Directed by: Adam Sigal
Distributed by: Saban Films
Written by Alexander Reams
Nandor Fodor (Simon Pegg) is a man of science, not religion. His ideologies about life and his area of study are constant to abject confusion from the everyman. To understand the way Fodor thinks about his subjects a great deal of exposition needs to be delivered, and quickly. What is concocted as a television interview in which Fodor explains his area of study with wonderfully complex scientific jargon strung together in such an eloquent manner that it’s easy to understand. This eloquence is disrupted by the entrance of a rumor in Fodor’s life, Gef, a mongoose who supposedly speaks. The manner in which Harry Price (Christopher Lloyd) speaks of this creature is not far removed from a religious zealot.
Pegg is a performer largely known for his collaborations with Edgar Wright and Christopher McQuarrie, but his talent for dramatic roles has been ever-present. And his turn here is a revelation, going line for line with Minnie Driver (Anne, Fodor’s secretary) about the inquiry letters he’s received from solicitors for his services (it’s never made fully clear what these services are) and in what way Fodor wants them to read to him provides as much entertainment as the breakdown Fodor endures at the idea of Gef being real. Fodor repeatedly implies he’s a man of science, and such lunacies are not for him, until his mentor, Dr. Harry Price (a brief, but charming Christopher Lloyd) provides “proof” that Gef is in fact real. The idea that a mongoose could speak is used as a metaphor for the depression that Fodor finds himself in through the first act of the film, which segues towards Gef acting as a messianic figure to these townspeople, and that is why Fodor feels compelled to meet the Irving family, who house “Gef,” on the Isle of Man, on the coast of England.
When Fodor visits the island he encounters Gef, a voice through a box. Gef is voiced by Neil Gaiman and his voice work adds the quirkiness needed to make the idea of a talking mongoose feel real. This sets in motion the aforementioned breakdown, which culminates in a scene where Fodor renounces Gef and leaves with his mind in pieces, fractured at the possibility of his encounter with Gef being a fallacy, that he was lied to, and that this entire trip has been a plot to discredit him and make him a fool. If this feels rather quick that’s because it is, so much of Fodor is revealed at once through this scene. A man who has denounced religion for all of his life has now come face to face with something that is outside his belief system and the idea of it being challenged is too much for him. This is what many who believe in religion go through at times and to see it turned on its head was an exemplary way to mediate on it.
Writer/Director Adam Sigal brought the story of Nandor Fodor to life through his wonderful performers in front of the camera. However, it’s also the production design by Andrew Holden-Stokes that makes every set feel like a 1950s British television drama. It adds a layer of prestige and nostalgia that many films try, and fail to accomplish. Sigal’s cinematographer, Sara Deane captured the sets with brilliantly soft lighting, which allows the frame to feel slightly grainy at times, which again, contributes to the nostalgic feel Sigal captured. It’s a wonderful meditation on religion and what it means to believe.
“Nandor Fodor and the Talking Mongoose” Trailer