Graham Swon’s THE WORLD IS FULL OF SECRETS presents an unvarnished, pensive and anecdotally-driven feature, which manages to develop an eerily encompassing time-capsule: both as an homage to the rural horror of the late 20th century, and a memory-mirror for the viewer; a flashback to the time of innocence, when the ideas of horror were fused in fiction.
The film begins with an omnipresent, invisible narrator, an elderly old woman who guides and ruptures the storyboard of the past; centred around the time where a traumatic event had taken place. The plot takes shape on a tranquil evening in 1996, where five teenage friends take advantage of an unsupervised house; as they pass the evening with alcohol, folklore-inspired games, and gruesome stories composed from the histories of violence against women. As the campfire fizzles out, the echoes of those stories drift into the present.
Swon’s feature resounds through simplicity and atmosphere; with the frames focusing on the girls’ faces as they tell their stories, creating an almost trance-like foundation for Swon’s composition. The use of non-diegetic classical music in the background of the monologues manages to enhance Swon’s hypnotic transitions, while simultaneously balancing a sense of historicism to the classical and contemporary recollections of the past. THE WORLD IS FULL OF SECRETS impressively manages to submerge the spectator into Swon’s candid representation of youth, through the similarities between Swon’s script and the timeless essences that remain fixed in urban legends: through the juxtaposition between the different cultural readings of witchcraft and execution. While there are subtle lessons we can dissect from Swon’s writing, the dreamlike canvas that carries the script indicates that there is a fluidity to the conclusion; one that will change through each viewer’s different reflection within the Swon’s mirror.
There is a widespread component of nostalgia that streams through the campfire scene; reminiscent of the jocosity of ‘80s slasher flicks, to the Goosebumpian region of children’s horror fiction, with direct reference to shows like ARE YOU AFRAID OF THE DARK? While the film’s technical aspects are slightly underwhelming, Swon manages to construct a bridge between the two aesthetic polarities – placing THE WORLD IS FULL OF SECRETS in the centre – through his purposeful narrative which sets to exclaim: that for many people the true horrors of life remain stories; but stories have to stem from the realities of others. The climax, however, fails to have a change of pace; meaning that the chill in the wind is barely a breeze as the credits roll. But, perhaps that was Swon’s intention; to illuminate our own realisations of our disconnection to the past horrors of the world and our futility in re-living it again.
THE WORLD IS FULL OF SECRETS is an interesting debut feature and it manages to relay a whirlpool of subtle lessons within its constrained technical approach. While Swon’s feature is far from the gore, suspense, and intensity we expect from the horror genre, the subduing effects of the narrative mean that the macabre that has been omitted from the screen still manages to creep into our imagination.