[This review contains spoilers]
Elizabeth Harvest is a sci-fi thriller set in the remote home of tortured genius and budding Dr Frankenstein, Henry.
Director Sebastian Gutierrez makes the most of a small cast, comprising Ciarán Hinds, Abbey Lee, Matthew Beard (Oliver), Dylan Baker (local cop Logan), as well as his partner and long time collaborator Carla Gugino as Henry’s assistant/maid Claire. Each one of them deeply creepy in their own way.
Elizabeth Harvest is a solid example of the male gaze in film. Elizabeth, played by Abbey Lee, and looking much younger than her 31 years is within minutes identified as the new bride of Henry (66 year old Hinds). Mercifully the sex scenes between the couple are minimal, though Elizabeth is partially clothed or entirely naked for much of the time. Claire too for good measure. Of course, women have two natural states: the sensual rubbing-all-objects-within-reach one, and the running away from attackers one. Elizabeth goes about exploring her new home like a sexy cat.
Henry, with his “brilliant mind”, has created Elizabeth in his underground lab. She is a clone of his deceased wife, and he has his reasons. However (remember Dolly the sheep?) cloning comes with problems, to which Gutierrez devotes a third of the film. But how successful is it to explore the details in this type of sci-fi? It doesn’t necessarily make the premise more plausible, and can disrupt the rhythm of the story as a whole. Similarly, with the question of time travel in Looper (2012), Old Joe (Bruce Willis) sidesteps the problem: “I don’t want to talk about time travel shit, ’cause if we start talking about it then we’re gonna be here all day” In other words, it’s best not to think too hard about the mechanics of it, especially if, as Elizabeth Harvest demonstrates, it dissolves into exposition in much the same way as a L’Oreal advert (Here comes the science).
In terms of style, Elizabeth Harvest is very Ex Machina (2014). This includes the secluded location, appearance of the building, underground laboratory, and the heavy-handed security measures. As we know, evil geniuses all make use of the same architecture firm.
Among other things, Ex Machina touched on the ethics of Artificial Intelligence – consciousness, the rights of intelligent beings. Elizabeth Harvest contains a similar problem: Henry has created clones, which are his property. Therefore he can use or dispose of them at will. There is much discussion at the moment on separating the art from the artist, but what about separating the science from the scientist? His inner circle seem to have made the separation successfully. The attitude of the characters seems to be: this plan is diabolical, but Henry’s mind is brilliant, so I have to go along with it, plus this is the way he is handling his grief. Claire, Oliver and Logan all find a way to enable him despite any reservations.
“The abduction tradition, dating back to Roman times” mentioned at the start by Henry is explored with academic rigour in the Roger Moore film The Rape of the Sabines.
Watch the Elizabeth Harvest trailer below:
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