Sophie Cundale: The Near Room review
Time Out says
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When Muhammad Ali was deep in the belly of a fight, he would send his mind to ‘the near room’, a psychedelic place of swirling colours, animals playing musical instruments and masks hung on the walls. Sophie Cundale’s 30-minute film, which takes Ali’s equivalent of a mind palace as its title, focuses on the story of a young boxer who becomes unable to fight after a brutal knockout.
This story (the more compelling part of the film by far) is entwined with that of a queen suffering from Cotard Delusion, a rare condition where the patient thinks they are already wholly or part dead. This part of the film is based on the true, and rather sad, story of Juana of Castille, a Medieval queen in Iberia.
All of the ideas underpinning ‘The Near Room’ are fascinating, from the contrast between the mental states we willingly commit ourselves to and the ones that overwhelm us unwittingly, to the question of what happens after an event takes part of your identity away – as in, what does a boxer do when he can’t box any more.
Which is why it’s a shame the film itself is so poor. The sections involving the confined queen are like a contrived remix of Blackadder and Medieval banquet soft porn, which written down sounds almost like it could be amazing – only it isn’t. Instead of seeming like a deliberately knowing or satirical use of melodrama, the whole thing is simply off-putting and hard to take seriously. It’s a great idea, but it needs far better execution for the punches to land.