- Actors: Amy Seimetz, Shane Carruth, Andrew Sensenig, Thiago Martins, Kathy Carruth
- Directors: Shane Carruth
- Format: Multiple Formats, Blu-ray, AC-3, Color, NTSC, Widescreen
- Language: English
- Region: All Regions
- Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
- Number of discs: 2
- Rated: Not RatedUnrated
- Studio: Flatiron Film Company
- DVD Release Date: May 7, 2013
- Run Time: 96 minutes
- Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars See all reviews (185 customer reviews)
- ASIN: B00BC75H5S
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #32,070 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
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A woman (Amy Seimetz) is abducted and hypnotized with an organic material harvested from a specific flower. When she falls for a man (Carruth), the two come to realize he may also have been subjected to the same process. They search urgently for a place of safety within each other and struggle to assemble the fragments of their wrecked lives, unknowingly drawn into the life cycle of a presence that permeates the microscopic world.
Did one of the best movies ever made just debut at Sundance? --TIME Magazine
Having the movie wash over me was one of the most transcendent experiences of my moviegoing life --AV Club
A dramatically obscure, technically brilliant experiment in speculative fiction from Shane Carruth --Hollywood Reporter
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Top Customer Reviews
The Blu Ray pack I bought on Amazon came with the usual Amazon speed and quality packing. The disks inside were secure and the Blu Ray packaging was in no way damaged or flawed.
The Blu Ray version of the film had no issues. First playing was done in a Playstation 3 Blu Ray drive. There were no audio issues that I experienced. The video and soundscape quality are top of the line and better than some blu ray disks that have come out. Crisp clear picture, blacks were black, colors vibrant (as is the intention), and the audio on my Onkyo 7.2 surround system was atmospheric. Basically on the blu ray, enjoy the show. If you did have issues you may be able to replace your disk if there were fabrication issues. I would think amazon would trade in for a new copy or even Shane Carruth possibly.
I hope this review helped a little bit if some of you are on the fence with this. I will be watching this again a few more times and its time to watch Primer again.
The force driving this apparently dream-like, Lynchian narrative is as solid and well-realized as the one in Carruth's previous film Primer, but completely different. Yet I might not have figured it out had I not read some articles describing the book "Qbsbtjuf Sfy" (change the letters backward one place alphabetically (b becomes a, for example) if you don't mind a spoiler).
If you like challenging, masterfully directed science fiction with an emphasis on storytelling over MichaelBaySplodiness, check out this movie.
I'd like you to know why I think that's so, in the hope that you'll take it seriously while you watch, then watch it again, then tell others to do so.
The way into this film is to think of what you're seeing in terms of metaphor. If you start with that--the idea that the objects, actors, and scenes all represent something beyond themselves--the film isn't hard to follow.
If you start with plot--as you have been taught to do in American film since Jaws--you're lost. The progression is jarring, sometimes even disjointed, there's very little dialogue, and no character is going to suddenly appear and spell out everything for you.
But that's why you're reading this, so I'll play that character...
In a wild, impossible premise, the identities of the two protagonists, a man and woman, are removed from their bodies and surgically transferred to pigs.
This doesn't happen, however, until a botanist subdues and brainwashes both. We see only the woman's case, but can infer the other has gone through the same process, because both show a familiarity not only with the same memories, but also with phrases from Thoreau's Walden, as well as a propensity to repeat the mindless, repetitive gestures of taking pieces of paper and manipulating them into shapes.
The woman makes a paper chain out of folded sheets on which she has transcribed pages of Walden without thinking about them, and the man works with the paper casings of thousands of straws.
So that's the surface of the premise.
Let's look at a few other surfaces.
We first see the woman in a cubicle job, overseeing the editing of a brief sequence of a film that features lots of CGI work: a bleak landscape through which a scifi robot walks on four artificial limbs, like a quadripedal animal, except the environment is so artificial that none of it exists or has any link to reality. There's an error in the sequence: a trace of a human foot or hand, maybe from a gaffer, that ruins the illusion. The woman says something to the effect that if she can see it, someone else will. She then goes about the process of hiring the second choice for editor, lying casually over the phone (we love your work...sorry we've taken so long getting back to you).
During her brainwashing, she is told that water will stand in for food, and she will be satisfied with small doses of it while craving more--a nonsensical bit of reasoning borrowed from junkiedom.
