It doesn't happen very often that you find yourself watching a film that pulls you in so seductively into its universe before you even realise that you have gone out on a limb, surrendering to the sensory overloads being thrown at you from the screen without an urgent need to make sense of what it is you are seeing. Upstream Color is one of those rarities: the long-awaited sophomore effort of ultra-indie hyphenate DIY filmmaker Shane Carruth, almost ten years after his remarkable debut Primer, is an unclassifiable, alluring piece of pure cinema, a loosely narrative tone poem of images, colour, sounds and moods that leaves its meaning open to whatever the audience wants to make of it.

     We are actually assembling the puzzle alongside the film's heroine Kris (Amy Seimetz), kidnapped one night after a spiked drink and having to reassemble the pieces of her life in the wake of her return to sentient life. The pieces evoke Cronenbergian body horror, ecological fable, existentialist mystery and Philip K. Dick allegorical science-fiction, with hints of experimental cinema, essay-film, broken romance and social drama. As Upstream Color moves through its three "acts", it also seems to be cycling through what may be a "circle of life", taking the narrative full circle from the mysterious drug, synthesized from plants and bugs, that is used to make Kris relinquish control of her life to an equally mysterious man named in the credits as the "Thief" (Thiago Martins), to its riverine origins; the journey in between sees Kris meet someone who may be a fellow victim (played by the director himself), while Henry David Thoreau's Walden is used as a "trigger" that may solve the entire bewildering situation. Or may it?

     That's the beauty and magic of Upstream Color: Mr. Carruth's new work is even more of a blank slate than the stunning Primer was, a superb statement of complete control over form and substance that cost a hundred and looks like ten million. There's no denying that the new film, again mostly self-made and self-produced, is exactly what its maker wanted it to be - all you have to do is to to let yourself go with its unique, disorienting sensory flow, like Upstream Color itself is the drug you need to understand its hallucinatingly beautiful images and sounds. Love it or leave it - but there is simply nothing whatsoever near this out there at this moment.

Cast: Amy Seimetz, Shane Carruth, Andrew Sensenig, Thiago Martins
Director, writer, cinematographer and music composer: Mr. Carruth
Designer: Thomas Walker
Editors: David Lowery, Mr. Carruth
Producers: Mr. Carruth, Casey Gooden, Ben le Clair (ERBP)
USA, 2013, 96 minutes

Screened: Berlin Film Festival 2013 Panorama official screening, Cinestar Event am Sony Center (Berlin), February 10th 2013


Popular Posts