Upstream Color (2013)

Kris: "Is there a direction that you feel drawn to?"
By Shane Carruth
With Amy Seimetz, Shane Carruth and Andrew Sensenig

It is hard for me to pinpoint a single reason why I decided to watch this film. I think it came up somehow and I had to decide on a feeling, and I had a good feeling about it. It looked indie and thought provoking so I decided to go for it.

The movie starts in a confusing manner, when a man throws out plants, paper notes, manufactures pills with larvae in them, teaches some kids in the neighborhood and finally abducts a woman. He then proceeds to implant a larvae in her system, which makes her forget most of her functions. She only desires water and frantically writes out paragraphs from Walden by Henry David Thoreau, and finally ends up in the hospital, but not before the unknown man has her sign papers and give him all her money. The story then follows Kris as she recovers and starts living her life again.

What shocks at first in Upstream Color is the weird, eerie and very organic feel that the movie has. It is very well rendered. The movie is confusing and we never know what to really expect but we make up most of it as it comes along, which is really good, even though all your questions will probably not be answered, even as the credits roll.

Adding to the eerie atmosphere of the movie is the complex role of sound and music. It's only rarely that I've witnessed such interesting sound work in a film: a man throws a rock multiple times to find the perfect sound and we witness it and feel it in its entirety. Not everything will be explained and a good part of the movie might be up to you to link the clues you were given together in order to build a (more) definite picture. I like that.

In it's cinematography, this movie reminded me of The Tree of Life (2011) and a lot of the beauty of it comes from similar techniques. However, I felt Upstream Color dealt with a profound moral story dealing with free will for example, whereas The Tree of Life seem to rely on its technique to make up for the lack of story. In both films, the dialogues are not the main focus and most of the story is relayed through symbols, sounds and imagery.

I liked: Eerie atmosphere, both images and sounds. Interesting take on free will. That feeling of a weird movie that could make sense if scrutinized in detail, it makes you re-think it over and over.

I disliked: Might be quite difficult to get into. Not necessarily clear. A little slow at times.

Quite an interesting indie gem. Beautiful and pleasant film, probably not to everyone's taste given the biological and almost metaphysical concepts, but I liked it.


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