DIRECTOR: ARS VON TRIER. RUNNING TIME: 89 mins. DVD: BRAZEN FILMS. PRICE: £12.99. CERT: 18.
A bizarre continental take on Brexit, which casts the whole debate over whether the UK should leave the EU or remain as a horror movie. Never afforded a UK cinema release and roundly booed by critics representing Brexit-supporting UK tabloids at its Cannes Film Festival screening, the Danish/Dutch co-production was eventually given a low key English-language DVD release earlier this year by Brazen Films under the title The Two Faces of Brexit. Essentially a variant on Jekyll and Hyde, the film stars sometime Danish adult movie performer Henrik Humpmann as English journalist Henry Jeckers, a straight up middle class, pro European type, who is sent by his newspaper to interview pro leave politician Nick Forage, (Dutch slasher film favourite Dirk van Trooser playing a thinly disguised Nigel Farage). During the course of the interview. the outwardly charming politician surreptitiously injects the journalist with a mysterious serum.
Inevitably, the reporter starts suffering all sorts of side effects, most notably a radical change in personality as he switches from being a conscientious journalist eager to expose the folly of the Brexiteers, to sleazy lowlife crawling through the underbelly of Soho, drinking pint after pint of beer, before picking fights with Remain supporters. Moreover, he transforms from a happily married, loving husband, to a leering lecher, spurning his wife for Forage’s fascistic French femme fatale assistant. Worse is to follow, as he starts having peculiar turns, in which his right side turns hairy and bestial and he starts rampaging around supermarkets, his right arm sweeping products imported from EU countries off of the shelves. These turns get worse and more frequent, as his hairy right arm starts taking on a life of its own, attempting to throttle a Polish prostitute and striking out at other immigrants and randomly groping women.
At this point, the film cuts back to Forage, revealing a his secret cellar lab, where he keeps the results of his previous experiments with his ‘Brexit serum’, most notably his German wife, who is now not only hairy and bestial, but also gripped with self-loathing. Chained up in a cell, she spends her time trying to hit herself in the face. With the referendum vote fast approaching, Forage is becoming alarmed at the increasingly violent behaviour of his latest experimental subject – Jeckers – which could threaten his plans to inject as many voters with his serum as possible as they enter polling stations. Jeckers, meanwhile, finds himself living a nightmare, conflicted against himself, his rational side seeming unable to stop his errant right side from indulging in bouts of self destructive behaviour.
Eventually an eye appears on Jeckers’ right shoulder, to be followed by a complete second head after he receives an electric shock. A second head that looks a lot like Forage. The rampaging two headed beast, following some kind of primordial instinct, seeks out its creator, heading to Forage’s lab, pursued by the police, Jeckers’ estranged wife and his editor. Once at the lab, the creature inevitably kills Forage, setting fire to the lab in the process, before chasing the lady assistant through the streets, ending up in Parliament Square where, in front of the Houses of Parliament, he finally splits into two: his original self and a bestial hominid bearing remarkable resemblance to a hairy version of Forage. Before the police arrive, the creature throttles the assistant. Leaving a confused Jeckers to take the rap. With Forage’s body destroyed by the fire, the hominid takes his place and we next see him addressing a pro Brexit rally on the eve of the referendum, his rhetoric becoming ever more violent, before he leaps into the crowd, foaming at the mouth and rabidly mauling attendees.
Two Faces of Brexit is one of those films which, on one level, is so preposterous that you want to laugh at it. However, some of the special effects are, for a low budget movie, quite effective, especially the eye on the shoulder. The second head – some kind of mechanical prosthetic rather than CGI – isn’t the worst attempt at realising such a thing I’ve ever seen.. Even the actual split isn’t badly done – effected by having the actors playing the reporter and the hominid placed, significantly, behind the statue of Winston Churchill in Parliament Square when it occurs, with one going one way, the other the opposite way, tearing the raincoat they are wearing apart. (Somewhat miraculously, the reporter’s underpants remain intact).
The film offers no pat happy ending – the reporter, now divested of his evil twin, is still arrested for the crimes he committed whilst under the influence of Forage’s serum, while his evil Brexit-supporting twin is apparently triumphant, symbolically devouring his own supporters, implicitly infecting them with the self destructive ‘Brexit bug’. Its attempts to encapsulate the whole Brexit debate as an internalised conflict within a single human being is interesting, if, perhaps less successful that the film’s makers had intended, with the emphasis on the Brexit beast’s deprivations obscuring some of the subtleties of the debate. Nevertheless, Humpman gives a fine performance as the conflicted victim, forced to act against his own nature and art house director Ars Von Triers proves surprisingly adept at handling the horror and exploitation aspects of the film.