How much do we know about boarding schools, its real purpose, and the goals it wants to achieve? For what kind of future does it prepare its students and what’s the level of information it shares with its residents? “Level 16”, written and directed by Danishka Esterhazy, provides an excellent explanation of the dark side of the closed facility that does not really do what it’s meant to but instead exploits the children in a way, I can assure about that, you can hardly imagine.
Vestalis boarding school is a place that saves young women from the outside world that can poison them. It claims that it prepares the girls for their new family and only those who reach level 16, as per their age, are the luckiest ones that finally meet their new adopted families. The girls know by heart all the “feminine virtues”, pretty much brainwashed with this, knowing nothing else except obedience, cleanliness, patience, and humility. However, what the girls do not know is that their future is not going to be as pleasant as they were told, and in fact, there will be none if they won’t fight for it.
As soon as the film starts, we do not trust the matriarch, Miss Brixil, who’s not only strange but without a doubt hides important information from girls. Sophie, who reunites with Vivian at their very last level, warns Vivian about the vitamins that she must stop taking. Also, another interesting fact is that all the girls at the boarding school keep repeating to themselves the school’s policy – “a clean girl is always attentive and dutiful. A clean girl is always humble and patient. A clean girl embodies sweetness. A clean girl gives school their loyalty.” However, strangely none of them can even read.
Whether it’s the setting, dark atmosphere, cinematography, convincing performances, and more importantly the storyline, in Esterhazy’s film, “Level 16”, everything works from start to end. Especially its ending that will make anyone angry. Unfortunately, the concept in the film that I cannot reveal, is perhaps what happens in some parts of the world. The fact that all the girls must keep their faces clean, obey rules such as taking vitamins, or their suspicious deep sleep at night will raise many concerns for the viewers, as by the time when you reach towards the middle of the film, you will be totally into it with no chance to exit before it ends.
The story told in “Level 16” is tragic. But if you know more about it, it will make total sense. The scene when an elderly woman with her company comes at night to pick a girl, that scene alone is not only scary but creepy too. It’s when a very attentive viewer will realize the whole purpose of a girl farm with cute faces that eventually is the main concern of the boarding school and their entire plan of how to exploit young girls in a very disturbing way.
In conclusion, “Level 16” is one of those rare sci-fi films that really works. It’s intelligent, has a flawless plot, straight-forward direction, mind-blowing lines, and the atmosphere you will enjoy throughout. As it examines what may happen in a boarding school of any kind, the film offers an authentic look at what may happen if the process of brainwashing stops working. When those who are meant to ask no questions begin exercising feelings such as a curiosity and fear. Because those two things will turn into a trigger point to ensure the school won’t get what it wants, and the lives it wants to claim won’t be lost. And the fight that will start soon will go down in history as lifechanging for anyone who finds itself at the center of it. While you, as a viewer, will be stunned and amazed at the same time, this seemingly indie film has more to offer than many big budget films altogether.