The cold gloom of the Icelandic landscape echoes the frigid and contemplative romance in Angad Aulakh’s Autumn Lights, an eerie drama of secrets that demonstrates how a lonely setting can play upon the emotions.
After he stumbles across the body of a woman who committed suicide, American photographer David (Guy Kent) becomes fascinated with a European couple who may be hiding something about the deceased woman, not to mention their own marital infidelities. But thankfully Autumn Lights doesn’t become The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. It drops the murder mystery and focuses more on the love triangle between David, Marie (Marta Gastini) and her husband Jóhann (Sveinn Ólafur Gunnarsson). There’s a scary shot of Jóhann in a doorway buckling his pants after sleeping with Marie, the camera creeping inward as a sinister reminder of how little love there is between them. Autumn Lights grapples with whether there are actual feelings in these relationships or if its characters just use sex to fight off depression.
Aulakh films in muted colors and wide-open deep-focus takes that play up nature and give room to get inside these people’s heads. The score jumps from chilling, Trent Reznor–like ambiance to more spacey woodwinds and chimes, maintaining the mystique even as the romance grows steamier. “We’re a frail species,” one character says. “People die because they can’t live anymore.”
Autumn Lights examines love while embracing that philosophy of melancholia, and it manages to do so without plunging into tragedy or melodrama. Like the remote region of Iceland where it’s set, the film offers a quiet, thoughtful escape.
Written and directed by Angad Aulakh
Freestyle Digital Media
Opens October 21, Cinema Village