78th Venice International Film Festival: “Dusk Stone” Review

We watch a young boy wander along a windy shoreline in the middle of the night. With him, he’s got his dog, a backpack, and a torch which he shines out onto the sea. He’s looking for the mythical creature that supposedly lurks in these waters. This is the last time we (or anyone else) see Dennis (Jeremías Kuharo). Many months later his father Bruno (Marcelo Subiotto) is in Dennis’s bedroom, pulling Dennis’s washed-up backpack out of a police evidence bag. Alongside binoculars, books, and dinosaur figurines – Bruno finds a video game console in the bag. It still works just fine, even after being underwater for eight months. To Bruno, this is some sort of sign that his son is still with him or even possibly still alive. Premiering in this year’s Venice Film Festival, Iván Fund’s Dusk Stone is a harrowing and astute examination of loss and lingering grief.

Returning to their house for the first time in almost a year since Dennis’ disappearance, Bruno and his wife Greta (Mara Bestelli) are briefly visiting to collect their old belongings and negotiate with estate agents about selling their home. For emotional support, Greta’s old childhood friend Sina (Maricel Álvarez) comes with them. With their house directly on the shorefront, it’s hard for Bruno and Greta to forget about their son’s disappearance as they’re constantly surrounded by the sound of crashing waves and sights of bubbling seafoam. Tied in with this marine theme, the film opts for a driftwood-shade colour palette with bleached blues and stone-washed whites; giving it an often bleak and lifeless feel. 

Image © Courtesy of Venice International Film Festival 

Fund mixes this dull reality with snippets of outlandish fantasy. Throughout the film, he constantly hints at the idea of a sea-dwelling Kaiju haunting the local town. On the boat to visit her friends, Sina is told by a fisherman how the mysterious monster has been chewing up cables in the sea. Some disregard it as manmade stories created to attract tourists, while others theorise about how the creature’s appearance is related to ‘the platform’ – a fibre optic station in the sea left behind by a Japanese company.

As the film unfolds, we start to get more brief glimpses of the creature. In one frenzied state, Bruno is convinced that staying overnight in the forest will bring him and Greta closer to their son. During the night, we see gigantic, claw-like limps appear and quickly drag away an old inflatable lilo that used to belong to Dennis. But this appearance does not frighten the two, it only sparks a desperate curiosity to get closer to the creature. Afterwards, we see Bruno running around the beach flinging Dennis’s belongings around in a misguided attempt to reach his son. Later, he goes into the sea to try and reach the creature but instead ends up capsizing his kayak. After this, he then (soaked to the bone from the freezing water) interrupts a young couple’s viewing of his and Greta’s home. Delirious, he tells everyone that he and Greta are no longer selling their home as he hauls back in their luggage and belongings. ‘He’s there, he talks to me, but I can’t understand what he says, he’s still here, he didn’t go away. Everything is still there’ Bruno pleads in one scene. Heart-breaking to watch, Fund leads us on a journey of all the bizarre and desperate things that grief can make one do.

Image © Courtesy of Venice International Film Festival 

While there’s an undeniable eerie and frightening nature about the monster, Bruno and Greta seem to find its presence comforting and calming. If the monster is an emblem of grief, being in close proximity to it feels like acceptance and catharsis for the couple. In one scene, we finally see the creature’s full form in all its glory. Bruno and Greta laugh and scream, running and dancing around the thing with joy – as if it is the closest thing they can get to contacting their son. Dusk Stone’s message is clear, grief is evermore and relentless but there are times when acceptance and nearness to the things associated with those missed can bring us some sort of healing and peace. 

Dusk Stone features a chirpy soundtrack full of magical, delightful sounds that gives it even more of a folklore or fable feel – sometimes featuring swooning orchestras but also whimsical flutes and windchimes. While this works brilliantly to draw out the film’s sporadic flecks of fantasy, the overwhelming nature of the soundtrack (and its overuse) makes the film feel like it struggles to breathe at times. The soundtrack over-accentuates every morsel of emotion – almost every glimpse, glance, or frown is paired with a booming snippet of music that spoils some of the film’s more realistic moments.

Image © Courtesy of Venice International Film Festival 

Although a little vague and drawn-out in its story at times, Fund’s latest film is an inventive and thoughtful contemplation on parental grief and mourning. Mixing depressing reality with glimpses of hope in the form of imagination and fantasy, Dusk Stone is an earnest look at the constant nature of grief, the timeline of loss, and the sometimes-unconventional essence of healing. 


Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Written by Abi Aherne

View of the Arts is a British online publication that chiefly deals with films, music, arts and fashion, with an emphasis on the Asian entertainment industry. We are hoping our audience will grow with us as we begin to explore new platforms such as K-pop, and continue to dive into the talented and ever-growing scene of film, arts and fashion, worldwide.

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