Berlinale 2024 review: 'Sasquatch Sunset' - a silly yet touching ode to silent cinema

Sasquatch Sunset
Sasquatch Sunset Copyright Berlinale
By David Mouriquand
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Who knew that one of the most memorable films at this year's Berlinale would feature sasquatches pissing, pooping, and discovering the vastness of their world?

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It’s hard to know what to expect from the first few minutes of Sasquatch Sunset, from directors Nathan and David Zellner. Their film follows four sasquatches as the mythical creatures make their way through the mountains and forests over the course of four seasons.

The hairy beasts eat, sleep, fornicate, defecate, fight, play with turtles, sniff skunks, and gradually come into contact with things they don’t fully comprehend, like a red ‘X’ on a tree, or a concrete road that puzzles them to the point of distress (and urination).

Throughout, there’s no dialogue. Just grunts.

At first, Sasquatch Sunset seems like a joke taken too far that couldn’t possibly sustain a feature film runtime. And after 20 minutes, it almost dares you to leave. However, those who don’t get discouraged will be rewarded.

It’s one of those see-it-to-believe-it films, and the furthest thing from an 89-minute troll.

Set in Northern California, this could have been the origin story / prequel to the infamous Patterson-Gimlin film but ends up as a silly yet strangely captivating National Geographic doc – with plenty of absurdist goodness thrown in for good measure.

Sh*ts & giggles

The scatological parts (and there are plenty) won’t be for everyone, but the Zellners fully commit to the bit and never wink off their concept. They want their audience to laugh, and while that frequently happens, a surprising thing occurs as the runtime progresses: you start to genuinely care about these creatures, and borderline cast yourself as a Bigfoot Jane Goodall trying to interpret their grunts and behaviours.

One constantly needs to affirm his place as the alpha; one struggles to count; the younger one has conversations with his hand, a sort of Tony-to-Danny in The Shining deal; and the female holds it all together. And you become very invested in their wellbeing. 

Spoiler: Not all of them make it.

The actors playing the sasquatches are unrecognizable, decked out in hairy suits and heavy prosthetics. You wouldn’t guess that Riley Keough (Logan Lucky, The Lodge) and Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network) play two of them – alongside Nathan Zellner and Christophe Zajac-Denek (Twin Peaks’ Ike The Spike). All of them deliver some terrific physical performances, and manage to emote quite a bit with their eyes – especially Keough.

Luscious landscapes

The images throughout Sasquatch Sunset are stunning, with cinematographer Mike Gioulakis (Us, It Follows) delivering some gorgeous nature shots that further show how seriously the Zellners have taken this project. T

There’s an earnestness about what is essentially a weird semi-silent comedy about a family living in the wild, trying to survive and facing the possibility that they are not alone in the universe – and that man is a confusing beast. Indeed, the presence of electric pylons or the effects of deforestation are visible in the film’s second half, and while the filmmakers don’t clumsily crowbar any wider meditation about nothing being kind about mankind, the ending packs a punch which won’t be spoiled here.

Who knew what one of the most memorable films of the Berlinale this year would be an alternatively silly and touching sasquatch drama that reminds you of the joys of silent cinema and physical comedy?

So, what do you think, lads - Loch Ness Monster next?

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