The Antenna is an impressive debut feature from Orcun Behram that manages some exceptionally creepy moments and excellent imagery, but lacks the pacing to be entirely successful.
Synopsis: After new satellites are installed in an old apartment building, a mysterious substance begins to leak into the apartments, but this is only the beginning as the Midnight broadcasts bring forward something even more sinister.
The Antenna, as perhaps befitting of a debut feature wears its influences openly, including some imagery worthy of and clearly inspired by creatives like Cronenberg or Lynch. A late sequence riffs on the corridor scene Repulsion in a way that is incredibly effective, emotive and adds to the central themes. However, these influences can be seen to overwhelm Behram’s own story and direction, feeling at times like someone trying to recreate their favourite moments. That isn’t to say that there is no originality to be found – far from it – but you can certainly feel the influences more than the director’s voice. There are pacing issues here too, with the film taking a while to warm up and a few false starts.
Despite my own issues with the pacing, the slowness does to some point work in the film’s favour. The cold setting and crumbling apartment building where nothing changes provides a static and unsettling environment for the action to take place. The grey and near-identical spaces do much to isolate the characters from one another. Only Mehmet (Ihsan Onal) the building’s attendant and Yasemin (Gul Arici) have any designs on striking up friendships or even leaving the complex for something else. This creates a bond between them and while much of the film works to keep them apart as much as possible, this bond does provide a great deal of feeling.
There are times when the lack of budget and perhaps technical experience shows, although there are still attempts to provide a sense of scale for the apartment building that add to the feeling of isolation. There is a clear criticism of the ways that apartment living contribute to people living as individuals rather than in community. This is illustrated particularly by one of the residents who only takes a moment after hearing of someone’s death to start complaining about the state of her bathroom. The seeping of black goo into the private spaces within the building is well-realised and offers the opportunity to cut between spaces without having to have much interaction between characters. There are also smaller slices of satire (other than the overriding theme of state media control) which work very well, including footage of a far too gleeful home-injection beauty kit’s accompanying DIY video.
The Antenna has issues (likely due to inexperience and timing problems) but provides a keen sense of dread, the uncanny and a final shot that shows a real talent for creating disturbing imagery. If you like a slow-burn and aren’t adverse to a bit of goo, you’ll find something to like here.
3.5 out of 5 stars.