Upstream Color

| June 8, 2013

Nature is powerful. Many would agree that the world around us possesses special power, and that the aspects of nature that we are oblivious or accustomed to may possess more power than we are capable of understanding.

Upstream Color is a beautifully bizarre exploration into the unknown. It addresses absentmindedness and unexplained occurrences and coincidences that take place on a daily basis, and begs the questions, “why do bad things happen to good people?” and “what would happen if these seemingly pointless aspects of life all had one explanation?” Upstream Color exposes the ruin that can come about as the result of an ingenious but twisted mind, creating a new kind of vulnerability.

The beautiful and the gruesome intertwine in this one-of-a-kind film from the minds behind Primer. It’s obscurity comes together somewhat in the end, but is open to numerous interpretations and will no doubt generate new ideas as well as questions every time the viewer indulges in it. The underlying current of déjà vu is off-putting in a delightful way.

Upstream Color tells many stories, the strongest one being the story of a woman named Kris, and her confusing and seemingly unexplainable demise. Her life is pretty routine before she crosses paths with a mysterious stranger one night, and the course of her life changes forever.

The film is more visual and doesn’t feature too much dialogue; however the supporting script is nothing extraordinary. The film’s clever plot might lead one to think that the script would be equally revolutionary; unfortunately this is not the case.  It is a mind-blowing storyline, but the script asserts itself as being more mind-blowing than it actually is. At times, Upstream Color is slow and tedious. There are some moments and characters introduced that seem pointless, and since the style of the film throws viewers head first into the middle of one of their situations, it creates several plot holes. Perhaps these were intentional, placed in the film for the sole purpose of portraying life, which is full of questions and strangers whose stories we will never come to know. This justifies the plot holes, but it does not make them any less frustrating.

Upstream Color is hard to fully grasp, in a good way. It is disturbing but revolutionary;  abstract and non-chronological. The film is reminiscent of the works of Terrence Malick and Lars Von Trier; however, director Shane Carruth manages to give a great in-film performance as Jeff and also gives a directorial job that solidifies his filmmaking fingerprint.  Perhaps there are messages of God vs. man, good vs. evil, communism vs. democracy, nature vs. machine, etc, but the ambiguity of the film makes it so that whichever ideas are presented, those ideas are objective and for the viewer to decide what is right and wrong.  It’s the kind of movie that people who enjoy being thrown into an alternate universe through film, even at the expense of their skin crawling and brain melting, will fully enjoy.

About the Author:

Caress is a Chicagoan who has a deep fascination with film. Her love for movies began as an undergraduate at Roosevelt University, where her teacher suggested she write a movie review. Caress' favorite genres include indie dramas, foreign films, experimental films, and psychological thrillers. When she's not watching movies, Caress enjoys writing, photography, travel, fashion and music.
Filed in: Independent

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