I don’t tend to toss names like Lynch or Polanski around a lot because, well frankly, most motherfuckers ain’t got the chops to live up to it! But there are those rare occasions where you see a film that gives you a glimpse into a guy who’s influences have manifested themselves in a positive way. By that I mean, it’s evident they were influenced by certain individuals, but their films have their own identity. Take James Rewucki’s “Aegri Somnia” as a good example of just that. I’m sure if one would ask Rewucki if he were influenced by these filmmakers, he’d probably say yes, but I don’t think that would be the definitive explanation of who he is striving to be as an artist. Instead, what you can see for yourself in his film, is a guy who has a lot of really fantastic ideas on how to steer a narrative into some weird places while still being captivating and scary, all at once.
The film’s primary character, Edgar (Tyhr Trubiak), is a shell of a human being- too frail to be noticeable, but too odd to ignore. He’s in a dead, loveless marriage with Muriel, who just as soon tell him to jump off of a building as to say hello. Edgar sorta of sulks his way through life where he will seemingly die unnoticed. One drab evening, after arriving home from work, Edgar and Muriel quickly start in on one another. Muriel heads off to take a bath, where she apparently takes her own life. From this point on, Edgar’s life goes into a perpetual tailspin that blurs his concepts of what is his reality, and what are his dreams. His attempts at social normalcy are often thwarted by his inability to differentiate between what’s in his head and what is tangible/real. In this reality/parallel universe, lots of people die horrible deaths, but Edgar always seems to come back to present day. As bodies pile up, Edgar loses his grip on life and becomes engulfed in his own dream world, without any possible exit. Much like Edgar’s life, the film too, is blanketed by this strange otherworld, that is born of Edgar’s suffering. His inability to maintain his sanity leads him to face the consequences of his actions, where he is judged by a jury from another place, and where fairness and morality are aligned with evil and violence. In the end, were these Edgar’s dreams we saw, or was this in fact, real?
Aegri Somnia is not going to win over the masses. In fact, I could see this flick repelling many-a horror fan. It’s heavily reliant on abstract imagery and doesn’t make itself clear to the viewer until well into the third act. Once you’ve figured out that his psychosis became reality, you’re trapped. It’s soooo heavy on the weird, that it will be conceived as pretentious by a lot of people. And I have a hard time arguing against that. We all have a sick fetish for schlock and it has a tendency to make us forget about some of the weird things that we love about film. Well, if you need a reminder then watch Aegri Somnia. It’s got a nice combination of “Eraserhead” while also taking you to whatever the hell planet Terry Gilliam lives on. As the movie weaves between reality and fantasy (for lack of a better term), it also shifts from black & white to color. This is what’s used to draw that line for us. The oddest part about it is eventually, we aren’t able to make the distinction. Neither is Edgar-and when everything goes shit house, the film plunges you into a hell that could terrify the most hardened of horror fanatic.
The longer I sat here trying to figure out how to describe the film, the more I felt I wasn’t going to do it justice. Every object in the film is a character, so you are faced with the challenge of fearing everything around every turn. The cinematography is so on-point, you’re shocked that this is an indie. Rewucki’s film looks like a combination of Lynch, Polanski, Kafka, and Gilliam films of yore, but has a prominently modern slant that will hold the attention of newer audiences. Aegri Somnia is the stuff that midnight movies are made of. I’d venture as far as to say that if this film were placed on a double bill with “El Topo”, the audience’s minds would’ve been so fucked, they could’ve verged on no chance of recovering. It has the power to draw you in immediately, making damn sure you have to intention of walking away until you know what happened…but you may not know by the film’s end. Drugs aren’t required for viewing, but they may provide some clarity.
I have no idea if James Rewucki considers what he made a horror film (I don’t know if I do, for that matter.), but as someone who appreciates getting his head messed with, Aegri Somnia was a fun ride. Those of us that have found pleasure in weirdness, will certainly find pleasure in this film. There’s no telling what kind of shit will happen from one scene to the next, and when something does happen, you don’t know if it was real or not. Sound crazy and confusing? It is. But it’s got a lot of fun shit going on too-the red stuff is plentiful, the hellhounds(?) are good and scary, and there’s a chamber of suicide toward the end of the film that would make Dante shiver. Aegri Somnia has all the great things about a horror film, without actually being a conventional horror film. I’m still a little confused as to whether this was the filmmaker’s intent, but it’s messed up just enough to make us freaks fall in love with it.