Funded out of a 30,000 Euro inheritance, seventeen days in the shooting but over two years in post-production, the development of Peter Strickland's striking debut feature Katalin Varga (2009) is almost as intriguing a story as that contained in the movie. Set and filmed in Romania, the film focuses on the journey of the title character (Hilda Peter) and her young son when they are effectively banished from their village following a revelation about Katalin's past. As the pair travel through the Carpathians, staying with various strangers en route, the mystery of Katalin's past and the object of her quest slowly become apparent.
If Tarkovsky had directed I Spit On Your Grave (1978) after viewing The Night of the Hunter (1955) it's possible that the end results may have been something like Katalin Varga, which deconstructs the "rape-revenge" sub-genre through an art-cinema aesthetic. The film is sometimes self-conscious and its rhythm isn't enirely satisfying: the early scenes, in particular, pass by a bit too quickly. But it's a gripping and distinctive piece of work, with a good performance from Peter and plenty of atmosphere: the director makes the most of his locations, while an innovative approach to sound design also distinguishes the movie. Here's hoping that the talented Strickland doesn't have to undergo another bereavement in order to get his next film made.