Berlinale 2024: The Visitor (2024)

The Visitor is a provocative feature allegory of contemporary British issues by Bruce LaBruce, the Canadian artist, writer, filmmaker, photographer and underground director.


by Alexa Dalby

The Visitor

CAUTION: Here be spoilers

Teorema (Theorem), directed by Pier Paolo Pasolini, starred Terence Stamp at his most gorgeous. It was nominated for the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival in 1968 but puzzled the critics.

Director Bruce LaBruce and screenwriters Alex Babboni and Victor Fraga have reimagined the film in contemporary London with the Terence Stamp role now a migrant or maybe a refugee. Like Teorema, The Visitor is an allegorical film, this time adding migration to the original mix.

A homeless tent-dweller on the shores of the Thames recovers a suitcase out of which emerges a naked muscular black man (Bishop Black), as if the suitcase is giving birth. Like a baptism, the man dips himself in the river to wash off the vernix covering his body.

He goes to a well-to-do house, is given shelter by the male maid and cook and symbolically provides his own bodily fluids for the meal being prepared in the kitchen. He wordlessly seduces each member of the unaware middle-class family – the maid, the son, the daughter, the husband, the wife. In doing so, he changes their lives.

There’s no dialogue in the film, just a constant electronic/techno score – except when the family sitting around the dining table formally verbalise their changed perceptions and the emotions they previously concealed and that they now strip bare. Colourful neon-bright intertitles signpost the way through the film.

At times, watching The Visitor is like being inside a homoerotic wet dream, with much nakedness and close-ups of genitalia of all kinds. Or a political manifesto. Or Buñuel or Ionesco with explicit (and probably pornographic) content. This is a part of what the fable of The Visitor seems to be saying to us:

Pansexuality/transexuality, the proletariat, migration – good.

Colonialism, the middle class, the trappings of organised religion especially Catholic – bad.

The Visitor had its World Premiere at the Berlin Film Festival on 17 February 2024. International representation is by Indie Sales Privio and The PR Factory.

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