Emptiness is Terror and Tension Wrapped In Paranoia [Fantasia Festival]

Emptiness close up still of Suzanne (Stephanie Breton) looking terrified.

Emptiness, playing at the Fantasia Festival, is a trek through someone’s mind, and I’m confident I don’t want to be there. There is constant confusion for our lead that leaves you, the viewer, befuddled and riddled with dread. While I’m still unsure what’s happening, as the film does not disclose the specific issue, Emptiness builds an impressive layer of tension that never fully releases, even after the credits roll, with amazing cinematography, the black and white palate making it seem these three women in this spacious home exist in a void. 

Written and directed by Onur Karaman, the film follows Suzanne (Stephanie Breton) in this secluded house under the care of the angry and frustrated Nicole (Anana Rydvald) and the gentler Linda (Julie Trépanier). Suzanne seems confused, and, as audiences see from her perspective, it’s unclear what’s real or in Suzanne’s mind. What is apparent is Suzanne wants to find her husband. Meanwhile, her caretakers forbid her from going to the barn. The seclusion and shadowy dimness inside the home build an oppressive atmosphere. 

Cast in Emptiness Makes You Feel Suspicious About Everything

It’s hard to tell if Suzanne is imagining everything or not. Sure, the woman she keeps seeing bathed in white is probably not real. But knowing which is real or not is as much a guessing game for Suzanne as the audience. Suzanne’s fear and confusion is palpable, making the audience walk alongside her on pins and needles. Stephanie Breton does phenomenal work, creating a sense of camaraderie with the viewer. 

Emptiness close up still of Suzanne (Stephanie Breton) looking terrified.
Emptiness still. Fantasia Festival.

Nicole is at once mean, but you also wonder if it’s frustration because of Suzanne’s behavior. Anana Rydvald makes you unsure of her performance. It’s unclear if Nicole’s feelings are understandable or something more sinister is brewing, especially if you recall films where people made the lead characters feel like they were crazy when they were not. The same goes for Linda. Julie Trépanier portrays her as kinder, but you have an underlying distrust watching her. 

A Master Class in Tension But Confusing

Emptiness is a slow burn, and there’s no clear ending where everything ties up neatly. With a terrific cast, it’s visually arresting in this most disquieting manner. However, though the tension is taut, with discomfort stalking audiences and Suzanne like a shadow, there’s little to no payoff. It’s like a fever dream, where little makes sense or resolves upon waking up. So, despite the overwhelmingly positive aspects, it’s too confusing and upended. Some viewers may not enjoy that.

It’s masterful how Emptiness builds the unrelenting tension with its black and white cinematography and use of shadows, where everything feels hollow and adrift. But if you’re a viewer who needs answers by the end, this film might not deliver. It’s chilling, creepy with neverending dread, but the “why” and “what’s truly happening” are more interpretive than spelled out. For my part, I loved it. Emptiness is chilling and possible, though not in a literal sense scene by scene, but emotionally. It’s an optimal choice at night, letting it take you on a terrifying emotional journey. 

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