Monday, September 05, 2005

Last Days

*From discussions of the Gus Van Sant film ‘Last Days’ on the Internet Movie Database website.

I think much of the criticism surrounding this film is fair.
I however find myself rating the film fairly highly. Like many other reviewers, I too found myself challenged and slightly bewildered by the film’s long scenes with static camera work, that seem to not end up going anywhere. There is one scene in particular where Blake has fled out the back door from another unwanted visitor and has just run past a row of trees and plants in the back garden. Blake runs through the frame and the camera holds the shot on the background of trees and shrubs for what seems like 10-15 seconds. Although this is definitely unconventional filmmaking, I can appreciate what Van Sant and Co might be trying for. There is an emotional resonance throughout the film. Conveying this to an audience in a unique way is a delicate task. I suspect that the frequent use of long static shots is Van Sants attempt to allow his audience the time to consider what is transpiring. The film language is daring and requires the audience to participate in creating the emotional landscape that the film requires to live.
The film is definitely frustratingly static at times. The action is minimalist. The narrative probably does fail when held up against the orthodox requirements of traditional film and storytelling narrative. It is at the very least a daring piece of filmmaking and challenges its audience all the way. It is ‘empty’ in a way, but the films emptiness reveals a subtle emotional storytelling and a deep atmosphere. I found this playing on my mind long afterwards.
Does the film work without some prior knowledge of Cobain’s story? I can’t honestly answer that, as much of my appreciation of this film comes from my own personal ‘back story’ as it were. I think this film may suffer from people’s initial reactions, but I believe there is something living within this film that warrants quiet reflection.