Vapor in the Woods


11 March 2011| No Comments on Redland     by Sean Chavel


Artistic statement is elucidated within twenty minutes and the rest is pretentiousness done in snail-moving tempo. Set during the Great Depression in Oregon, the ponderous Redland observes a family so distant from each other that they might as well be prisoners in an unharmonious void. These cut-off mountain people are unshaped because they lack a doctrine, lack communal structure, and lack education. In the lead-off scene, a teenage girl (Lucy Adden) batters herself to force an abortion. She is caught by her father (Mark Aaron) who wants to inflict punishment on the boy (Toben Seymour) who did that to her. Except that the father doesn’t understand that his daughter is really in love, and the boy loves her back. The old and hardened embark on a pursuit to discipline the gentle and optimistic young. The objective is to destroy all optimism.

Cinematography is in rich unfaltering sepia-tone in almost in its entirety suggesting the people are particles of a faded photograph, of a disintegrated archaic time. But even as dramatic events occur the mood is detached and aloof. The film never takes a true sympathetic point of view because these people are nothing but a fog to one another, and attempts for the viewer to embrace concern for the girl in the story are ultimately in vain. It doesn’t serve any clarity in its refusal to photograph anybody in a medium, head-on shot – the hardscrabble land gets copious attention while the people are obscured. With this technique it certainly gets across the moods of family dissolution, isolation, and patriarchal oppression successfully. But the rest of it is as substantial as vapor.

Young cerebral types might dig it because they believe if they are smart enough to understand it then it satisfies their ego that they have superior intelligence. Critics will swear to the power of the film’s abstract poetry. Cinephiles will compare it to the lofty work of Russian filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky – in the sense that it abandons conventional plot in favor of engulfing tenuous humanity amidst a treacherous and unwelcoming physical world. I have been around long enough to know Tarkovsky is boring, really boring, and that only the phonies follow him. Tarkovsky’s “Stalker” (1979) is an exception – it’s the slowest-moving film I have ever admired; it’s rewarding but serious patience is required.

But once you recognize the dissolution of human connection in filmmaker Asiel Norton’s world, there’s nothing left to contemplate. Norton fundamentally tries to pass off the indecipherable as art. Too many cuts to black. Too many fisheye lenses. Too many blurs. Too many gaseous grains. Too many out-of-focus shots. Too many hazy, indistinct close-ups. Too close up on the close-ups. “Redland” is an unmistakable art film made with free artistic license, but it is a failed art film.

104 Minutes. Unrated.


Film Cousins: “The Mirror” (1975, Russia); “Stalker” (1979, Russia); “Ravenous” (1999); “The Claim” (2000).

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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, a new website that has adapted the movie review site genre by introducing moodbased and movie experience based reviews.


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