I was glad I saw today's movie with a friend, because it's the kind of film you definitely need to discuss with someone immediately afterwards, to see if together you can figure out what the heck just happened.
Film I saw today: Spider Forest
What is real and what is not? What happened when and to whom? What are the true identities of these characters - their real names, their real pasts? Who died, and how? If they were killed, who did it?
You will ask all these questions as you watch Spider Forest. And after you've finished watching it, you may very well still be asking them. It is a puzzling and intriguing film, full of violence and pain and desire, of nightmare and memory and dream. It is beautiful and terrible and sad, and a masterful film.
It begins with a man awaking alone in the midst of a forest. He sees a cabin in the distance and approaches it. In the living room inside he finds a man (whom we later learn is his boss) dead on the floor, brutally murdered. In the bedroom, he finds his girlfriend in shock, mumbling about spiders. As she succumbs to her wounds and dies, someone flees the house (the killer?), and he follows. But he is ambushed and knocked unconscious. He awakes, again alone in the midst of the forest - and this is only the first of many repetitions of this type. The story turns in and around and back on itself with the twisted logic of a fever dream or a recurring nightmare.
This time, our main character bypasses the cabin and stumbles down to the road, which he follows into a tunnel. He is then struck by a car. As he falls unconscious yet again, he catches a blurry glimpse of a shadowy figure moving toward him across the road...
Next comes surgery and a hospital stay, then an investigation. We meet the cop in charge of trying to find out what happened in the cabin that night. We delve into the past of our main character, learning about his previous marriage, his latest love affair, his childhood. We learn of the legends of Spider Forest, where the killing took place. The many spiders that live there are said to be the spirits of the dead, transformed and trapped there because they've been forgotten.
When I first left the theater, I found myself thoroughly impressed by the acting, the story, the editing, etc., etc., of the film, but I also found myself thoroughly confused by it, and completely unsure as to what had really happened in it. My companion and I discussed it going home and couldn't come to any really satisfying conclusions. Later on in the festival, I spoke to another woman who had seen the film, and she offered an interpretation that I rejected because it seemed too simple. But looking over my notes and thinking back on the film now, some months after I've seen the film, I realize that I'd been making the film more puzzling than it really is. (WARNING: this may be a bit of a spoiler.) Spider Forest is like Ambrose Bierce's famous short story, "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge." It's the dreams and memories and imaginings of a man dying or already dead.
Seen this way, the confusing disorder and contradictory nature of the film's story starts to make more sense. But regardless of what is supposed to have really happened in it, Spider Forest is without doubt a powerful and well-made film about love and death and memory, and it is certain to intrigue and haunt you.
My Poll Rating: Very Good
As I mentioned above, my viewing of Spider Forest was followed by a confused discussion of it with my friend on the train ride home. We racked our brains for a while, but finally gave in, no doubt to the relief of those around us.
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