10/40/70 - Resolution
In the book 10/40/70, author Nicholas Rombes recognizes the necessity of constraint as a means of liberating film criticism in the digital era. In this section of my reviews, I will be deploying the same techniques utilized by Rombes; analyzing the contents of the frames a film contains at the 10 minute, 40 minute, and 70 minute marks. These reviews will be posted every Wednesday.
Craigen Z Oster
Resolution (Moorhead & Benson, 2012)
In one sense, Moorhead & Benson's first feature film collaboration is a movie made for obsessive cinephiles. Despite being incredibly entertaining, the film functions primarily as a philosophical treatise on independent filmmaking rather than as a genre expanding horror flick. It has a nice and easy indie set-up; old friends reconnect under mysterious circumstances at a "cabin" in what is essentially the middle of nowhere. Mike travels to the boonies of San Diego to help get his old cracked-out best friend Chris sober by chaining him for a week to the wall of the bombed out shotgun shack that he's been staying in. As the film pushes forward, there is some unseen presence manipulating the events of the week through various storytelling mediums.
In this first image, we see this binding. Chris' hand burst through the middle of Mike's grasp. It may be fucked up to make this comparison, but I can't help but think of Christ being crucified. Growing up in the Catholic school system, my mind was filled with countless images of the Son of God being wrangled and mauled with all physical control being taken away. Chris couldn't be further from Christ. He's a crackhead living in his own filth, not the word of God incarnate. BUT this film is also one about the stories we tell ourselves, and how those stories impact our reality in very tangible ways.
The very act of Mike arriving at Chris' has thrust the two of them into a story, just as the act of God manifesting a son (metaphorically speaking) sent him into a story. These stories, as is true with all stories given the finite nature of human life, can only truly end in one way. Sure, if Mike had just stayed home with his pregnant wife, there would be no tale of two friends and a world of potential evils (both real and imagined) threatening to destroy them, but ultimately there is only one true final conclusion to the story of his life.
By seeing Chris' hand trapped like this, my own mortality comes into focus. I too am ultimately under the control of something other than myself. Whether or not free will exists or is merely an illusion, an invisible pair of hands is grasping on to my own and pulling me forward to the ultimate destination that all humans end up at.
An image of a virtual image of Mike. When I say virtual, I mean in it the way that French philosopher and theorist Gilles Deleuze defined it. Deleuze wrote that the "virtual" is not opposed to "real" but opposed to "actual", whereas "real" is opposed to "possible." The virtual image is thus one that isn't merely a possibility. It exists, but it is somehow removed from reality and feels "less real" than the actual thing itself. Christopher Vitale, an associate professor of media studies at the Pratt Institute, conceptualizes this difference by explaining that the "real" is like the actual coffee mug we hold in our hand and the "virtual" is the reflection of that mug as we looking into the mirror in the morning. This "virtual" mirror mug cannot exist without the "real" mug being there, and yet it is still not the actual mug that we are seeing when we look at it.
At this point in the film, Mike has discovered multiple different stories embedded in 8mm film strips, books, and still images. These stories have randomly appeared in the cabin, been found in the local library, or been sitting outside mysterious abandoned houses. Each of these films has the same ending; death. Mike has also started to become aware that these "virtual" stories may be more than just that; they have their basis in the real world, something he discovers when he finds a gravestone that he saw in a collection of still photos.
In this shot, as the "virtual" in the film drifts closer to the "real," the audience's perception of Mike has done the opposite. The real has become the virtual with Mike being scene indirectly through the mirror. As a viewer, we immediately register that we are seeing Mike. But upon reflection, we realize that we are only seeing a reflection, not the actual man himself. It again becomes even more apparent to me that the supposed horror story that I am watching on screen, while a virtual image, must have its basis in reality as all virtual images do. I am again reminded of my mortality, that all "stories" of death, all "virtual" deaths that exist in film, painting, photography, and literature are all reflections of "real" deaths. The film I am watching here is a virtual image of the ultimate demise of those on screen, but also one of myself.
Once more, Mike.
His eyes are closed, mid-blink, but the light shines on him through the door behind him. It is in this moment that he seems calmer than he should. He isn't panicking, despite the accumulation of stories that suggest his death is imminent. He has accepted that this situation is completely unfathomable, something he cannot understand but just accept and feel his way through rather than being a slave to logic. By very nature of the medium, film asks each and every viewer to do the same, even in films that adhere to incredibly rigid logic in their plotting and execution. Films pull emotions out of people, making them cry, laugh, or smile. Films frighten and invoke deep contemplation. And yet, they are wholly constructed. They are not reality. They are always virtual images, whether documentary or fiction. These virtual images, despite not being the real, are still reflections of the real and imbued with the same sadness, excitement, or anger that we feel when we watch them. This is what gives them their power, just like dreams. We know that they are not real. We can differentiate between what we see on screen and behind our eyelids from what we see in our waking life, but our bodies still interpret the emotions experienced in these different settings the same way.
Mike has realized this. It doesn't matter who or what has been leaving these tapes, films, drawings, and books for him and Chris, not does it matter that they contain footage of themselves from impossible angles or of things that have yet to happen. Because they exist, they contain some fragments of reality.