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(May 06, 2009)
In the quest for synthesis, we create meaning.
UNDEFINED utilizes a theme-based narrative structure to explore the complexities of addiction, control, guilt, community and self help. The film looks into the lives of five loosely connected characters and draws meaning from their relationships and psychological misfortunes.
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This 64 minute art house film is a study of the modern neighborhood church turned enterprising cult, a dark journey of self redemption turned superhero parody, and the cerebral tragedy of a disenchanted therapist, all barely touching one another (both in terms of plot and style), much as the characters, themselves, reach out to each other and to faith only to find brief, fleeting connections that often prove dangerous and/or tragic.
These stories are disjointed and seemingly incomplete, yet a unifying theme of ambiguity and emptiness, an inability to define "good" and "bad," "healthy" and "dangerous," pervades the film and applies some semblance of meaning to an otherwise random cross-section of three disparate lives. The vigilante attempts to find this meaning for himself and bring it to others, the doctor drowns in his inability to do the same, and (depending upon your reading) the preacher is either blind to this ideological confusion or is purposely causing it, himself.
However you choose to read this film, it will challenge you if you allow it to do so. If you're the kind of viewer who demands a linear story and a clear-cut message, then this may not belong on your "Must See" list. And even if you're a fan of challenging and amorphous art house cinema, you should still expect to be frustrated. "Undefined" offers few answers and begs many questions that are difficult to even synthesize into words. There are times when I watch this film and see it for its limitations (largely the plot, which gets thoroughly confusing at points), but most times I'm able to put those limitations aside and see the film for its larger purpose -- a bold attempt to challenge and provoke. Whichever way it strikes you, this may be a film worthy of your time, your money, and of many repeated viewings.