Piercing is an unusual, stylish and very disturbing showcase of depraved desires. The film can come off as a meaningless excuse to show how twisted some people are but it has just enough intrigue to make it worth watching.
Piercing possesses expectedly solid performances from Mia Wasikowska (Alice In Wonderland) and Christopher Abbott (It Comes At Night) playing a prostitute and the man who planned to kill her to fulfil his dark desires. Abbott’s character leaves his wife and baby at home to go on what appears to be a business trip, but we soon learn his real intentions in a standout sequence in which he rehearses his plan accompanied by some wonderful sound design.
Once Wasikowska enters the movie, the depravity really kicks in as we learn she herself holds in similarly sadistic lust. What appears at the start to be a psychopath capturing an innocent turns into one of the most disturbing romances in recent memory. Piercing shows two people whose desires are so brutal and simply lets the audience sit in that for the whole film.
Surprisingly, the film is occasionally quite touching, realising that the two both seem to have found someone that fits them perfectly. It is very hard to look past the twisted violence, however, despite how stylish it is. Piercing certainly embraces its depravity but any meaningful story often seems forgotten about.
This could have been a truly quite beautiful romance film had bloodlust and gore not been so prevalent. The happiness of finding someone that seems to understand your psyche is an incredibly human emotion and the two characters, while often in serious pain, do seem to have that feeling.
Piercing also possesses a small aspect of body horror. There are some incredibly intense and disturbing scenes of hallucinations which are actually some of the more positively memorable elements. However, the film does always feel like its trying to say something but is far too interested in the depravity. In a way, it would be more successful if it had simply gone fully into entertainment, rather than seeming to be a sort of odd satirical romance tale.
Writer/director Nicolas Pesce (The Eyes of My Mother) adapted this story from a novel written by Ryu Murakami and it is easy to see why it caused such controversy upon original publication. Piercing is quite unlike anything you’re likely to see any time soon. It’s just a shame that statement is both a positive and negative one.
It is difficult to recommend this film as it consistently feels very unbalanced. There are some scenes that are wholly impressive and others that feel either utterly pointless or simply too gratuitous. A well made showcase but certainly missing something.