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quietearth [Celluloid 07.08.12] Australia scifi drama

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The film begins not with a visual, but the refrain: "I need to get inside." It's a repetetive thought, echoing through her mind, and the mental entry point to the film's theme: that a literal doorway exists which opens onto ... something else. But instead of concentrating on the twist of every doorknob, Marek Polgar's Exit focuses on its characters' Ballardian psychological makeup, exploring their rationalizations and obsessive motivations.

The protagonist is appropriately named Alice and her rabbit hole is an unnamed city. She thinks she's found the doorway, but can't get inside. She's far more lucid than her friends, a select few with obsessive mental deterioration. They make maps, models, calculate, and mark visited doors. They are part of a wider, secular group of loners whose meetings are only self serving: each wants to be the one to find "the door."

Reinforcing their isolation from the real world, the camera shies away from the city's expanse and obscures its inhabitants. Its beautiful, muted shots focus on the characters silent anguish by pointing the camera upward, showcasing the tall buildings with all those doorways. Is this maze The Matrix?

No, it's not a story about alienation. Exit is based on a puzzle imprinted on all of us. It's born out of innate knowledge, part of our prehistoric programming. We look up at the sky and wonder where all of this originated. In Exit, this search for higher meaning has run amok, far surpassing its purpose. This shared instinct is reinforced with the occasional aside, puncuturing the cinematic reality. These confessions attempt to draw the viewer in by making it seem like a documentary in those moments.

Unfortunately, the premise is pushed aside in favor of drama. While this will alienate a wider audience, don't let it turn you off. It's an incredible film in its own right, which is in dire need of an explanatory sequel.

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Like Breathing (10 years ago) Reply

After first reading about Exit I was intrigued, on paper this was a film that ticked all the boxes for me. I like films that are a diversion from the norm, usually make little sense and keeps you guessing (hence my daily read of QE!). I recently watched Cosmopolis, which I enjoyed enough to pay for a second viewing and since bought the book.

I found Exit visually fascinating, the slow swooping shots through the city showing the buildings as a maze and roads as the pathways to a possibly escape. The concept behind the film was simple; most of the best ideas are. The film features a core group of characters using their own techniques to seek out the door to lead to their escape. This for me is where the film falls down. I found the characters stale and uninteresting. There was no plight or consequence for failure. If they want to escape to something better, how bad is their present situation? The film didn’t make me route for them or want them to succeed. I felt the characters situations didn’t change from the start to the end, there was no journey for either the characters or the audience. Also I feel the whole obsession side to the characters were not explored enough.

I’ve been seeking out other reviews and opinions about this film to check that I hadn’t missed anything, but so far unable to find a better explanation. In essence a great idea and well shot film with lots of potential let down by poorly written and/or poorly directed characters.

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