But I must not think about that. This paper looks to me as if it knew what a vicious influence it had!

– Charlotte Perkins Gilman, The Yellow Wallpaper (1899)

The setting for Susan Glaspell’s play Trifles is described thusly: “The kitchen in the now abandoned farmhouse of JOHN WRIGHT, a gloomy kitchen, and left without having been put in order — unwashed pans under the sink, a loaf of bread outside the bread-box, a dish-towel on the table — other signs of incompleted work.” In only a single sentence,  an atmosphere of tension is drawn, grey and encompassing, like a lattice of dust settled upon forgotten words. Wreckers occupies a similar space, in which mockingly bucolic wallpaper absorbs every aborted word and averted glance. Dawn (Claire Foy) and David’s (Benedict Cumberbatch) house is a silent observer as the subtle tension broils and escalates, resolving into a restless ambiguity in which no character is absolved.

D.R. Hood has a technically brilliant eye for perspective, and it is this notion of perspective which defines the film. It assumes a familial relation to voyeurism, in which someone is always watching, or being watched themselves. Scenes are layered with suspicion, but only just, like a trivial but nagging thought at the back of one’s mind. And indeed, this is the atmosphere that is cultivated as the  film develops, and so the camera itself acts as an extension of personal psychology. Interestingly, the stained glass windows of the church in which Dawn’s choir rehearses also act as a magnifier of perspective, colouring (both literally and figuratively) its object of gaze. Hood takes great care to focus on glass and windows, but always from within looking out, adding to the inescapable feeling of being observed in secret. 

The notion of altered perspectives also becomes a framing device for the characters, in particular, that of David. Ambient light and shadow dance in alternated synchrony together to reveal or conceal him, progressing with the gradually shifting dynamic between the three main characters. The astonishing performance of Benedict Cumberbatch only further adds to the increasing complexity and ambiguity of the character, as we see a hundred emotions are conveyed in a flicker across his face in a matter of seconds, or a tensing of a muscle in his jaw. Shaun Evans and Claire Foy, too, are admirable in their parts, the former restless and unpredictable, and the latter’s contained and detached disintegration.

The words which are spoken may be powerful, but those which are not are even more so. An alternate title to the film may very well have been ‘ a history of violence’, shrouded in secrecy and dismissal. There are no direct answers, only evasive glances; no confrontations, only stilted attempts at normalcy. Once the crack in the ice is made, we (along with Dawn) do not know how deep the lies extend, and the characters we see at the end are certainly not those we see at the beginning.

Wreckers is a careful construction of truth and fabrication, a prism that bends light at different angles, depending on your perspective. Fraught with a brooding disquiet, the slightly stumbling narrative is secondary to sombre evening light and revelations best left uncovered. However, rather than obliquely passing judgment on truth, Wreckers asks an even more interesting question – is the truth worth knowing?

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