Feb 1, 2008

The 4th Dimension (2006): B

A rundown of The 4th Dimension's stylistic traits would suggest little more than a hodgepodge of Polanski, Aronofsky, and Lynch, but the reality is that the debut of directorial team Tom Mattera and David Mazzoni—while obviously indebted to such cinematic forbearers—is an accomplished work indicative of a unique cinematic vision. Its title referring to the realm of existence in which time becomes a tangible element, the film exists mostly within the mental head space of its main character Jack Emitni (Louis Morabito), an OCD-stricken individual obsessed with the manipulation of time, emotionally paralyzed after suffering a devastating loss as a child. Although the film would seem to engage in some of the mumbo-gumbo philosophizing that passes for true existentialism in far too many works of art, The 4th Dimension prevails for both its overall lack of pretension, as well as a more implicit approach to such psychological mind games, verbal clarification taking a backseat to a mise en scène of eerie sights and sounds. Jack returns again and again to lost moments of his life much in the same way that he compulsively washes his hands, haunted by thoughts, memories, and a mysterious femme fatale with a timepiece in need of repair. Although the film isn't an unqualified success—Eraserhead this is not—its many virtues suggest that, were it for but a more flexible shooting budget, its core elements could have been embellished into something resembling a masterwork. Such as it is, the film's low-budget black and white look is a hit-and-miss affair, too often rendering its images flat, though while simultaneously achieving a handful of astounding, miniaturized power shots, contrasting blacks and whites with awesome precision and in the process creating a truly palpable sense of dread. The carefully placed use of wide shots, disembodied long takes and delectably framed close-ups suggest a presence well learned in style and substance, and while several of the single-take sequences would have benefited from a more loquacious pacing, there are enough awe-inspiring ones to signify a creative force to be reckoned with, transforming otherwise throwaway moments—the fetching of keys, the descent of a staircase, the approach to a secluded house—into epochs of haunted house madness. The remainder of the film's limitations, then—overly actor-y performances by some of the supporting cast and the occasionally repetitious visual metaphor—seem implicit with its homegrown indie roots. Given The 4th Dimension's numerous strengths, one can only hope that future efforts see the directors completely freeing themselves of such weighty narrative expectations.

2 comments:

  1. This one wasn't even on my radar so thanks for bringing it to my attention -- it sounds like the kind of thing I would enjoy.

    I liked Pi at the time but I'm not sure how well it's aged. I've become more disastisfied with the high-contrast black-and-white film that it sounds like the 4th Dimension employs but it sounds like it's used effectively. My most recent distaste was triggered by The Good German which I hated and made me more appreciative of the classical B&W styles of Ed Wood and The Man Who Wasn't There.

    No wonder I missed the 4th D., it looks like it wasn't even released in the UK and isn't on DVD in any region; how did you see it?

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  2. A copy of it was sent to me for review by the filmmakers themselves (my coverage of it here is, suffice to say, unforgivably overdue). Hopefully it'll get some sort of release down the road so it can at least be Netflixed. I prefer "Pi", but this one has plenty going for it, and deserves to be seen.

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