She is told that she cannot directly behold the face of the individual telling her what to do, because he is made of the same material as the sun. A nonsensical bit of reasoning that smacks of religious insistence on the acceptance of non-facts. Or perhaps advertising; you see and hear actors, not the writers of the pitch nor the clients. The larger point is that he's lying. He's just a person, manipulating a situation.
To earn a few chips from a checker board, which allow her to "buy" sips of water, she is instructed to transcribe Walden word for word on blank sheets of paper which she must then fold, glue and form into a chain, which is later discarded by the brainwashing botanist.
A paper trail that soon vanishes; the brainwasher cleans up after cleaning her out, leaving with the (strange) evidence, and ending her trance with the phrase "the wall has crumbled...fallen down."
She loses her job, her savings, and likely her credit as well. All as a result of losing her identity.
Okay...another way of looking at this:
What was her identity to begin with?
Her job? Not editing, not filming, not color timing, but rather supervising the editing of someone else's film, which depicts a scene so artificial it can't exist. Nothing direct, three-dimensional, tactile or real.
She's supervising--a signal of higher pay in cubicle world. With the implication that it takes all her time. Her identity likely IS her job. A couple of lines to dash off after naming the company at a cocktail party.
What was her credibility? Her success, her credit rating, the credibility of her company.
All gone. Quickly.
Like being told water is a substitute for food, and being made to believe that transcribing someone else's information and reshaping it on paper is essential, time-consuming, all-encompassing work.
What's her next job?
Working at a signage company, this time as labor. Making signs she doesn't care about or understand.
Once again, perfectly in line with the messages and tactics of her brainwashing. It's more meaningless work, this time for subsistence. At best.
And now we meet the man. Already brainwashed. What was he before? A financier. Another manipulator of information several levels removed from making or doing anything tactile, three-dimensional or real.
Where is he now? Like her, vaguely in the same field, now lower down. He's discredited, off the books, unacknowledged and removed.
They're drawn to each other and don't know why. Like so many attractions.
They discover their memories are identical.
An exaggeration in the film drawn from the premise, but how different is that from people whose identities are essentially their jobs? How many dates are happening right now where both parties say something is amazing that isn't, shortly before discussing their like of all kinds of music, movies, and travel?
How does the film turn around?
The woman suffers a psychological break from the horror of being utterly lost, and finally tries something desperate, strange and (most important) unique: she creates a physical association with the words that were brainwashed into her by diving for stones she drops in a pool, then retrieving them one at a time, assigning each a phrase from Walden that suddenly means something to her.
Actions tied to words tied to ideas. Something tactile, three-dimensional. Real.
And she's literally beneath the surface finding these revelations, slowly bringing them to light. And the man recognizes the words as well, and their power; the implication is he was brainwashed with the same book. A guess that's reinforced by an early scene, with the brainwasher working on his plants while a record plays. An album of Walden being read aloud.
What is Walden about? Going one's own way. Finding one's own identity. Reconsidering and frequently rejecting what you've been told to accept by the social order, for the purpose of discovering the self.
How does the film end? The couple pieces together what happened to them, and the man and woman devote their lives to tending to the pigs--pack animals--who possess their true identities. A literal way of showing them taking care of themselves, taking themselves seriously simply as beings for the first time.
They inform other victims, who join them in this activity. As Thoreau has been asking you to join him by repeating his exploration of self discovery.
Because there's color upstream, waiting to be reclaimed and brought down to where you are.
Ask yourself now who the botanist/brainwasher is. Perhaps a stand-in for the goods you've been sold. The social messages you take as facts of life.
Ask yourself who the farmer is. And why he's killed. Perhaps a stand-in for a flawed god. Look how downscale his equipment is. Despite some startling successes--the ability to transfer consciousness between beings, and the stunning sympatico between strangers exposed to the same experiments, even he recognizes that his attempts have limits, and ultimately don't work the way he'd intended.
Then again, the botanist and farmer are both scientists; you can make a genetic argument here as well. Advertising, religion, bioengineering, social conventions, pharmacology, chemical changes through botany--in 2013, we're tinkering not only with psychology, but also physiology, brain chemistry, even DNA.
The larger point remains: conmen, gods or scientists, they take us far from who we really are.
In the end, how do they fail? There's an error in the sequence. A trace of humanity remains, ruining the illusion. If you notice, someone else will too. A man on a train noticing a woman. A person watching a film.
Great movie. Watch it again.
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