Queen of Earth
Queen of Earth
2015. Directed by Alex Ross Perry
A frame by frame destruction of the psyche, Queen of Earth is an experience, more than a film.
Elizabeth Moss delivers a career performance as Catherine, who's father has died and boyfriend has left her, leaving her on the edge of a mental breakdown. It might seem cliche' to begin with this premise, the idea that a woman is nothing without support, but you're not given time to protest, as the film literally begins with a frothing, mascara stained Moss howling at her former beau as he leaves her and it's so unsettling you forget any questions and immediately buy in.
In an effort to recover Catherine retreats to a cabin with her friend Virginia for a girl's vacation. The viewer is quickly shown a similar situation from the past in which the roles were reversed and Catherine's decision to bring her boyfriend ruined said girl's weekend. This time however, Virginia, played with a unique menace by Katherine Waterston, has other ideas in mind.
What follows is a chronicle of Moss's character's descent into mental oblivion. Her friend invites a male friend to the getaway, both paralleling the past and viciously stabbing at what little of the protagonist's stability remains.
Filled with fever dreams, hallucinations, and the blurring of past and present, it's difficult to tell what is happening and this is intentional, as it's Moss's delirious odyssey that you're living through.
The title is also a statement, about how each of the characters is master of their own domains, caring little for one another, other than to verbally spar and subtly threaten. It's pure mastery how both Moss and Waterston can insult in one breath, love in another, and intone homicidal impulse in the next.
Perry chose to give the film a vintage, 70's look, perhaps as an homage to the films from which Queen of Earth stands atop to try a different take on a similar premise. Sean Williams' cinematography and Keegan DeWitt's score are both essential pieces of the framework that carries you through a DePalma-esque homage.
You can feel Persona, 3 Women, Repulsion, Sisters, and touch a Mulholland Drive throughout. There is danger everywhere, but it's just out of the sight, in the corner of your eye.
When it ends, you'll feel as if you haven't breathed since it started.