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Christopher Webster [Film Festival 06.18.09] movie review

Year: 2009
Directors: Asiel Norton
Writers: Asiel Norton / Magdalena Zyzak
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: agentorange
Rating: 7.5 out of 10

If Stan Brakhage tried his hand at narrative filmmaking, I imagine the results would look a lot like Redland – that is to say, the film is a visual and thematic powerhouse. It is a one-of-a-kind, avant-garde film experience where every shot is a painting, every utterance a poem. And, though the film often transgresses its storytelling to meander through the realms of the lyrical (reminding me of Terrence Malick’s work at times), the simple story of a family trying to subsist in the wilderness during the “great depression” is made no less of an intoxicating tale of humanity laid bare.

At the heart of the film is a story of two lovers who were thrown together at the worst possible moment in history and now have to deal with the consequences of their ill-timed affair. I had an Aunt who used to say “you can’t live on love,” and I feel as though that applies here. With everyday being a struggle to just stay alive, love starts to look like a foreign, selfish concern, and something fathers would tend to frown upon at a time of spiritual upheaval. Of course, food in the belly isn’t what nourishes the soul. So what does? In Redland, it’s equal parts love and revenge.

This affair is the catalyst for both in the film. When young Mary-Ann’s father finds out she’s had an affair he’s hell-bent on finding out who it was. When he heads into the wilderness on a hunting trip he takes the neighbor boy, Charlie Mills, with him. He finds out it was him and makes it his mission to exact revenge.

In this sense, Redland feels like it could be a Western. It's earthy and tough, and deals with (and debunks) classic subjects of American mythology like family, honor, religion, selflessness and a host of others, but it's not really. It also looks like a western and once and a while I often found myself wondering why, with so much great attention to detail put into the period costumes, sets and props would they hide them all in such fluid framing. In the end though, the filmmakers juggle all aspects of their piece and proved their artistic intentions are more than sound.

Redland is not for everyone. The subject matter is graphic and tough and the visual style is eccentric and intensely lyrical. However, once you give yourself over to it, the film is vastly edifying. The music, the acting, and the writing are all amazing. At times it reminded me of The Proposition, though Redland manages to reach poetic heights that even Hillcoat’s film just wasn’t willing to climb to.

Highly recommended to adventurous viewers.

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Anonymous (12 years ago) Reply

Are you on crack? this movie sucked. it was like the mudge boy meets hound dog but worse. somebody tried to emulate Terrence Malick and failed miserably. as they all do

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