August 15, 2020  (Web Review)

Dark Fortune

W-film, 113 min, DVD: $16.49

Reviewer rating: 3.0/4

The Swiss drama Dark Fortune is replete with ghosts—not actual ghosts, but those formed from profound grief. The central protagonist, Eliane (Eleni Haupt, wife of the film’s director, Stefan Haupt), a psychologist working at a hospital, never once smiles in this movie. Her near-grown daughters have layers of frustration with her refusal to fully engage with them during the many years since the premature death of her adulterous first husband. Despite being emotionally repressed, Eliane experiences maternal compassion for an eight-year-old boy, Yves (Noe Ricklin), an emergency patient at the hospital who survived a car crash that killed the rest of his family. At her boss’ suggestion, Eliane takes Yves home for a two-week stay and a thorough evaluation that will help a judge decide who should take Yves in. Attachments form between Yves and Eliane. She witnesses Yves repeatedly hide in the dark, holding spooky conversations with his dead family, voicing their words himself. A fight over custody adds even more anxiety to Yves and Eliane, and the latter’s own haunted past comes stirring up. A simmering sense of sorrow permeates Dark Fortune, making the film a taut, fraught experience, with occasional eruptions of rage and mad grief that become all the more painful and shocking to behold. Stefan Haupt knows how to conjure an otherworldly atmosphere, such as a middle-of-the-night fog in which Eliane might or might not be seeing furtive shadows. The filmmaker also rewards our intuitive grasp of unspoken, dreamlike episodes of terror in Dark Fortune with some beautiful moments, such as the sight of a car exiting a tunnel into the hard-won salvation of daylight. Strongly recommended. (T. Keogh)