“But the reason why they sought the shelter of cities was because they wanted to safeguard their own personal possessions.”
—Cicero, Roman politician and orator, B.C. 106-B.C. 43 (assassination) from On Duties
Geoffrey Breedon’s realization of his stage play is a cinematic tour de force that is destined to have more people claim to know it than have actually savoured its generous length and, sadly, have little impact on the social conscience of our survival-of-the-fattest world-think.
The overwhelming majority of Earth’s citizenry will never be afforded the opportunity to view it; of the remainder, those who despair the state of our global disunion will take much comfort at the production’s teachings and insights, while those in power will find the action too slow and have no poll results to tell them if the film is important. They will leave the theatre after just fifteen minutes of blame.
Set in an isolated farmhouse on the day the twin towers collapsed into the streets, the notions of innocent death, compassion, love and wisdom are debated by twenty-something friends, lovers and survivors around the rustic kitchen table.
Breedon establishes a black-and-white tableau in both the near-colourless frames (intriguingly grainy or videotape-shallow as suits the utterances; dissolve-rich transitions, marred only by the too frantic pace of the slide shows) and in the excellent cast, whose interaction as debaters or lovers make subliminal statements about the value of interracial commingling without the necessity of preaching.
Just as discreet is composer Juan Cruz Masotta’s crypt-like quiet tracks that reinforce the narrative with every bar. Twin Daimons (Breedon and Donnetta Lavinia Grays) intercut with the actors to declaim real or imagined quotes from politicians, aboriginals, philosophers or writers. Most effective are the news reports—read out of a sacred book—balanced by the backdrop of a snow-covered monitor from a television that is so remote, no picture can be pulled out of the heavens.
Harriet (Janet Ward) and Ben (Dale Fuller), having survived the horror of WW I, buy the farm after an aerial survey (Ben’s inaugural flight—his desire to fight his war from the sky went unrealized) made the couple see their future home from an angle few would ever appreciate. But the simple life evaporates when their two sons perish on the beaches of Normandy. Harriet speaks for thousands of bereaved parents: “Pregnancy’s the easiest part … the hard part is letting them go.”
Two generation later, Gabriel (Steven Michael Harper) has inherited the homestead but has lost his muse until horrific, world calamity threatens to shorten his life even as he’s finally ready to tackle the novel. Partner Sara (Sarah Grace Wilson) wants to have their child but struggles through much angst about bringing another baby into a world that can’t take care of millions of its own. With orphans coming to market every minute, shouldn’t everyone adopt?
Buddha-boy Nick (Pun Bandhu) tries to philosophize or meditate his way to happiness. Admitting that he has “loved everyone I know,” (except for Dave who wasn’t far enough out of the closet …), he contemplates becoming a monk until Margaret (Gin Hammond) decides to stop running away from her relationships and settle down on the farm with him.
The strong bond of love between Communism (but not Communists!) supporter Harry (Michael Mathis, arms-folded tough-guy delivery) and Jean (Virginia Worley) proves to be their undoing: in a world in which “even Dante couldn’t imagine our hell,” she abhors feeling fine and must begin her journey alone even as Margaret’s ends.
Breedon’s snappy editing is invaluable in the group arguments. As the rhetoric and fear increase and the terrors unfold in real time or, with copious amounts of archived atrocities and Family Knows Best/Poverty “R” Us split-screen shots are dredged up from the past, the pessimism seems unstoppable. As perhaps it is.
Much is then made of “change” and how a new worldview might come from a universal cleansing—a drenching shower fueled by compassionate wisdom and an acceptance of the seasons of life. But then, like a breath of fresh air, the famous “To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow/Creeps in this petty place from day to day” quote (Macbeth) inadvertently points to another solution than Breedon’s noble ideas. With so much beauty, wisdom and magnificence already harvested by great minds of all cultures and ready to feast upon, how might our fractious world evolve if those in control would gorge themselves on these treasures rather than bankable ones? JWR