Upstream Color

uc-film-poster1The guy behind Primer has done it again.

If you haven’t seen it, it’s on Netflix — there’s no excuse.

Unlike the idiot reviews that make it sound as if this film is an impressionist painting, all about relativized subjective reflection, this film is chronologically linear. Even the dream sequences are literal, just sometimes internal, or small-scale. From an interview with actor/director/producer/writer/cinematographer/lighting director/etc./etc Shane Carruth:

Piecing together this story takes work. Carruth is good with that.
“My favourite film experience is one that really requires a conversation to really get into what we saw,” he says.

I don’t want to spoil it, but the film is exactly equal parts Prometheus and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Exactly.

What? You don’t agree? What about that ending? And the life cycles of parasites? Let’s agree to disagree.

There’s so many themes in here that it’s hard to navigate them all. One that I’m interested in is an argument that treating mental illnesses entirely as a pathology subject to medical interventions creates two negative outcomes:

  • concrete, external, solvable causes are avoided altogether; and, in consequence,
  • judgements of self-worth are harder to address than they would be otherwise.

Another thing I find interesting is the claim that people can be good at many different things, and express virtues in some but not others. We get a vision that I associate with Paul Johnson’s Intellectuals, of the obsessive artist/scientist who achieves excellence, but ruthlessly manipulates those around them to support their endeavours. So far as I can tell, every major character falls under this type. I think we’re also asked, as I remember Johnson doing, whether we’re all better off having such folks around. Certainly the film suggests positive outcomes unattainable without the major artist/villain, but also satisfies a revenge fantasy involving him.

And it’s beautiful, the sound editing is amazing, the acting is great, the script is very well done.