‘I saw THOMAS DER HOCHSPRINGER at IFFR and I absolutely loved it. The embodied symbiosis, queer subtleties, smothering atmosphere … Just wow,’ I emailed director Leri Matehha. When it turned out that she wanted to visit Groningen especially to do a Q&A at VERA Zienema, my enthusiasm for her debut feature leapt to the next level. This really promises to be special evening, so keep the date free.

Thomas, a young high jumper, leads an isolated life at a sport academy. Thanks to his mother’s military childhood, Thomas is drilled according to a rigid training schedule and strict diet, where discipline is meted out without emotion and social rules are twisted. The only contact with the outside world is through the artificial world of sport. When the mother of Thomas hooks him up with a new coach, the maternal control and related regime is sorely tested.

At IFFR 2021, the rather wondrous cinematic style and idiosyncratic styling were already remarked upon as making the movie tragicomic to some extent, somewhere along the lines of recent work by Roy Andersson, yet with a more harrowing undercurrent. The film could be described as a mashup of the absurdist black humour of Dogtooth (Lanthimos, GR 2009) and The Neon Demon (Refn, DK/FR/US 2016) in its obsessive perfectionism. Despite trying to pin it down like this, this does little justice to the fact that the movie is primarily one of a kind and as a result draws you into an incredibly weird world to become fully immersed in.