directed by Domiziano Delvaux Christopharo runtime: 95 mins Wild Eye Releasing
A man known only as “Him” awakens.
He moves mechanically, robotically to the window. It’s a serene yet unsettling moment. And then, jarringly, he starts masturbating. He actually does this. Then he ejaculates onto the window. He actually does this too, and we see it all happen. He appears to take no pleasure in this. He mechanically, robotically, picks at wounds on his body. He vomits. He takes Fluoxetine. He dresses. He doesn’t say a word. It’s all very mechanical. Robotic.
But his movements. They aren’t sharp. What is it that makes him so robotic? It’s his vacant face. Entirely expressionless. He pukes some more. He is full-frontal naked a lot more. There’s more jacking. More jizz. This is all very cool and calm and everything appears to be in order and I feel like I’m beginning to understand Him.
Stop motion in his sleep. Piss. Pissing all over himself. Rubbing it in. Doing laundry. Self harm. Self-inflicted paper-cuts. More and more puke. A fascination with staples. More laundry. The most emotion he displays is the twitching in his sleep. He makes out with the rim of a toilet in a public restroom. The things he does to himself have me crossing my legs.
So what’s it about? We’ve come to that inevitable part of the review where I’m expected to explain that very thing. Ultimately, amidst the mechanical laundry and the robotic puke, it’s about a very lonely and disturbed man, and his obsession with a woman he notices in public. There are many shocking moments throughout Doll Syndrome, some torture, some sex with a blowup doll and similar sexual deviance, but they play more as accents to the disturbed man’s brain than the focus of the film. This man is outwardly clean and sterile, save for the vile things he does…
Really, Doll Syndrome plays like one long hallucination. In a move that would normally feel like a gimmick, not a word is spoken in the film. Somehow, Christopharo pulls off the feat of making this feel completely natural. Largely due to the outstanding performance of the lead in Tiziano Cella, with much credit also due to the swirling, dulcet music that accompanies every scene. It’s the kind of music you might expect to hear on a 45 minute Godspeed You! Black Emperor outro track.
Okay! It’s time for some more analogies!
If you can imagine Korn’s music video for “Right Now” reimagined by Gus Van Sant, then you know exactly what to expect from Doll Syndrome.
Christopharo’s Doll Syndrome is like Lucky McKee’s May, if May was more Snuff Film and less rom-com.
Doll Syndrome is the Star-Spangled Banner remixed by Enya in collaboration with GWAR.
It’s rare that I watch something that I actually find disturbing. It takes something somewhat relatable to get me worked up. Now, heavens me, I wouldn’t call Doll Syndrome relatable per se, but we’ve all been subject to the soft fog of loneliness. It’s in that space wherein we question all the things we think and challenge what we really believe. Doll Syndrome made me just a little more scared of my own thoughts, and for that I give it all the nickels. Well, most of the nickels.
Wild Eye Releasing is rebranding their Raw line of films as the new Raw & Extreme line of films, of which Doll Syndrome is spine #1. The cover art didn’t have me sold, but I’m glad I gave it a watch.