you are a writer and director is how the chances that your vision gets butchered or adapted to suit the needs of either outside investors or commercial appeal is extremely limited. Granted, one is always limited when shooting an independent feature, but in most cases, one actually manages to get the basic ideas out there regardless of financial limitations. Perhaps what makes the success of Mathew Saliba’s own “post-retirement” film EROTICIDE is exactly that; it suffers of absolutely no major changes from his original idea, save for a few minor production details which do not affect either story nor character development in any way.

And that is the driving essence of the film, its uncompromised and un-flattering look into the depth of human psyche, centered around three sides, or portraits of different forms of addiction. However do not let this fool you into thinking this is another re-hashed approach at looking through the eyes of bonged-out post grunge needle loving thrill seekers; EROTICIDE in fact explores facets often left either neglected or barely grazed upon of other forms of addiction, far from that of illicit sensory and mind altering formats. I would also venture by saying this film presents its points in brutal honesty without falling into any trappings set forth by the conventions usually associated with the genre. EROTICIDE is, and always was about three characters and how their lives intertwine one fateful moment which will change their existence forever. Perhaps often a “predictable” formula for indie films, Mathew Saliba manages to flesh out characters which are both realistic and profoundly vibrant in their sensibilities.

His script always was something which I felt dangerously too close to, and when I had the privilege of assisting in a chunk of the casting of the film, I felt as though I almost understood why it was important for the characters to “be” and exist in the world of Saliba’s creation. In terms of performance, the only way one could ever offer any form of criticism would be from a personal point of view, for example if the director himself thought one actor did not inhabit the character perfectly the way he had envisioned it in his script, which makes it both fruitless and extremely selfish for anyone else to even dare attempt any form of criticism, although I must admit that being a stickler for characters and details, I had my doubts.

The strongest doubt I had was with lead Jocelin Haas but his portrayal of Yan was, to put it in such simple terms, spot on. Never missing a beat, existing only as the character during every single frame on-screen, Haas has managed to become the character of Yan in a way that is both hypnotic and mesmerizing. A very difficult role to pull off, done so with incredible credibility.

Similarly to Haas, Stephanie Van Rijn plays the sensitive Elise, counterpart of Yan, with an equal, although completely different determination. Perhaps one of the most difficult roles to portray in the film, Stephanie manages to make every single emotional turn the character of Elise takes feel nothing short but real, and in the moment. Her brilliant mastery of the subtle complexities of the character is something worth enjoying time and again as nothing she does in the film is easy, even though as a mere voyeur of the piece, one would take it all for granted and never realize just how much effort she puts into her performance, just as much as Jocelin. Together, the increasingly distorted-fusion of their couple on screen reads the stuff of every film maker’s fantasy: believable character living real emotion and evolving throughout the events.

Just when things could not get any more interesting, the character of Kendra enters the fold to both spice things up and disturb the shit soup, so to speak. Portrayed with nothing short but absolutely mesmerizing gusto by Lisa Di Capa, Kendra is not as much the Vader to Jocelin and Stephanie’s Luke and Leia, but more in the vein of Palpatine. The delicious and indescribable pleasures of portraying the quintessential “bad guy” (or in this case, the evil bitch!) in a movie is a fantasy most actors dream about, but the line between credibility and ridiculous is a thin one, a challenge which is by no means any small feat for the powerful and talented Di Capa who’s consistent body of work speaks for itself. Either the most difficult character to flesh out or perhaps just a stretch of reality, Kendra ends up becoming more human on screen than in script form, thanks to the carefully detailed performance by Di Capa who shines just as bright on screen as her co-stars, all the while not simply revealing the dark side of the story, but that which inhabits the characters themselves, and in the end, within us all. Granted, we are not all addicted to love/relationships/co-dependency, to power and control, or to secrecy and humiliation, but in the not so distinguished words of a close friend of mine, “we all have our sin”.

If I was to have my limbs twisted, I imagine I could be forced to reveal a few minor and unnoticeable flaws of the performances, but that would only not amount to much in comparison to the truly magnificent and hypnotic acting of the terrific trio selected for this role. I realize I am long winded and that these written words may seem like intellectual masturbation, so I shall focus my final words to a more precise and concise point.

Andree-Anne Saliba‘s re-treatment of the script to have the film a true bilingual piece is also flawless, incredibly respectful to the original all-English script. A veritable tour de force, if you will allow me to say (and I did study a bit of translation in my day, which is saying something).

Kamel Khalifa‘s photography is not simply perfect, but adds elements of aesthetic texture without being too fake-Hollywood over-airbrushed the way most commercial films are made. Every single framing shot and image is a testament to visual perfection. Khalifa’s lens also manages to vibrantly hug and pet the most un-cluttered and also subtle production design by Rick Creedy and Jono Aitchison. Ever since I started appreciating film beyond the point of actors and cinematography, I learned the fine art of production design was an absolute must in order to help create the realism of any film’s setting.

Basically, it all boils down to EROTICIDE being the meeting of numerous talented people who gave their best for the sake of crafting one man’s visceral vision without monetary compensation, and yet without the lack of a paycheck ever being an issue to compromise on any level.

This film is not an easy all-ages fun filled adventure; it’s very nature, which in turn reveals a much deeper side to our knowing our loved ones, and in essence ourselves, is a raw but realistic interpretation of a great deal of things we take for granted in our everyday lives, the nature of trust, commitment, and emotional attachments.

Seeing as how EROTICIDE can be seen as this side’s informal masterpiece, a credit to all who were involved, one can only speculate, and anticipate, what the next move for any one on this production will be, for they now have incredible expectations to fulfill. But even a film only half-hearted as EROTICIDE is would be twice as good as most other so-called art-films out there, and is indeed a “must” see at least once in your life, when you feel you are ready to share your inner demons with your better half.

Oh don’t get me wrong, I would have tons more to say and perhaps a more critical approach to the final film, but that would take away the spotlight from those who deserve to have it shined on them!

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