A generally family friendly fantasy film is not something you generally see coming out of the indie film community, and yet that’s what writer/director Ignatius Fischer, with co-writer Brian Dillon gives us with Lisl & The Lorlok, a story about a young girl whose life is suddenly changed after the death of her grandfather. Lisl travels to the home of her grandparents (her mother’s parents) with her mother, who’s a nurse, and her father who’s a semi-alcoholic writer with a horrible case of writer’s block to help take care of her grandmother and to handle whatever affairs need to be dealt with. When they arrive however, they find that the grandmother has been in a catatonic state ever since her husband’s death, and it’s only when Lisl greets her that she finally comes out of it and snaps back to her normal self. But is she normal? There’s something a little off about her, but what?
Lisl’s grandfather at some point had been given this sort of triangle shaped stone with a hole in the center that her grandfather had found on one of his adventures. He had found several of these stones, and when you put two of them close enough together, they created this beautiful sounding harmonic vibration. As such, they were referred to as singing stones. But do these stones hold a darker secret?
When Lisl discovers that her grandmother, who’s apparently into the occult and spells and such is summoning the ghost of her grandfather late at night in her room, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Lisl soon discovers that there’s even more going on. Her mother, who loves photography, finds an old film camera in her father’s things and becomes completely obsessed with taking photos. Her father, who up until now had writer’s block, suddenly and obsessively begins to write, and even sleeps in the study in front of an old typewriter that also belonged to his wife’s father. As their obsessions deepen, even to the point that their health deteriorates, Lisl makes a discovery. There’s some kind of a giant insect that lives in a guest house on the property. Eventually, she finds an old parchment written in Russian that, when her grandmother helps her to translate it, describes the creature as a Lorlok. The creature creates an obsession in its victims so it can feed off of their obsessions somehow by inserting some sort of a proboscis into their heads. Somehow the singing stones are involved, as the Lorlok has been collecting them and taking them to a nest in the guest house, but what’s it doing with them, and will Lisl be able to stop the Lorlok before it destroys her family? You’ll have to watch to find out.
This film is really beautifully made and visually, a treat to watch. Beyond that though, the cast was just spectacular. When you combine a film that’s beautifully made from a technical standpoint, that tells a good story and has that story presented by a really great cast…you couldn’t ask for more.
Speaking of the cast, they were just really amazing all around. Katerina Fischer as Lisl did a great job of feeling "real". The character wasn’t written to be precocious, and wasn’t acted that way either. She feels like a real girl in a real situation, although there are some issues with that story-wise, but I’ll get to that in a minute.
Ivan Borntrager as Lisl’s father Harrison, and Kimberly Parmon as her mother Mischa both delivered really natural and very believable performances. Speaking of Kimberly Parmon, aside from the fact that she’s a really awesome actress, she’s also one of the most purely beautiful girls I’ve ever seen. I mean really, she’s just phenomenally beautiful. You’ll have to forgive me for breaking out of reviewer mode for a moment to say that, but hey, I’m a guy. I notice these things.
Ivan Borntrager’s performance as Lisl’s father was very strange in a way, because he had to sort of switch back and forth between being a really nice, loving father and being a total jerk to everyone as his obsession took hold of him and his anger flared whenever he was interrupted. He handled the complexity of the character incredibly well and pulled it off perfectly. It would have been easy to make a character like that feel forced or disjointed in some way, but Ivan did a great job with it.
Bobbye Louise Ames as Grandma also turned in a really special performance. She balanced being spacey and weird with being a loving grandmother really well. The character had to be a difficult one to play and to pull off properly, but she seemed to do it with ease.
Now, as awesome as the production quality, acting, visuals, locations and set design were in this film, it did have a couple of small issues that I would be remiss in not mentioning.
First, the film is very slow paced, at times feeling like it’s crawling along. I guess it all served to develop the story in one way or another, and it was only the quality of the characters and their performances that really saved the film from having this become a major issue. As it is, yes it’s slow, but the characters keep it from becoming boring.
Another issue was some of Lisl’s reactions to the Lorlok. There were a couple of instances where she saw signs of it, like a leg or something, and ran away, yet she didn’t say anything about it to anyone. She just went back to interacting with her family as if nothing had really happened. That seemed rather unrealistic. Even if she figured they wouldn’t believe her, I think any normal kid would have at least said something to someone about what they saw.
The Lorlok itself was another issue. While the CGI creature actually looked really great, there was a problem with scale. In some scenes it was huge, while in others, it didn’t seem as big. This wasn’t a big deal really, but just something I noticed.
Lastly, the whole connection between the Lorlok and the singing stones isn’t really explained well, especially as to the point of why it’s collecting them all. The thing about it creating obsessions with people so it can feed off of those obsessions wasn’t overly well explained either, nor was the fact that when the objects of their obsessions were destroyed or removed, they suddenly snapped out of it.
While these aren’t huge issues and don’t really detract from the enjoyment of the film, but they were things that I noticed while I was watching it, and as such, needed to be mentioned.
The long and the short of it is, this is a really wonderful film. It’s films like this that really show how great independent film can be. The professionalism of the production is simply first rate, and everyone involved should be congratulated for what they’ve created, and most especially, for creating a type of film that has for far too long been under-represented in independent film circles.
The film is currently making the rounds at various film festivals. If you get a chance to check it out, make sure you do, and when it becomes available for sale, you’ll definitely want to consider adding this gem to your collection.
If you’d like to find out more about this film, you can check out the film’s website at http://www.lislandthelorlok.com/wp.