MatteoWouters’s review published on Letterboxd:
My only first watch of Zurich Film Festival
This film is INSANE. Just... absolutely insane. In every way.
I was very excited for this film and the feeling I had coming out of it is honestly difficult to describe, so don't expect a lengthy review since these are just my first impressions and there's a lot I'm sure I either missed or failed to interpret or understand on a first viewing, although this feeling only makes me more excited for rewatches of this beautiful piece of art; all you need to know is that this is easily one of the very best films of the year and probably the most well-made out of all of them, and this is genuinely the work of a master.
Now I'm not gonna delve too much into this film but I do wanna mention the things that amazed me and was actually able to appreciate on a first watch. First of all, Robert Eggers REALLY stepped up his game with this film: in terms of craft alone this honestly just seems like something that Bergman would make in his prime, and if that's not a compliment then I don't know what is. The style of this film is really unique and just crazy, both with its aspect ratio as well as the absolutely beautiful and precise/carefully thought out cinematography, and each filmmaking element is masterfully executed and fits and works in unison perfectly, from the exceptional music to the incredible production design and the top-tier sound design as well as the superb editing, especially and noticeably when things start to get more crazy as each of these elements complements the film in that regard. In fact, this is probably the best way to describe this film and what I gained the most from it: a perfectly executed slow descent into madness. For half of this film my eyes were WIDE open at the powerful madness being displayed on screen and a lot of it has to do with the performances.
Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe both give the best performances of their entire careers and deliver two of the best and most impressive performances I've honestly ever seen: the shit they had to do in this movie is stuff that most actors probably either wouldn't want to or are unable to pull off (also considering the batshit crazy wheather that permeates throughout most of the film and surely must have resulted into the production being such a pain in the ass for everybody involved), and there are so many points throughout this film where I was just astounded by the sheer power their performances had. It obviously helps that, as expected from Robert Eggers, they have to work with some of the best and most accurate and challenging material and dialogue you could wish for, so much so that despite always being able to get the gist of what was going on, without subtitles it was extremely difficult, if not impossible, to fully understand the majority of what was being said, and this is one of the many aspects of this film that truly brings you into its world in such a unique and effective way. The relationship between the two main characters especially, which is the core of the film, is extremely well-developed, with many clever and purposeful reincorporations that I caught but also I'm sure I missed on my first watch, and the chemistry between both the characters and the actors is astounding and works incredibly well. Something that I feel obligated to mention as well is that what surprised me the most about this film is its comedic aspect: it is a very funny and intentionally comedic film quite often (with Willem Dafoe's character farting a lot being almost a recurring gag oddly enough), and it's particularly astonishing that it all works so well along with the dramatic aspects and the horror aspects, nailing a very specific and hard-to-pull-off tone perfectly. Also, I know this has been said multiple times already, but this film created such specific combinations of sounds and images that won't leave my head for a while and it is truly a challenging and unforgettable experience altogether.
I honestly don't know what else to add and I'm not even sure I should continue since I'll definitely have a better grasp on everything this film has to offer on a second watch, so I'll leave it at that for now. If you want something that truly constitutes as its own unique and unforgettable experience then definitely check this film out as soon as you can, there's absolutely nothing else quite like it and after only a first viewing I'm pretty confident in calling it a masterpiece. Choosing between this and Parasite for film of the year is going to be a challenge to say the least: Parasite is probably my personal favorite and definitely the one I'll watch more times, but this is possibly the best and definitely the most well-made film of the year. I am teetering between a 9 or a 10 for its rating right now so I'll leave it at a 9 for now but I'll more than likely bump it up to a 10 later: it just hasn't left my headspace, it reaches the highest level that art can achieve and is absolutely masterful in every way.
Also the entire audience I was with let out this huge ironic laugh when the end credits rolled (those who saw it especially know what I mean) and that says it all I think.