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Fantasia Festival: Glasshouse

It’s important that you keep wearing your mask.”

The women of the Glasshouse shield themselves from The Shred, a toxin that permeates the air and robs humans of memories when they breathe it in. The Shred turns its victims into a shade of their former selves. The younger the victim and the fewer memories they have attained, the more they are affected by the toxin.

Bee (Jess Alexander), Evie (Anja Taljaard), Daisy (Kitty Harris) and Mother (Adrienne Pearce) maintain the Glasshouse and its grounds. They work to protect themselves with hooded masks, they seal the Glasshouse from the toxic air, they grown their own fruits and vegetables and they kill, eat, and bury male intruders. The four women are tasked with taking care of young Gabe (Brent Vermeulen), a victim of The Shred who is prone to lashing out.

When The Stranger (Hilton Pelser) arrives on the grounds with a leg wound, Bee takes him in which goes against Mother’s strict rules. The Stranger wins her trust and her desire and takes advantage of this in order to further infiltrate himself into the small world the women have created. He’s as dangerous as The Shred, threatening their livelihoods and sanity. While Bee fails to see this, sharp eyed Evie knows something is not quite right.

Truth isn’t everything.”

Someone has to carry it. Otherwise nothing means anything at all.”

There is a lot to unpack with Kelsey Egan’s dreamy science fiction drama Glasshouse. It’s The Beguiled for the pandemic era taking the concept of strong women who must protect themselves from dangerous men during chaotic. The Beguiled takes place in the Civil War era South and Glasshouse appears to depict the same era but in an alternate world where a pandemic instead of a war keeps the women isolated. The film is introspective with lots of thought put into the importance of memory, the concept of truth, and how replaceable individuals are in a society. It’s difficult to come away from this film and not find yourself deep in thought. I enjoyed the fact that the film offers the right balance of story, character development and information about the pandemic.

Glasshouse is not a remake of The Beguiled, although it does seem to be inspired by it, but rather an original story by South African filmmaker Kelsey Egan and co-writer and associate producer Emma Lungiswa de Wet. According to Egan’s director’s statement:

“the South African philosophy of Ubuntu holds that identity is collective and that ancestral memory shapes the present.¬† As thought-provoking as it is entertaining, we believe that Glasshouse is a timely film, meeting a societal and market need for challenging, female-driven stories… Glasshouse explores two opposing coping mechanisms to trauma: holding tightly to the past as a form of preservation, and wilful forgetting…”

The film was shot on location at the Pearson Conservatory in St. Georges Park in South Africa and features a South African cast and crew.

Note: only white characters appear in the film.

Glasshouse had its world premiere at the 2021 Fantasia Film Festival.

Check out my reviews for two film adaptations of The Beguiled  (1971) and (2017).

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