The Quay Brothers have an extraordinary feel for texture, just like one of their main influences, Jan Svankmajer. And not just the texture of objects (though that is there too). the texture of movement, the ways in which the camera can push in or pan across a body as that body jitters or flows down the eye-line, all suggesting character by the feeling of these motions.
And here, in their live action debut, it is this sense of texture that gives their film a truly otherworldly vibe, the way they shoot like they are shooting one of their stop motion films, only with real life people with real life emotions standing in the dioramas instead of puppets.
All of this is to say that here, in a tale of an institute for manservants and the collapse of desire, the idea that their actors are stuck between being puppets and humans in entirely appropriate. As the Brothers Quay delve deeper into their almost unfathomably beautiful dreamscape, it becomes harder to focus on the particulars of the plot (what little of it isn’t completely abstracted). One can only watch the shake of the hands and the swift jump of the camera to understand these characters, to understand their plights.
The Brothers Quay come closer than perhaps anyone but David Lynch in recreating the feeling of dreams in their work, though the Brothers are undoubtedly more optimistic. I nodded off once or twice during this film, and it felt apt, as every time I awoke as if I was still asleep.
A beautiful film, and one I will have to revisit to unravel.