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Beyond the Walls (Miniseries, 2016)

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Beyond the Walls

Beyond the WallsStarring Veerle Baetens, François Deblock, Lila-Rose Gilberti, Geraldine Chaplin

Directed by Hervé Hadmar

Screened at FrightFest 2016


This three-episode French miniseries, originally titled “Au delà des Murs,” sees speech therapist Lisa (Baetens) suddenly inherit a strange house that sits across the road from her apartment. Apparently, the unrelated owner had sat, dead and undiscovered, in an armchair for thirty years – and his will explicitly names her as inheritor of his home.

Setting about redecorating, Lisa is intrigued by the strangely-patterned wallpaper… and when she breaks through the wall after hearing odd noises within, she finds herself stranded in a dark, labyrinthine world from which there appears to be no escape.

A dark fantasy through and through, Hervé Hadmar’s series paints a dislocated reality hidden in some kind of alternate plane, populated by other lost souls whose time spent wandering its hallways sees them gradually lose mental faculties – mutating and devolving into ink-soaked figures that seek to suck the life-force from other unwary travellers.

Still completely human, however, is Julien (Deblock), a soldier whose presence informs Lisa that not only is this a realm outside of standard physical space, but also outside of time itself. Julien has spent his days mapping out the environs in his search for an exit – and his wall-sprawling map provides ample persuasion that getting out will not be a simple task.

Hadmar stretches his tale out across three 45-minute episodes with measured precision, seeing a minimum of wasted time hit the screen. Both Baetens and Deblock are captivating leads throughout – especially Baetens’ complicated Lisa, whose internal conflict is very much apparent once she discovers the existence of a hidden grove within this bizarre realm… a place where safety could be assured for all time.

Most immediately striking are the series’ production values, which are astronomical. The visuals are at once creepy, absorbing and poetic, feeding off of the stunning set design to generate a distinctly fairytale-like atmosphere. Backed up by an involving score, “Beyond the Walls” makes an enchanting feast for the senses.

It isn’t all danger and exploration, however, as the burgeoning romance between Lisa and Julien becomes a primary narrative drive and key to much of the later episodes’ peril. Sadly, despite the extended running time, this isn’t fleshed out particularly well – the proverbial and literal climax of their relationship arriving with not quite enough convincing motivational fuel behind it.

Despite this slight failing, “Beyond the Walls” ramps up to a superbly constructed ending, tying the story together with earnest tenderness and an emotional gut-punch that’s guaranteed to pry at your tear ducts. Comparisons with the work of Guillermo del Toro are likely, given the skill with which Hadmar intersects the fantastical and monstrous with the practical and human – not to mention the sumptuous fantasy visuals.

Occasionally breathtaking, sporadically frightening and consistently enthralling, “Beyond the Walls” is a magnificent dive into the darkly fantastical that no genre fan should miss.

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User Rating 3.63 (8 votes)

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