Between The Divide
Review by Barry Germansky
April 2nd, 2018
Writer-director Alistair Railton’s BETWEEN THE DIVIDE (2017) is a haunting detective thriller that overcomes the technical limitations of its ultra-low budget with pointed writing and the successful evocation of a claustrophobic atmosphere.
Taking place primarily within the confines of a cold and sterile interrogation room, the film follows Detective Eve Fischer (Francesca Louise White) as she struggles to solve a mysterious murder case while battling equally mysterious personal demons. Eve’s two main suspects, Harriet (Rayanna Dibs) and a man called Nameless (Mark Wisdom), end up playing a series of mind games with her that blur the line between fantasy and reality. By the time the film reaches its startling conclusion, all three individuals have taken on alternate personas.
The film follows a long cinematic tradition of persona-hopping narratives that most prominently began with Robert Wiene’s 1919 German Expressionist masterpiece, THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI. Aesthetically, Railton opts for a more austere and naturalistic rendering of these themes. In this sense, BETWEEN THE DIVIDE bears a closer resemblance to Ingmar Bergman’s PERSONA (1966), a somewhat overrated film that cheapens and literalizes the superior aesthetic and thematic concerns of German Expressionism, the greatest film movement to ever originate outside Hollywood. But whereas Bergman’s one-note minimalism is the result of a lack of imagination, Railton’s minimalism is born out of necessity: an austere interrogation room makes for an economical location.
The film’s main aesthetic issue is its spotty sound design. Another aesthetic issue is the editing, which is not as crisp as it should be. Both faults are technical in nature and would have been easily remedied with the blessing of a higher post-production budget.
The film’s greatest strength, though, is its characters’ monologues. The best ones are reserved for Nameless. A sinister silkiness flows effortlessly from his words, adorning him with a pleasant, almost Dickensian aura of self-awareness. Actor Mark Wisdom seems to have fun with Nameless’ monologues, and his performance is at once tongue-in-cheek and genuinely intense.
BETWEEN THE DIVIDE demonstrates that Alistair Railton is a promising filmmaker who deserves a higher budget for his next film.