Lamb (David Zellner) and Rainbow (Nathan Zellner) are two agents sent on an alien planet to fight the civil war. On their mission to destroy a perpetual motion machine they are imprisoned. Trapped light-years away from their home planet, they’re desperately trying to stay sane, but slowly and inevitably they become delirious. Somehow they appear to escape their prison and reprise their journey, but it seems like their troubles have only just begun.
Dignity is director James Fotopoulos‘ 300-something film. The incredibly prolific director that started working in 1997 has been consistently turning out so-called video art. Shot on a RED camera this is a big step forward in the directors’ career working with a bigger budget and professional actors. Stylistically and thematically the film reminded me a lot of the early more experimental works of David Lynch (his shorts, Eraserhead and Dune). Even with a micro-budget the film still manages to look good, for the most part, mainly thanks to Lauren Chapman‘s inspired production design.
The prison scenes are intercut by black & white prison drawings of Giovanni Battista Piranesi on a red background. Nate Archer & Thurston Moore‘s psychedelic noise score reminded me once again of Lynch. The backgrounds were added digitally, while all the special effects are practical. The tone and atmosphere make the film interesting and worthwhile, but unfortunately sometimes it’s hard to ignore how fake certain scenes look, even though it might just be a function of the aesthetic.
It’s hard to say what Dignity is really about. Is it about trying to maintain some kind of humanity (or dignity) in the face of death? Is it about feeling trapped, treated unjustly, being misunderstood? Is it about delusions of grandeur or just a big artistic statement that completely went over my head? I’m not sure, but the beauty of art is that it can be so enigmatic and intriguing, like a puzzle or a riddle. With films like these it’s best to just sit back and enjoy them, like a painting, not try too hard to understand them, but just experience them and try to interpret them at the end.
The surreal, experimental nature of this genre bender might turn off some, but those looking for something different and artistic will certainly get something out of Dignity. It’s a film that will make you think and not something you’re likely to forget. It’s also one of the better films presented at the Locarno Film Festival so far.
Rating on First Viewing
(at the World Premiere)
6 out of 10