Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Act of God

Tonight I saw the documentary Act of God, directed by Jennifer Baichwal.

The film centers around folks who have been struck by lightning or have lost someone close to them because of a lightning strike.

If only the narrative had some coherence.

The first story told is compelling: a man and presumably his mother sit inside a cabin-like house in the woods and recall stories of happier times. Parties were held, drinks were enjoyed and both agreed at one time this was a great place to be. But years ago that all changed when "the boys" were out camping in those woods and got struck by lightning. The survivor who is telling the story recounts ambulances arriving, watching others go unconscious, watching a dying friend vomit up his blackened insides, etc. It was a horrible tale, but I wanted to hear more.

Unfortunately, that was the most interesting story in the bunch.

Another man found "God" or purpose, or whatever it shall be labeled and began working with dying veterans; a religious Mexican woman lost her children and accepted it as God's will to make them young angels. Yet another man read poems about camp as a youth in NY (where lightning claimed his buddy) set to overly dramatic guitar music.

About a quarter of the way through, I'd had enough.

The trailer leads one to believe the story is about how folks are changed after surviving a lightning strike; the film instead emphasizes how evil/dangerous concentrated electricity really is, and tries to package that information in an artistic, creative format that just doesn't work.

The result is a pretentious mish-mash of shots that are way too long of stories that aren't all that interesting.

The concept should never be the strongest part of a film.


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