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BIFFF 2021

Review: Hotel Poseidon

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- Presented in a world premiere at the BIFFF, the first feature film by Belgium’s Stef Lernous takes the viewer on a creepy and off-the-wall hallucinogenic trip

Review: Hotel Poseidon
Tom Vermeir in Hotel Poseidon

Welcome to Hotel Poseidon, a small, boutique establishment boasting innovative and personal interior design: a fusion of green-tinged and decrepit design, with visible mould, generalised chaos and utter filth on every floor.

The hotel isn’t fully open – though nothing is straightforward in times of a global pandemic -, but if you play your cards right with Dave (Tom Vermeir), the jailer - no, sorry - the manager of the establishment, he should be able to find you a small and airy room that’s more or less rodent-free.

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Every morning, Dave wakes up tired in his closed hotel where, strangely, everything seems to malfunction. Neon strips flicker, lightbulbs come close to exploding, taps drip, naturally, and fridges hum. Without great conviction yet tirelessly, he performs the same rituals, feigning a passing interest in basic personal hygiene, knocking back pills, smoothing gel into his hair and covering himself in deodorant. There is a foul smell in the air, after all.

Whilst Dave might seem deeply depressive (to say the least), and there’s no denying he doesn’t look too healthy, a glimmer of melancholy can still be detected in the depths of his somewhat lacklustre eyes, which might, over time, give rise to a whisper of hope… At least that seems to be the thinking of a young Dutch tourist who’s determined to drop anchor at the Hotel Poseidon. She doesn’t yet realise that her stay will be punctuated by unlikely encounters and collective hallucinations which either turn into nightmares or result in some form of rebirth.

It’s hard to explain the very specific aesthetic of Hotel Poseidon [+see also:
interview: Stef Lernous
film profile
]
, which is the first feature film by Belgium’s Stef Lernous (presented in a world premiere within the Brussels International Fantastic Film Festival (BIFFF)’s White Raven Competition); it’s one of decay, which plays on the viewer’s disgust; a disgust, however, which might turn to fascination: a somewhat unhealthy fascination, perhaps, for the sordid and the grotesque, for a repugnant world, which sounds somewhat familiar…

Often, in film, apocalypses are spectacular, sending a shockwave overturning lives and certainties. Here, far from being a big event, apocalypse is a slow and insidious process. At first glance, the agonising souls inhabiting the hotel seem to be an entirely unintimidating army of depressive zombies. Soon, however, they appear to us as beings who are very much alive, albeit living a degraded and rotten form of life.

The world of Hotel Poseidon, a putrid kingdom, is in full decay. It’s on the verge of decomposition, suffering from a systemic decline which gives rise to widespread squalor. It is, however, a world between two worlds. It’s yet to turn into a heap of ruins, at the point before it’s possible to wipe the slate clean… Just before the end.

Straight out of the imagination of Stef Lernous, the theatre director who founded the Abbatoir Fermé theatre company, the film is a big screen transposition of a slapstick and nightmaresque visual universe, which is as much inspired by Lynch as it is by Bosch. Hotel Poseidon offers up a succession of grotesque and bizarre portraits which take viewers, who are receptive to his universe, on a wholly hallucinogenic bad trip, where they are invited to consider a society in utter decay, and rotting from the inside out, from which only a minimum of life force and a return to nature can offer an escape and a new beginning. It’s an unexpected and demanding film experience which isn’t necessarily to everyone’s taste, wagering on fascination, if not out-and-out trance.

Hotel Poseidon is produced by Abattoir Fermé in co-production with Potemkino.

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(Translated from French)

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