Elizabeth Harvest

“You don’t look like someone who enjoys making other people happy.” Thus spoke Joanna Eberhart, a woman of character whose insight served her in her work as a photographer, expressing surprise that the man introduced to her as “Diz” was so known because before moving to Stepford, Connecticut, he had worked at Disneyland; it is a shame that young bride Elizabeth is not so perceptive.

Written and directed by Sebastian Gutiérrez, a screenwriter whose credits include Gothika and Snakes on a Plane, there is no pretence of normality in Elizabeth Harvest; from the outset, awake and with eyes open Elizabeth is in a dream as she is swept away in her wedding gown to her husband’s modern fortress in the hills, plate glass and electronic doors with biometric scanners to keep her on display but off limits.

A controlling show-off, Henry takes Elizabeth around the high-tech palace and tells her that the jewels, the art and the money in the safe are all hers, that there is only one room which is off limits to her. With only the aloof Claire and the Henry’s blind son Oliver for company, Elizabeth soon becomes bored with fairytale luxury and inevitably enters the room; Henry murders her, and the failed experiment starts over.

The first iteration of Elizabeth Harvest played out in little over twenty minutes of the runtime, the subsequent iterations do not deepen the characters, expand the drama or raise the stakes; where in Michael Frayn’s Copenhagen the cycles are variations of probability and possibility, here the learning curve is stilted and sterile, too gradual to engage interest.

Like Ex Machina whose themes, structure and style it emulates, with a small cast in an isolated location there are only so many ways the pieces can fall, even if one of the characters is a clone whose death triggers another repetition of the cycle, but the glacial pace dictated by Gutiérrez makes Garland’s pensiveness seem like an avalanche.

As the title character in her multiplicity, The Neon Demon’s Abbey Lee is a far cry from the distinct nuances of Tricia Helfer’s discernible and unique versions of Six on Battlestar Galactica, barely able to summon one convincing performance let alone half a dozen, Elizabeth bland, pliant and needy, supposedly conditioned with memories but devoid of any introspection which would cause them to spark.

As the husband who grieves for the loss of his wife yet serially murders her, The Woman in Black‘s Ciarán Hinds displays no affection, no clue as to why he would repeat the same process with the same results unless it was to serve some depraved fantasy of a devoted wife who is young, nubile, disposable and infinitely replaceable.

From scrubbing floors in her bloody pyjamas to being chained to the bed, Elizabeth is the repeatedly degraded focus but sympathy is difficult to come by for either her or her captors caught in the loop alongside her, and while Elizabeth Harvest is interesting in its forthright presentation of the mechanics and pitfalls of unregulated cloning it is far from a good film.

Elizabeth Harvest is available on digital download from Monday 1st April



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