In their publicity materials for Tina Krause’s single feature as a director, Limbo (1999), AGFA describe the films as “this is what might happen if David Lynch and Nine Inch Nails collaborated on a shot-on-video horror movie”. In terms of style it’s an accurate summation of what Krause does with Limbo. There’s at least one visual quotation from Lynch’s Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (1994) in Limbo not to mention a plethora of nods towards the visual effects typical of music videos at that time. What Krause actually accomplishes with these various tools and influences can’t be summed up with an easy comparison.
Limbo is a dreamy, quasi-surreal, non-linear look at three days in the life of a young woman. She has to navigate sexist men and the even more menacing supernatural anomalies that dog her every step. Scenes of the everyday interactions between men and women are glimpsed with a traditional narrative realism that is often mirrored more abstractly in those proceeding scenes that take on a more fantastic quality. Part of what Krause does in Limbo is to look at the causality in the everyday social interactions of women from both the internal and external perspectives of the protagonist. Those moments of the fantastique or supernatural, where cinematic form is at its most avant-garde, represent the internal while the more realist sequences handle the external.
Overall, Limbo is a kind of tapestry of disparate shots and scenes linked thematically or by tone for their cumulative effect. Krause’s feminist political agenda extends to a radicalizing of cinematic form that has more in common with the “art” films of Lydia Lunch and Richard Kern than the disposable trash films of Bleeding Skull! and W.A.V.E Productions. Limbo is proof positive that there is “art” even in those veins of cinema that the professional critics dismiss out of hand. Krause spent almost a decade acting in micro-budget, shot on video films before making Limbo, proving that the best way to learn a craft is simply by doing it. In this way both process and product (or art object) are part of the same feminist statement.
Limbo is so successful in accomplishing its mission that the horror it provokes in the viewer isn’t immediate like a jump-scare, but one that comes from its themes as they are reiterated time and again over the course of the film’s one hour running time. Some of Krause’s images are disturbing on their own, but they take all their depth of feeling and their impact from those shots that follow or have proceeded it. The terror of Limbo is that it totally immerses the viewer in one woman’s struggle to resist being victimized, objectified, and undervalued by our society.
Ironically Tina Krause is probably better known today for writing and directing Limbo thanks to the Blu-Ray release from AGFA than for the hundreds of movies she starred in. Limbo deserves to be valued as an epic piece of personal, feminist filmmaking. In an ideal world Limbo would be screened regularly at film schools all over the world for both its message and its example. Personally, I really love Limbo but in my heart Tina Krause will always be Lightning Girl,