Making films is hard. Even the most talented, visionary film makers struggle to transfer their fears, desires, dreams and nightmares onto the silver screen, so imagine the torturous path for us mere mortals. We might have a distinct, vivid image of what we would want to see on screen, but there is a terrible void between our reality and our dreams. We might think we have truthful characters, profound, thoughtful dialogue and visual landscapes that sear the audience’s brains with their beauty. What we are often left with are wooden, faceless mannequins, stodgy non-language and banal mise en scene. Which leads us onto Fossil.
In the blurb for Fossil, it was described as a film harking back to the French thrillers of the 60’s and 70’s, by directors like Claude Chabrol. This suggests a subtle, sophisticated drama exploring domestic tensions and slow building suspense. Well, at least they tried. The set up is awfully familiar; Paul and Camilla are two Brits abroad in a remote villa in the Dordogne, trying to salvage their fragile marriage while Paul finishes his novel (yeah, I know). Their vacation is interrupted by (wait for it) a free spirited couple, Richard and Julie, who trespass into their unoccupied pool.
The uptight vacationers are shaken by the appearance of Richard, an ageing American lothario and Julie, a 20-something European flower child. While Camilla welcomes the interruption and encourages them to stay, Paul stubbornly resents their presence at his own holiday. As tensions begin to rise and secrets begin to…..oh, who fucking cares? Anyone with half a brain can guess which way this film is headed just by watching the opening 20 minutes. Whereas those hallowed French thrillers of the 60’s were filled with mystery and intrigue, Fossil is merely predictable.
Unfortunately the film is beset by a variety of problems. A drama lives and dies on the quality of its actors, and Fossil has four poor ones. It would be unfair to pin the blame solely on the actors, as they are working with a flat, cliched script, but none of them cover themselves in any glory. Paul (John Sackville) is your stereotypically stoic British male, unwilling to bend to any changes in his lifestyle, while his unhappy wife Camilla (Edith Bukovics) is more open to opportunity. Richard (Grant Masters) is a predictable American caricature, brash and vulgar, while Julie (Carla Juri) is merely playing the seductress. The problem is that none of these characters feel like real people, merely impressions of real people.
The viewer is begging for some kind of inspiration or invention, yet even the direction and photography is lifeless. Director Alex Walker shoots as if making Doctors on holiday, while the banal, sun hued villa evokes as much dread as a Jamie Oliver advert for Sainsburys. In fact there is probably something more nightmarish about a grinning Jamie Oliver wielding tongs in front of a barbecue. Fossil acts as a warning for burgeoning film makers; you can have the most noble intentions in the world but that means little without some talent.