Dutch filmmaking provocateur Cyrus Frisch opens his new film Dazzle with a pixilated shot of a man walking down a sun-glistening beach, revealing the current world in a fractured state, but with slight glimmers of hope lingering in the background. Frisch’s cinematic kaleidoscope presents a voyeuristic look at a city’s many scattered, sidelined street dwellers from the view of a girl’s apartment. The twentysomething girl is hardly seen, but her voice is overlaid on the disparate—essentially documentary—video recordings taken throughout Amsterdam as she feverishly rants on the phone with a doctor who initially calls to speak with her missing-in-action boyfriend Christian. Her disembodied voice proves a telling vehicle, almost God-like, and as she looks on from above, judging the desperate fools who sit on her block corner, guilt takes over her mind.
The film’s images are supplied by everything from a camera phone to a consumer digital camera, and as he sporadically cuts to a starkly black, void-like frame, Frisch uses negative space to suggest a kind of sanctuary from the ugly dirge of street life, sufficiently establishing a dire mood wherever a city’s lost souls congregate and their unclean bodies fester. The filmmaker melds together a myriad of archival footage and video effects, deftly exhibiting a gritty, grainy texture on the screen, which cements the dour tone of this compelling, experimental work.
In a half-hearted attempt to reconstruct his own version of Hiroshima Mon Amour, Frisch sees the well-meaning girl and doctor who converse over the phone as deeply concerned observers, sharing maddening descriptions of decay and, in effect, narrating the routine existence of the countless meandering, displaced vagabonds who deal drugs in the daytime and howl in the streets when the darkness settles. As abstract modes manifest a deluge of unearthly creatures and madness, Dazzle reveals the crack in the walls of humanity, delicately reflecting upon man’s inability to survive when emotional burden becomes too much to handle.