A Boil to Lance
I spent the end of last week with two of Lance Weiler’s films, The Last Broadcast and Head Trauma. No spoilers, nor plot-recitation here, but I’ve been thinking about a couple of points of reference in two transmedia horror-mysteries made with the very-direct involvement of a pillar of the transmedia community.
At the heart of both films, a deeply buried injustice leads to two different approaches to telling a mystery story:
In The Last Broadcast, a character named David Lee is making a film about a multiple-murder involving the two hosts of a cheesy, cable-access television show called Fact or Fiction. Lee’s process of telling the story frames a succession of concentric frames around the story-within-a-story-within-a-story…and each of those frames is distorted by the dissonant agendas of each of the successive, objective storytellers who’s controlling the frame of the story-telling. The most obvious of these agendas belongs to the unseen team of prosecutors who hire a disinterested video editor who they charge to bolster their case with a rhetorical video argument that hangs responsibility for the murders on the defendant of their flimsy, circumstantial case.
But (almost) each of the several storytellers interviewed in the course of David Lee’s documentary filters, edits, and distorts information to redefine and scramble the pilosophical opposition of fact and fiction. It’s a fascinating film on numerous levels, some of which exceed the confines of internal narrative by leaching into the processes of making a digital film, distributing it independently and outside the parameters defined by conventional practice, and exhibiting at Cannes. Go define “success”.
Head Trauma elevates guilt to the status of a central character, whose crucial influence throughout the film leads to a very Weiler-y notion (as the story ends with the protagonist’s next-door-neighbor drawing images in his bedroom that suggest that) the connections between people may be more substantial, valid and influential than we’re inclined to attribute to reality; more important than stuff that fits in our philosophies, Horatio. The viewer’s imagination lingers on the possibility that Julian’s friendship with George just might demonstrate the faith that no man is an island of isolation, that responsibility for an old injustice is most mysteriously shared.
I wouldn’t dare to deem these metaphysical themes beyond the reach of a filmmaker whose defiance of convention, established practices and teams of influential naysayers has already made history. Whether Julian Thompson shows up as a sequel-character in another of Weiler’s films matters a whole lot less than that Lance is making films that boil furiously beneath the surface, depict in narrative cinema and in cinematic practice the minority belief that the processes of making connections between people are significantly more important than the product.