Family abuse, nude modelling, chainsaw art, twins, tattoos, murder, and more…when it comes to ticking outré buttons, Innuendo is edgy independent cinema personified. And indie this Australian-Finnish mash-up is, being crafted well outside the auspices of traditional local funding via crowdfunding and other modes of finance. The work of an impressive multitasker in the form of Finnish-born, Australian-based writer/director/producer star Saara Lamberg, Innuendo wears its influences (David Lynch, Yorgos Lanthimos, and, most clearly, Roman Polanski) proudly and with reckless abandon, but always functions as an engagingly original film in its own right.
Defying easy genre categorisation, Innuendo tracks the dour, disconnected Tuuli (Lamberg) from Finland to Australia, where she hurls herself into the world of nude art class modelling. Haunted by memories of a painful childhood defined by her complex relationship with her angelic twin sister and domineering parents, Tuuli appears to drift aimlessly before lolling into the staid orbit of sensitive uni student, Thomas (Andy Hazel). Unimpressed, Tuuli quickly moves onto the rough, charismatic chainsaw sculptor, Ben (Brendan Bacon), who leads a far more marginalised life. Mixing with his circle of friends, the singular Tuuli begins to act out in strange and confronting ways, eventually becoming a threatening and malignant anti-life force.
Though the low budget occasionally hurts, Innuendo is a stylish exercise into dark psychological territory, with a finely tuned pay-off electrifying the final act. The performances are strong, with Brendan Bacon a particular stand-out. Boasting the kind of idiosyncratic physicality and presence that would mark him for top-tier character actor gigs if he was American, he provides the film with much needed earthiness in the face of its often elliptical stylisation. Dreamy, strange, and daring in its willingness to challenge and distance the audience with its remote, icy anti-heroine, Innuendo is a brave effort from the keenly talented Saara Lamberg.
The kind of experimental trip rarely taken in this country, this true original manages to draw you in while keeping you at arm’s length at the same time, and that’s no mean feat.