H. (Sundance 2015)

4 Feb

Artsy. Wierd. Pretentious. Experimental. Cryptic.

Whatever labels you throw at it, the 2015 Sundance film H. is a hard one to tackle. Equal parts romance, sci-fi, relationship drama, and visual poetry, H. tells the story of two couples whose lives slowly start to intersect into each others’ in conjunction with the passing of some celestial object from space.  The first characters we encounter are Helen and Roy (played by Robin Bartlett and  Julian Gamble respectively), an aging couple from Troy, New York. Helen likes to purchase life-like baby dolls and treat them like real newborn (or as she calls them “reborn” babies, which includes pretending to put them to bed, feeding, and burping them. Roy likes fishing. There is another woman named Helen (Rebecca Dayan), but she is in her 8th month of pregnancy and is into artistic photography along with her husband Alex (Will Janowitz). Both couples seem to innocently carry on with their lives until a mysterious something (natural disaster? meteor? space aliens?) causes the city to go into chaos, triggering a domino effect that weaves in and out of the city.

Featuring some fantastic imagery from this year’s festival (rivaled only perhaps by Lubezki’s work in Last Days in the Desert and the stunning visual palette from The Witch), H. was designed and experienced as a bold visceral journey. Along the way are various cryptic messages referencing the great Greek drama The Iliad. H.‘s music is also intensely compelling. If you haven’t already associated the beautiful cello and piano piece Arvo Part with great cinema after watching There Will Be Bloodyou will now; almost every scene in H. has some variation of the intense melody.

The story itself is pretty inaccessible – most of the audience’s understanding (or lack thereof) comes from subtle visual references – but H. is really a must see because of it’s ability to exhibit and celebrate a truly unique flavor of film. The tone of this thing washed right over me from the start and I was completely entranced by it’s hypnotic spell. In an age where most films feel the need to explain everything to the point of redundancy, it’s incredibly refreshing to see something trying so hard to be ambiguous. H. does feel a little like an amatuer student production at some points, but I absolutely think filmmakers Daniel Garcia and Rania Attieh have a solid future ahead of them. Its lack of a concrete explanation (or any explanation at all) for the events on-screen will surely leave some viewers frustrated, but H. is a bold execution in ambient, atmospheric filmmaking and deserves to be seen.

Screen Shot 2015-02-04 at 5.12.25 PM

 

Rating: 7/10 

Similar to: Enemy (2014), Under The Skin (2014), Upstream Color (2013) 

Check out the trailer below:

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