Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Vindication (2010)

In Bart Mastronardi’s debut feature film, Vindication,the theme of all-consuming guilt is explored by the lead character of Nicholas (Keith Fraser), a troubled and depressed young art student. After a failed suicide attempt, the lines between reality and fantasy begin to blur and madness overtakes Nicholas. As he tries to conquer his guilt and discover who he really is, this path leads him on a murderous and bloody journey of self-discovery.

Vindication is a very creative indie effort and has some pretty effective scenes, but it is not without flaws. One of its most glaring flaws is the running length, which is far too long, especially in regards to the nightmarish, languid way the narrative is constructed. Many of the film’s scenes feel drawn out, repetitive and unnecessary. Plus, it took its sweet time getting to the meat of the story after Nicholas’ attempted suicide.  Character development is important, but it shouldn’t be done to the extent where the audience loses interest in the actual story! When the film finally got around to the horrific part of the story, it lingered too long on unnecessary characters (like the bickering couple at the masked rave) or drew out scenes that should have lasted a few seconds or minutes. I think if this had been condensed into a short film it would have been much more effective, because as a feature length the film just doesn’t work, especially since I spent most of my time watching the clock instead of the movie.

The story and the way it was portrayed was pretty clever, but the script is cluttered with Shakespearean-inspired speech and quotations. At first I enjoyed this device, but by the end of the film I had grown tired of it. Like a play, the film is very dramatic, over-the-top and theatrical, reminding me of a classical Greek tragedy. Mastronardi uses lots of symbolism throughout the film, but like the dramatic Shakespearean-isms it sometimes comes on too strong. Mastronardi also utilizes some very interesting characters throughout, and while I enjoyed most of them (the blind seer, Nicholas’ personal demon, Nicholas himself) some of them just appeared (or disappeared) with no apparent explanation. Again, the story is in need of some serious editing to straighten out its more convoluted points.

Despite its flaws, I enjoyed the artistic and philosophical nature of Vindication. At its best, it reminded me of the superior indie films The Psychomanteum and Mercy, both which feature the same surreal atmosphere of Vindication. It has some nice photography, even though at times shots aren’t as clear as they should be. Still, it’s a well-composed film that shows some creative use of camera angles, especially for it being Mastronardi’s first feature.

Another one of the film’s strengths lies in the actors, especially the lead of Nicholas as played by Keith Fraser. Fraser really makes us care for his troubled character, even when he starts hacking up his buddies and random strangers. Through Fraser’s performance we feel Nicholas’ pain and really feel where he’s coming from (especially during the scene where he confronts his dickwad of a father, played viciously by Jerry Murdock). I also enjoyed performances by Zoe Daelman Chlanda as Nicholas’ dead mother, Cassandra, and Alan Rowe Kelly as Urbane, the blind seer (both references to Greek mythology). I also loved the small cameo by Raine Brown and Joe Zaso as an expectant couple. The performance that stole the show, though, was whoever played the demon throughout the film. I believe it was filmmaker Bart Mastronardi, but I’m not positive. Whoever it was, though, did a fantastic job at creating an eerie and unforgettable character!

Vindication may have its flaws and its avant garde feel may not be for everyone, but there is no denying that it is an ambitious project that is worth a look for fans of more psychological, artsy films.

Vindication will be released by R Squared Films in April 2010.

Visit Vindication on Myspace, Facebook and its Official Site!

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