Dhe art thief gets into the New York luxury apartment and has seven minutes to steal the paintings. He routinely removes pictures from the walls, but the last one, a self-portrait by Egon Schiele, cannot be found. Adrenaline rushes through the thief’s body, the clock is ticking, he has to hurry to the exit, but a technical error snaps the door shut before he can escape. The alarm system continues to shriek deafeningly, so that viewers breathe a sigh of relief when the thief finally cuts the cable to the faulty touchscreen. In the silence, the scope of fate is revealed: the soundproof walls absorb every call for help, contact with the accomplice via walkie-talkie is lost and the battery soon runs out.
The thief tries in vain to carve open the heavy wooden door and smash the window panes with artificial oranges. He saws up expensive furniture and stacks it to climb to freedom via the skylight. But the penthouse loft has such absurdly high ceilings that it becomes a tower of Babel. The more tables and chairs he barricades into one another, the more shaky the ascent becomes. The hubris hinted at in the building of the tower can also be understood as the message of the entire film: people perish because of their technology.
The out-of-control air conditioner turns the luxury apartment into hell and the escape attempt into a struggle for survival. Sometimes the temperature rises to 40 degrees, then the air cools down icy. The forces of nature are man-made, but no less life-threatening. “Inside” brilliantly reverses the paradigm of the survival thriller. Classics of the genre such as “Cast Away” with Tom Hanks portray people as oddballs who struggle through the undergrowth after a plane crash. But in “Inside” man himself is the savage stuck in the high-tech prison. In the soulless penthouse he struggles with the talking refrigerator and the security system. Alone and facing death, he discards culture and customs.
He becomes the animal that licks condensation from the refrigerator, eats a shiny fish raw from the aquarium and relieves himself in the luxury bathroom without any restraint due to the lack of toilet flushing and social control. The situation is constructed. At the beginning one wonders why contact with thief number three, who is flying in a helicopter, is lost so abruptly and why no one else in this megacity can rush to help. Why doesn’t the protagonist have a cell phone for emergencies, and why isn’t there at least one old laptop or phone in this tech-packed apartment? Why doesn’t the water flow out of the tap, but out of the sprinkler system for the tropical plants?
But as soon as you accept that, the feature film debut of the documentary filmmaker Vasilis Katsoupis is a spectacle worth seeing – also because of the impressive acting one-man show by Willem Dafoe. The camping trip in the high-end apartment is not only tragic, but also provides moments of comedy. For example, the pesky fridge will ask the survivor “Hello, how about an avocado smoothie?” and start playing “Macarena” if you leave the door open too long. Meanwhile, the hero lives on vodka and caviar, dog food and noodles, which are left to soak for 24 hours due to the lack of boiling water.
Simple needs guide his day: eating, drinking, cooling off, warmth and of course simulating closeness to others of his kind. His only companion in suffering is an injured pigeon in front of the window, his only consolation is a woman who works as a cleaner in the high-rise building. He stalks her on the security camera screens and falls in love – not with her as a specific person, but with her as a person altogether. Man is not just a naked body, but a social being. If you’re lonely, you’re not just neglecting yourself, you’re going crazy. After just a few hours, the outside world behind the window front is just a backdrop. From time to time a helicopter flies by, once the fireworks glitter on the 4th of July. Since the pandemic, we can all empathize with this desperation.
Particularly touching is a scene where Dafoe, to escape the heat, sticks his head in the fridge and starts crying. Plus music from the club vacation. One understands why the lonely savage creates rituals that make no sense from the outside. The film is a terrific parable of man, who can no longer blame the gods for the forces of nature, and for that very reason builds a shrine. Insanely he worships his own wall doodle because he knows in his heart that his life form is to blame for this predicament: the heat, the cold, and the deluge from the sprinkler system.