Movie review

“Luz,” the first feature from the German director Tilman Singer, is both an experimental take on demonic possession and a bafflingly avant-garde psychodrama. The first is marginally easier to follow than the second.

Spare and surreal, Singer’s story circles a dazed young Chilean taxi driver, Luz (Luana Velis), who enters a German police station to yell, in Spanish, at the receptionist. Next we’re in a near-deserted bar, where the menacingly seductive Nora (Julia Riedler), is making moves on a half-drunk psychiatrist (Jan Bluthardt) while recounting her disturbing brush with Luz in Chile. Repairing to the bathroom, the barflies engage in some kind of psychic transference ritual that leaves her bleeding and him vibrating like a tuning fork. So much for happy hour.

Despite the strange, echoing beauty of its images (the movie was painstakingly shot on 16-millimeter film by Paul Faltz), “Luz” is, as a whole, visually numbing and mentally taxing. In addition to being riven by flashbacks and at least one full-screen blackout, the movie’s depopulated locations are rendered eerily oppressive by a chilly color scheme and uniformly threatening atmosphere.

This confusion intensifies during a lengthy police-interrogation sequence, as past intrudes upon present and identities and genders flip. Singer’s impressively cocksure direction, however, never falters: Every aspect of this movie feels ruthlessly managed. So imprisoning is his vision that, when the psychiatrist slips into Nora’s frock before repeatedly jamming a sharp object up his nose, it seems almost rude to ask why.

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 “Luz” with Luana Velis, Johannes Benecke, Jan Bluthardt, Lilli Lorenz, Julia Riedler.  Written and directed by Tilman Singer.   70 minutes. Not rated.  In German and Spanish, with English subtitles. The New York Times does not give star ratings. Grand Illusion.