The Movie Waffler New Release Review - STYX | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review - STYX

styx film review
While sailing in the Strait of Gibraltar, a woman comes across a capsized migrant boat.

Review by Benjamin Poole

Directed by: Wolfgang Fischer

Starring: Susanne Wolff, Gedion Oduor Wekesa, Kelvin Mutuku Ndinda, Inga Birkenfeld, Alexander Beyer

styx film poster

What would you do? Or, perhaps a more apposite question would be, what can you do? You must feel it too, this sinister incapacitation which has come to exemplify the last few years? The inescapable, awful sensation that everything is out of our control, that no matter what you or I do, say or write, the world is spun by other hands, and that we’re positioned just to cope with it, rather than change anything: to keep calm and carry on, lol. British politics has become a side-show, the issues of the day a bust up football kicked about by a bunch of weird, preening Etonians; the American president is a nutcase; watching a film about a superhero and her cat produced by the biggest media corporation in the world is apparently what passes for an act of radicalism in 2019. Kids shot by guns; cities blown up by cowards? ‘Pray for them’: it’s all we’ve got. In the last few years, how many migrants have drowned in the Mediterranean, desperate to flee various conflicts and threats to their lives? No one even knows, there are no records, no manifest for scared families putting their lives in the hands of profiteering scum: it’s ‘outside of our control’ says the Home Secretary.

styx film review

For Rike, the central character of Wolfgang Fischer’s superlative Styx, the situation is a little more defined. She’s sailing far off the coast of Gibraltar when her two-man scow happens upon an upturned ship somewhere far out in the Strait. People are jumping off and drowning almost immediately in the endless water. Bodies crisp in the sun, dehydrated and starving. The coastguard seems reluctant to get involved. There is space on Rike’s boat, but nowhere near enough for everyone. What would you do, indeed?

styx film review

For Styx’s preceding first act we’re shipmates with Rike (played by Susanne Wolff, a Teutonic Gina McKee). The waters are calm, the effect of the film itself immersive and tranquil in its concentrated attention to nautical detail. I’ve always felt that there is something pleasingly congruous about cinematic depictions of sailing. The way that the distinct lines of the horizon perfectly imitate the open aspect of widescreen; the pullies and loops and threads mimicking the actual mechanics of cinema projection; the paramountcy of light. And the sense that both happenings involve a journey. Although here, dialogue is kept to a minimum, so (wisely) we don’t get to find out too much about Rike, or why she’s sailing to an uninhabited island all by herself. Some vague notions of solitude are offered via scant radio contact, but the film has the confidence to simply allow us time with the character, and journey along with her as she expertly ties knots, sets sail and swims naked in the ocean (#jealous).

styx film review

The largesse of Rike’s situation is contrasted by the fate of the emigrants; whereas Rike’s charter is defined by the freedom to go wherever the stars lead her, her counterparts are trapped on the capsized hull of the boat. For Rike, the sea is for swimming within, for the people she happens upon it’s a hazard. So, what does she do? That would be to reveal the narrative promises of Styx. Suffice to say that Rike’s actions are delineated by the same helpless, hopeless quietude which distinguishes this special film. There is no glib liberal sermonising here, no catharsis or easy wish fulfilment. Instead, what Styx has is superb film making and careful storytelling which conjures authentic despair. This is a journey which will stay with you.

Styx is in UK/ROI cinemas April 26th.

2019 movie reviews