February 22, 2021 The Pond (Movie Review)
What if there is more to the world than what can be perceived by our human senses? In the new Folk Horror/Esoteric Thriller offering The Pond, one man’s research presents a riddle that seemingly only he can solve. Shout Factory, the combined forces of Shout! Studios and Scream Factory, delivers the film to home theaters via Digital and On Demand beginning Tuesday, February 23, 2021.
Directed by Petar Pasic (Soliter 2000, About Bugs and Heroes 2018), who co-wrote the screenplay along with Dusan Bulic (Last Drop short 2012, Zigosani u reketu series), The Pond’s central figure is a recent widower (Marco Canadea: Queen 2013, Streaker 2017) and a former professor of anthropology who has left behind academia to pursue his research in a tiny Balkan village. He finds his daily escape in a quiet camper on a remote island, occasionally partaking of a game of chess with a cajoling local (Paul Leonard Murray: Papillon 2017, Tau 2018) to break up the monotony.
Across the pond and back at his home, his daughter Gabby (Sasha Bright) is entrusted to the care of a nanny named Abby (Leslie Kunz: Into the Badlands series, Lincoln Road 2021). Often waking from her dreams in a panic, the young girl claims to see monsters—while sleeping and awake. But she begins to grow increasingly uncomfortable when she starts to hear noises in the house.
Thick with supernatural dread, the film’s ominous atmosphere meanders languidly toward the professor’s eventual descent into madness as he is haunted by the belief that something sinister is out to get him. Steeped in heavy symbology, with notes of the occult and mentions of Dante’s Inferno, The Pond is apt to inspire cross-discipline discussion that involves science, anthropology, philosophy, religion, and more.
Rather than delay the inevitable, let’s just be up front: The Pond is not a film for everyone. Its esoteric material is mired in occult and pagan symbology, visual metaphors, and is clearly steeped in Balkan folklore and superstition. Which basically amounts to an intriguing, slow burn riddle that very few viewers will manage to solve. But that’s not to say that those of us who didn’t major in obscure iconography can’t take something away from the tale, though it might not be an entirely satisfying solution to the puzzle.
So if finding yourself utterly confounded doesn’t bother you, well, The Pond has plenty to offer. From its astounding knack for creepy but artful imagery, along with Cinematographer Vladan G. Jankovic’s (Loveless Zoritsa 2012, About Bugs and Heroes 2018) moody atmosphere and tone, as well as appropriately muted colors, the visual experience is an inspired one, one that is likely to linger with viewers long after the film’s bizarre conclusion.
Plot-wise, however, terms like “esoteric,” “mind-bending,” and their ilk are pretty indicative of what moviegoers can expect. Fraught with an overabundance of perplexing but intriguing visuals, the film’s ultimate message is either a simple thought camouflaged in complex but misleading minutiae, or it’s so deeply rooted in Balkan folklore and superstition as to be a conundrum for the non-native mind. Whatever the case, the mystery of The Pond is part and parcel with its intrigue: a film that concludes with no blatant answers, leaving its audience to debate its themes for days after their viewing experience.
Its success comes much in thanks to its cast, who deliver their often ambiguous roles with finesse. Canadea, in particular, is charged with carrying much of the film’s weight on his shoulders, and he delivers an exceptional performance as the nameless professor. Convincing as an academic and a man who would seek out solitude, his character is not much of a father as he is clearly obsessed with his work. Canadea communicates these points to his audience effectively, and has a natural chemistry with his co-stars.
To say much more would be difficult, as this story is apt to inspire a million different thoughts. A slow-burn of superstition and grief, The Pond is a peculiar visual puzzle that is not intended for a wide audience. Perplexing enough to hold viewers through its 95 minute runtime, it is an excellent mindbender that we hope to one day solve. For this, Cryptic Rock gives The Pond 3.5 of 5 stars.