Emmanuel Beart and Rufus Sewell star as parents who travel to tsunami-ravaged Burma in a hopeless quest to find their missing son in Fabrice Du Welz’s trippy second feature Vinyan. As insistently disorienting as The Ordeal, Du Welz’s debut, the film takes a headlong dive into the heart of darkness, using risible but effective orientalism to create a moody and anxiety-ridden feel.
These expatriate parents’ quest, which begins with the glimpse of an indiscernible image in a video, only grows more desperate as it proceeds. It quickly becomes apparent that the guides they’ve hired are out to swindle them, and as they delve deeper into the rain forests of the region, it becomes increasingly possible that they’re hopelessly lost. Even before they head out into the wilderness, Du Welz throws garish dream sequences on screen. As the situation becomes more dire, and the psychological toll the search is taking increases, the movie becomes only more chaotic.
Throughout Vinyan, as in any good horror film, the threat of the other looms large. Thanks to committed performances by Beart and Sewell, though, it becomes obvious that the relationship their characters share might never be the same again, regardless of their son’s fate. The unspoken tensions that exist between the two seem to manifest themselves in the phantasmagoric rain forest that they descend into. While some might object to Vinyan’s portrait of the region as a place where madness becomes an asset in the quest for survival, there’s no doubt that in both generic and human terms Du Welz does a superb job of crafting menace.