Time We Killed, TheReviewed By Erik Childress
Posted 06/08/04 21:24:30
Experimental films are never the easiest to watch and even harder films to review. Generally they abandon 90% of the elements that critics can comment upon when formulating their final opinion: story, acting, structure, cinematography, production design, special effects, etc…etc… Doesn’t mean we can’t. After all, we’re professionals (most of us anyway) and look for challenges as do the filmmakers involved with such projects. We also have a responsibility to the filmgoing society to report what we see and how we see it, whatever our biases may be. Films like The Time We Killed are not exactly my cup of tea, making it more of an appreciation than an enjoyment.Shot in black-and-white on a high-contrast 16mm, Jennifer Todd Reeves' film focuses on the ruminations of an agoraphobic woman in New York City. As a child she “fell into a fantasy world of death.” Her teenage years gave way to a suicide attempt that left her alive but trapped with amnesia. Perhaps she’s forgotten why she is the way she is.
The she is Robyn Taylor (Lisa Jarnot) and like any good agoraphobe, she makes her way in the world through writing. She writes poems to her niece, Dragon (yes, Dragon!) and is reluctantly working on a romance novel called “The Handsomest Man” which she claims is going to give her nightmares. That’s saying quite a lot since she’s already cornered herself into a state of mind that continues to converge as the horror of the outside creeps in.
Listening to her neighbors, subtitles are placed on the screen to capture the muffled voices putting us in the precarious position of eavesdropping like the frequent 9-1-1 calls you hear replayed on the news. She thinks about her female lover coming down with cancer and reminisces about lovers (both male and female) she never had.
Maybe it all began with watching CNN for weeks on end after the 9/11 attacks, but following it up with non-stop reports of hypocrisy about the U.S. response is hardly the “...and call me in the morning” prescription one needs. She watches Bush’s state of the union address (part of the “Bush crime family” propaganda) and remembers the horrific images of falling bodies. “Terrorists got me out of the house, but the war on terror drove me right back in.” She even claims she has a whole list of people to kill; a list that even in a vicarious fictional form could possibly get the filmmaker arrested. Her thoughts amuse us and will probably get a standing ovation from Michael Moore.
Taking place over a six-month period from November 2002-April 2003, Robyn’s life is like the scrambled naughty channels she sees on her TV; the sounds apparent but the vision clouded like past memories. Sometimes working in the realm of a hypnotist (“it’ll be lunchtime soon and you’ll be happy.”) The Time We Killed is very avant-garde and has the mystique of the French New Wave without ever tapping into the traditional modes of storytelling.Still, the film goes on a little longer than it should, proving that experimental projects are normally best left for the short form rather than feature-length. The reviewer sometimes must come up with their own random thoughts to comment on a bunch of random thoughts. Reeves’ film is intriguing without always being stimulating; different without being completely unique. A lot of experimental projects look and feel the same way; even those going back to my days in film school. “It’s always good to escape in a little fiction”, Robyn says and it couldn’t be more prescient than as the backend of a double bill with The Time We Killed. If you’re willing to take a chance on it or experiments in film are your milieu, this is one of the more interesting examples. After seeing it for myself, I’m going to go get another cup of tea.
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