Spring is a fantastic example of low budget horror filmmaking which mostly consists of two people talking. However instead of trying to make it feel bigger than it is with a bit of location work and the odd effect it truly does defy it’s budget using a number of clever factors.
Firstly, the film looks beautiful. This is partly because it’s set in a gorgeous Italian town by the sea but shot by foreigners. Sometimes you need the eye of a tourist to see the majesty of an amazing vista of a strange land and Spring makes the Italian town of Polignano a Mare feel almost like an alien planet. Many scenes seem to be set at dawn or dusk and the light is a weird pink and orange hues. The vast majority of Spring is shot outside so directors Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead take full advantage of the light available whether it’s characters wandering the streets or the main guy on his day job working in a sun soaked farm. They also exploit the new technology of drones with some incredible and awe inspiring shots from above the town. They give a real sense of scale to the what the story is and where it is set but also the floating camera feels like a character in itself, watching the small events below it from the heavens above.
The story is also epic despite the fact that the main plot is largely very intimate. Lou Taylor Pucci plays charming but tragic American Evan. We first meet him as he holds his mother’s hand on her deathbed, an only child watching the last of his family leaving him. When he looses his job and ends up getting in trouble with the rozzers he decides to get the hell out of there and fly to the Mediterranean. First of all he meets some crass British tourists who he drunkenly bums around with but when he spots the beautiful, dark and exotic Louise (Nadia Hilker) he decides to stay in Italy, get a job on the farm and pursue her. Louise is a funny creature to say the least, she’s forward, honest and open but can also be mysterious and blow hot and cold at the same time. She seems like a classic hot blooded Mediterranean woman but as things progress we found out there’s more to her than meets the eye.
So this is the second thing which makes the film feel bigger than it is, because the mystery of Louise makes her story feel much more grand than the small town she lives in. She is someone who raises question about time and our part in it, as well as what a human being is. Then of course there is Evan’s growing love for her despite her flaws. A lot of the film is the two of them talking about what they feel for each other and whilst this doesn’t sound hugely exciting it’s actually fascinating. Evan starts out as a brash American tourist but as he gradually gets drawn into Louise’s life he looses that identity and becomes something else. There’s a telling scene late on where he sees some other American tourists on a beach and he watches them as if they are a different species.
Early on there is a close up of a spider eating a fly in its web and I assumed that Louise would be some kind of black widow type luring in her male prey. But she’s not like that at all; she’s a complex, hard to pin down character who embraces the person she is rather than resents it. The fact that she has an accent that flits between Italian, English, German and American just makes her even more of an alluring mystery.
I won’t say what that mystery is behind Louise but it’s explained fairly early on, and a little bit clunkily if I’m honest, but then I’m not sure how else it could be done and it’s kind of besides the point. Spring isn’t about explaining the logistics of the story, it’s about two people finding themselves in our big old world and about, maybe, finding each other. It’s does have its fair share of horrors with nods to Lovecraft and others but really it’s a gorgeous film about the big subjects of love and death, and it’s really rather romantic.