A trio of attractive yet disturbed thirtysomethings bare their souls, psyches and inevitably their bodies to one another while stranded in a van perched on a mist-enshrouded, cliff-hugging road in vet Dutch helmer Ate de Jong’s English-lingo dramatic free-for-all “Fogbound.” Brimming with provocative ideas and charged with a jarring yet refreshing psychosexual energy, pic is a love-it-or-hate-it proposition about demons within. Garnering biz will be challenging, as lack of major star power leaves only unique nature of material and triumphant visual presentation to lure the adventurous.
On a narrow road in a spectacular mountain range, a thick and sudden fog has enveloped a van containing Bob (Luke Perry), plus couple Leo (Ben Daniels) and Ann (Orla Brady), all obviously relaxed and friendly. The weather is at first only a minor nuisance. As time passes and the mist grows thicker, however, fissures begin to appear among the trio.
The seemingly content and still-steamy decade-plus marriage of Leo and Ann has major problems that only begin with children — she wants them, he doesn’t — which they’re seen working out in odd therapy flashback sessions with Dr. Duff (Jeroen Krabbe, in a tiny part). And though their best friend Bob seems to be quite the confident ladies’ man, there’s clearly something troubling him that may involve a past indiscretion with Ann.
Thus, their inevitable storytelling and gamesmanship proceeds rather quickly from the mischievous to the sinister. In flashbacks announced by blunt title cards (“Him,” “Her,” “Hope”), each reveals dreams and experiences inevitably misinterpreted by the other.
Inevitably, things get physical, then violent, as the dreams and fantasies encroach on their predicament with tragic results.
The obvious reference point here is Roman Polanski’s “Knife in the Water,” with the added element of the trio being best friends of roughly the same age instead of a mismatched couple and a random stranger. As was Polanski, de Jong is in complete command of material that emerges as utterly original, the obvious result of decade-long labor on the script and collaboration since 1999 of poet-actor-screenwriter Michael Lally.
Perry puts the whole “Beverly Hills 90210” thing to rest with a perf that harnesses a bemused, faintly ironic carnality pitch-perfect for the role and thus sure to garner attention (as will a handful of sex scenes, which aren’t graphic but don’t lack in, uh, imagination). Daniels pulls off the emotionally tricky Leo with nary a hitch, and the Irish-born and -trained Brady is good as a woman whose newfound ability to control emboldens her considerably. Among the supporting players the standout is the fearless Ali Hames as Gloria, a big and beautiful woman who can scarcely believe her luck with Bob.
Tech credits are tops, most notably from debuting d.p. Erwin Roodhart for the utterly believable fogbank and the striking production design of Peter Greenaway regular Ben van Os. Various digital and rear-screen tricks are used to enhance the dreamlike nature of the flashback and fantasy sequences, and nearly all of them serve to enhance the story without drawing undue attention to themselves.
Other than a few early establishing shots in the French Alps, pic was shot entirely on a Dutch soundstage concurrent with Krabbe’s second directorial effort, “The Discovery of Heaven.”
Production entity Mulholland Pictures is co-owned by de Jong, Krabbe and actor-writer-producer Edwin de Vries. Closing credit crawl is a show in itself, featuring childhood and contempo photos of certain crew members.