At once operatic and visceral, The Piano Tuner of Earthquakes is a dreamy revelation of intense desires and lush fantasies that recalls Jan Svankmajers early, fairytale horror stories rife with interpretive ingenuity. Aesthetically similar, the relatively distinctive visuals are densely shadowed in its approximation of pop and classical art, creating a shimmering phantasmagoric mirage bereft of the familiar pulse and lucid rationality of mere fables. The painterly pair of directors in the Quay brothers emerge here as designers first, and filmmakers second.
Decidedly abbreviated in scale when compared to the duos vast reposits of imagination, they orchestrate a journey through a sleepy, enclosed dreamscape of fiercely intimidating idiosyncrasies that imbricates indulgence over implication. Impenetrable yet alluring, its gothic eccentricities seem to surface as a wondrous distraction from comprehending the genius beneath the eerie madness. In its most basic form, the film is an amplified variant of the treasured The Phantom of the Opera yarn, of its infernal desperation and its macabre imagery. While adopting a discernable structure, its sequencing is restless if resourceful and always interesting to look at.
Fantasy in film seems particularly difficult to pull off even if it is appreciated, as it requires a degree of supernatural awe that should feel sincere and effortless. The Piano Tuner of Earthquakes does not eke out that sentiment, in fact it seeks out to heighten the illusory process, that while luxurious becomes alienating and overbearing. The performances are wrangled in like puppets to its environment, permissive of wide-eyed expressiveness that mistakes staginess for emotions.
The narrative plants its own set of intrigues, most prominently the idea of reproduction between the fabled piano tuners within its diegesis that falls short of its ominous origins. However effective it might be as a manifestation of imaginative cognisance, the film ultimately undermines itself by becoming laborious and lethargic with a pace that is thoroughly enamoured with its artfulness. The Piano Tuner of Earthquake lends itself to a particular sort of sensibility, even if doesnt enrapture or convince others with its manqu artifice.