SXSW Film Review: Two Pigeons (UK, 2017) is raw, unsettling, and totally intriguing

Never have I been so disgusted and intrigued at the same time but after watching Two PigeonsDominic Bridges‘ directorial debut – its interesting how much we take our security and privacy for granted. After all, if you found you had a squatter living with you, would you ever really be the same?

Vulgarity abounds as estate agent Hussein is blissfully unaware that when he leaves his bachelor pad in the morning in fresh threads, Orlan, a strange specimen of a man, is making himself at home, retreating back to his nooks and crannys when Hussein walks back in the door.

Billed as a horror film, Two Pigeons certainly doesn’t bow to the genre’s parameters in the conventional sense. But if the words definition counts for anything (an intense feeling of fear, shock, or disgust) then Two Pigeons may very well be the most accurate horror film ever made. How else could you properly convey the feeling after learning someone is regularly using your toothbrush,or putting your cutlery in the toilet and urinating on it? This is how Two Pigeons plays out if one were to strip away all of the pretence and motive. Just one dude completely fucking up another dudes life without him ever knowing.

And there is a reason, of course, or this would just be a glorified Jackass film. However the ending is just a logical, neat way to put a bow on this disturbing little project and by that point it doesn’t really matter. What matters is the what. To what lengths will Orlan go to to keep a roof over his head? The results are comical and at times uncomfortable. My favourite moment was revealing how Orlan survives knowing that eating Hussein out of house and home will surely raise suspicion. His method, like many of his others – carefully placing things in the position he got them, spitting mouth wash back in the bottle etc. – are creative and fascinating. In fact I was more fascinated by the way a squatter would live than I ever thought I could be. A question I didn’t think I needed answered but peculiarly, I’m glad I now do.

Much of the films repulsiveness stems from Javier Botet’s portrayal of Orlan. And believe me that is meant as a compliment. The 6’6″, frighteningly skinny actor slinks around Hussein’s home in nothing but underwear like a real life slender man. The Spanish born actor has cultivated an impressive resume, becoming a horror film go-to in films like [rec] and Mama. Bridges refuses to waste the gift he was given, framing Botet’s figure in wide shots, closing in on his long fingers and a particularly incredible shot that sees all of Botet’s limbs stretch out from underneath Hussein’s bed. The film would never have had the same effect if not for Botet’s ghoulish presence and Bridges awareness and skill in properly utilising it.

Even though its ending is somewhat diluted by its delivery, there really is some heart and and humanity involved here. Mim Shaikh who plays Hussein does a fantastic job unassisted by his complete lack of knowledge and his relationships with his boss, best friend and girlfriend are more real and authentic than I would have given the film credit for five minutes in. Moreover, Orlan’s narrating of the titular two pigeons are strangely heartwarming.

Two Pigeons is a bizarre film. And not Greasy Strangler bizarre but there is something all too raw, unsettling, and scary about how it all plays out. Above everything though, it really is Botet’s creepy performance that earns it top marks and that commendation extends to Bridges knowing how to film him. Push aside all of the gross out moments (of which there are many) and what we get is an unwarranted but intriguing insight into the human condition when it’s forced into a unique and unorthodox (read: batshit crazy) situation.

Review Score: THREE AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

Two Pigeons screened at SXSW earlier this month.

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