The famous Gibraltar apes climb indifferently around the buildings of the town, with the famed rock itself looming in the background. The ocean stretches out endlessly around them, and it’s primarily out in the open water that director Wolfgang Fischer’s remarkable Styx takes place. Along with the visual and technical accomplishment of these scenes, it would seem that an extraordinary amount of patience was required to capture the film’s monkey-based prelude.
Rike (Susanne Wolff) is an emergency response doctor working in Cologne, always first on the scene of an accident in an introduction that concisely demonstrates her capabilities. She arrives in Gibraltar where her yacht is moored, and begins a long, solo journey to Ascension Island, practically the definition of isolated. But isolation is what she craves, and the movie is free of dialogue for a significant earlier portion. Her voyage to somewhere that is also nowhere is abruptly interrupted when she spots a distressed vessel, seemingly full of refugees. Rike quickly and disturbingly learns that the collective desire to preserve human life isn’t always so straightforward.
Styx is filmmaking stripped back, retracted to its most basic elements, which gives it a power and complexity that elicits a tangible emotional response, in this case a sense of discomfort. Rike is a doctor, and so is familiar with protocols. Logic dictates that she should call for assistance, and so she does. The coastguard’s flippant response to being notified of a group of refugees in a hopeless situation, along with the dismissive attitudes of nearby commercial vessels (which caused audible gasps at the press screening), activates a conflict between Rike’s sense of social responsibility and what she has been instructed to do (and why). Wolff (largely performing alone) is superb. The tension can be unrelenting at times, and this isn’t a thriller in the conventional sense. A simple, sparse setup results in a powerful piece of filmmaking.
Styx does not have a UK release date yet.
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Watch a clip from Styx here: