‘Gerry’ Revisited

Forgotten DVD

         
 

26 October 2012| No Comments     by Sean Chavel

 

“How do you think the hike’s going so far?” – Gerry 

Meditative, arty, beautiful, hypnotic, tense-filled… and willfully testing of your patience. Gerry (2003) will be maddening to those looking for quick fixes. We all crave doses of accessible, commercial entertainment that delivers instant interpretable information within seconds. You have to be one who meditates, one that spends minutes lingering on profound ideas and can wait until the film’s end, or until hours after the film’s end, to find your deliverance. Matt Damon and Casey Affleck star, there are no other actors. Only a few other specks of extras. Gus Van Sant directs at his most experimental. The common viewing complaint is that nothing happens. The philosophical power of the film is the foreboding fear of something happening, whether it be good or bad.

Movies have no right to be this slow, not unless there as beautifully framed, methodical, and visually poetic as this one. With an eye for stark desolation, like an Ansel Adams painting in motion, the work by cinematographer Harris Savides it is one of the best photographed films ever shot. Savides (1957-2012) would work with Van Sant six times including the Oscar-winning “Milk” (2008) and the Cannes Palm d’Or winner “Elephant” (2003).

In what was a “personal” I-don’t-give-a-damn-if-it-makes-money film by Van Sant, we are supposed to be mesmerized by the images first, drawn into the mood of dread second. Damon and Affleck are a couple of detached American jocks (read: emotions at arm’s length) who go off the trail on a nature hike in Death Valley, and when they turn around, they can’t find their car. This is a nuisance, but a tolerable one for they will set up camp and continue the search the next day. They reach a high crest only to realize they not only don’t have their car is sight but have lost their sense of direction.

A lost in nature movie with extended tracking shots. Stanley Kubrick used these kinds of shots of characters reticently moving down corridors in “The Shining” or soldiers marching towards oblivion in “Full Metal Jacket.” The whole detached ennui feel was the tonal chord of Michelangelo Antonioni’s “L’Avventura” (1960), and so it is here. Van Sant is himself a master of mood and tone matching meticulously with his visual choices. Shooting carefully, “Gerry” is made up of 100 shots total, period.

Slowed to a lurch for its conclusion, “Gerry” has gotten slower and slower but alas, it also gets spookier. Who are these young guys to each other? We know they are buddies, but it’s not fully clear who they are to each other until they’ve come to the hour of their limitation when, only then, do they succumb to a final pitiful bond. And what’s crazy on a philosophical level is that the nature they’ve trekked is two-sided: it is both heaven and hell.

103 Minutes. Rated R.

Film Cousins: “L’Avventura” (1960, France); “Walkabout” (1971); “127 Hours” (2010); “The Loneliest Planet” (2012).

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Sean Chavel

About The Author / Sean Chavel

Sean Chavel is a Hollywood based author and movie reviewer. He is the Executive Director of flickminute.com, a new website that has adapted the movie review site genre by introducing moodbased and movie experience based reviews.

 

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