Kris Rothstein's Blog

VIFF 2017: Forest Movie

Kris Rothstein

It is a joy to see a local film which is modest and ambitious at the same time and which asks the audience to rethink questions of form and narrative. For the most part at the premiere of this film, viewers seemed happy to be along for the ride.

The one human character wakes from a dream of strong impressions of the forest. She packs a few supplies and walks to the woods. And walks and walks. There is no dialogue. She considers and ponders and eventually unpacks a camp chair. The trees surround and overwhelm.

Spoiler ahead. What happens next was a surprise to me, and I preferred being unprepared. What happens is a whole lot of nothing. It is a long shot of thirty minutes during which we just see the same scene of trees. As viewers we all construct something different from this period of contemplation. I enjoyed not knowing when it would end. It added suspense but also comedy. We were free to think but also to observe subtle changes in light and sound.

Our subject is seen sleeping and then awakens. It is almost dark and she guides herself with her phone flashlight. What happens next? Is she lost or does she emerge easily? We do not know. I loved the slight creepiness of nature in Forest Movie. There were elements of menace but never real danger, though one person described the camera as feeling ‘predatory.’ I also loved the idea of a character going out and basically falling asleep, getting lost after dark and perhaps being out all night and never telling anyone. Who knows who might be wandering through the woods on a nightly basis?

The lively question and answer period after the screening revealed much. Filmmaker Matthew Taylor Blais discussed his inspiration in several slow-paced films of VIFF 2016 and how he how enjoyed letting his thoughts wander. He also spoke about his inspiration from landscape painting, especially nineteenth century Russian landscape painting. This idea of composition informed the way he planned his shots, attempted to bring fluidity to the screen and how he portrayed the natural world. He wanted us to see a small person in a big forest.

Watching Forest Movie takes you both out into nature and inside your own head. While other films may be advertised as meditative or thought-provoking, this is a truly contemplative cinematic.



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