Inside 2023 Movie Review
“Art comes from ability” – there is hardly anyone in Germany who has not been confronted with this phrase. It is usually used jokingly to cover up a lack of artistic talent. But this idiom is actually correct, since “art” is a noun abstract to the verb “can”. The reasons why the terms are not inherently correlated is that in today’s world, art is commonly equated with the “fine arts” and many people therefore only have a limited definition of the term in mind. The fine arts include all common works and creative processes related to music, theatre, dance, film, literature, paintings, sculptures, architecture and similar creative developments.
Director Vasilis Katsoupis should be very familiar with this term, as he learned a lot from the visual artist Breda Beban as part of his media and film studies studies. Nevertheless, his knowledge and possibilities were far from sufficient to realize the idea of INSIDE. In the creative process, the team therefore worked together with the Italian art curator Leonardo Bigazzi, who previously co-produced the Italian short documentary PLATEAU. It came as quite a surprise to Katsoupis that his film idea was well received on the international stage and that a variety of options immediately opened up for a debut feature film director to create the necessary foundations for implementation. In particular, the successful casting of the four-time Oscar® nomineeWillem Dafoe made the team happy as Katsoupis thought he was made for the lead.
A talented burglar, Nemo specializes in art theft and is in the middle of a new assignment. His destination is a luxurious penthouse belonging to a wealthy art collector who will be out of town for an extended period of time. After Nemo has easily made it into the apartment and has collected the first riches, an alarm suddenly sounds and the state-of-the-art technical equipment begins to lock the place automatically. Despite all attempts, Nemo does not manage to escape and is helplessly imprisoned. It seems as if he is coming to terms with the situation, but he is not yet aware of the challenges that await him. Left to his own devices, the thief is drawn into a dramatic fight for survival and has to ask himself what the value of the expensive art really is.
The title says it all, because with the film INSIDE we actually go inside on several levels of meaning. On the one hand it describes the basis of the plot in terms of Willem Dafoe being locked in a penthouse, but on the other hand we also embark on a journey into the interior of the protagonist and into the depths of meaningful art and the fundamental questions of life. Vasilis Katsoupis creates an unusual CAST AWAY scenario which is provided with an unpleasant pinch of realism and takes place in a huge art exhibition. While the first few minutes still suggest that we are in the middle of a fast-paced heist movie, Katsoupis manages to switch genres in a very short time through a clever development,
At the heart of it all, the incredible Willem Dafoe once again shines in a solo performance. There seems to be a certain pattern in his choice of films, because he has already delivered more or less cinematic monodramas with THE LIGHTHOUSE , RIVER and VAN GOGH, in which the focus is fully on his extraordinary acting performance and will capture his perfectionist interaction with the environment. In INSIDE he is now forced to face a modern survival drama in which time loses all relation. Dafoe crouching on the floor, struggling for a small drop of water, is a fantastic reference to his appearance in THE LIGHTHOUSE, where he lies in the mud in the pouring rain, begging for his survival. His multi-faceted game ensures that the film never gets boring and that not only the burglar but also the art connoisseur can be bought from him.
Art is generally an important element in this work. More than 40 works of art of all kinds, all from private collections, can be found in the plot and thus create a kind of hidden object, in which both laymen and experts are always on the lookout. The works are subtly curated and tailored to both the space and the story. They often give the content more room for interpretation and depth. Among other things, INSIDE deals with the importance of art and deals with the question of whether it is possibly the most important asset of mankind. While many replicas have been used, there are actually a few specially commissioned pieces as well. For example “The Moth Costume” by Kosovan artist Petrit Halilaj,
Life is one of the trickiest topics here. While the thought of being locked up in a luxury apartment initially sounds quite sympathetic, a struggle for the satisfaction of basic human needs develops. The audience loses all sense of time and can only read it from the protagonist’s process of mental confusion and increasing atrophy. While a disdainful look falls on a society’s bourgeoisie by questioning the absurdity of excessive and senseless wealth ubiquitously, the cautionary tale about the dangers of artificial intelligence in the age of ChatGPT and Lamda seems like a punch in the stomach.
As meticulously and meaningfully as this film is worked out, it also relies on the willful suspension of disbelief. The audience is made responsible for blindly trusting some events in order to perceive the entire plot as a coherent whole. Various alarms in a highly secured penthouse, filled with the most expensive works of art, ensure that not even a single human soul cares about this event. Since the story takes place in New York and the US legislation continues to amaze us, it would not even be so far-fetched that in reality a lawsuit for negligent deprivation of liberty and other legalities would result.
If a few points of the sloppy script design are ignored, feature film debut Vasilis Katsoupis shows us an extraordinary and thrilling cinematic monodrama, which can also be categorized as a survival heist movie. Meanwhile, Willem Dafoe’s Oscar® hunt continues and could perhaps finally find a happy ending in this film. The theatrical versatility of this exceptional talent must after DER LEUCHTTURMand VAN GOGH are not elaborated on any further and are again staged in a perfectionist manner. Art is not just a means to an end here, but a central focus of meaning. Due to the balanced and high-quality staged presentation, the film itself becomes a work of art, which I immediately rate as a special little film pearl.