Grainy video close-up of gyrating flesh, a pulsing soundtrack: Tim Leyendekker’s IFFR Tiger Competition entry Feast begins with an ominous feeling and then pulls back to reveal its Brechtian core. This essay film/documentary hybrid studies an incident wherein men in the Dutch city of Groningen were unwittingly injected with HIV at parties. In an opening sequence lasting over 10 minutes, an inspector coldly lays out and describes objects from the scene of the crime from coke cans to drugs to sex toys.
Leyendekker’s debut uses ultra-HD photography to capture philosophical ramblings, lifting them from the realm of the real. Three men watch their past selves through a two-way mirror, discussing the veracity of their memories. Sometimes they behave like sociopathic ubermensch, but other times they appear scared, like Peter Lorre. The meticulous production design is filled with sly background jokes. Legal language around consent is broken down and its bias against gay men put under the microscope. Bored, curious, sick, the men plot to infect others with their own blood.
But that’s just one of the formal tools Leyendekker pulls out in his attempt to understand this awful case. He employs seven different cinematographers – including Peter Greenaway collaborator Benito Strangio – across the same number of scenes. One episode unfolds in a close-up so extreme that it’s unclear who it looks at; the audience just sees pale skin moving left and right against a black backdrop as one of the men gives their testimony. Another sequence avoids faces entirely, focussing on hands and objects, like a Bresson film. At every point, Feast pulls back from the expectations of narrative satisfaction to give the viewer a multitude of perspectives on one incident. It’s less like Rashomon than an internet deep dive, where differing sources on the same event merge into one holistic view.
Feast is released digitally on demand on 3rd February 2021.
Watch the trailer for Feast here: