Tuesday 12 July 2016

Film Review: Gothic – 'Beneath The Snow – Piovono Ombre'

'Beneath The Snow – Piovono Ombre'
Dir: James Maximilian Jason

'Beneath The Snow – Piovono Ombre' isn't a film. Yes, it is in the film review section but that is purely because it comes on a DVD. Actually 'Beneath The Snow – Piovono Ombre', the latest project from the Gothic multimedia project based in Italy since 1989, is something much bigger than that. The result of the work of 28 musicians, artists, actors, graphics, technicians under the lead of James Maximilian Jason and David Bosch bring together film, artwork, music, lyrics, and much more besides. It is part film, part video game, part musical journey, part art exhibition, and something much more.

The film element (performed in Italian with English subtitles) sees a number of stories converging under the overall arc. The viewer is challenged to discover the real meaning behind the events through hidden symbols and messages. A truly interactive experience, the viewer must take god-like control of the events at strategic points to inform the progress of the story. Overall there are eleven interactive points, a total of five stories and four possible endings, which means that multiple viewings are guaranteed to reveal something new. The result is much like one of the old “create your own adventure” books, however with everything playing out before your eyes instead of in your imagination.

The soundtrack is expansive and comprised of mainly instrumental electronic gothic pieces that give the piece a strange and dreamy atmosphere. Coupled with the very low budget presentation it has a 90s VHS feel to it that comes off as a little cheap, but entirely reto chic given the growing affinity for glitchy analogue effects in the visual arts at the moment. However the overall presentation is so surreal and unnerving that it remains compelling to watch.

With a near two-and-a-half hour run-time and a blend of Italian with English subtitles, things can get very hard to follow. Luckily though there is a 32-page booklet included with the release that lays the stories out in plain English as well as reproductions of the artwork that is seen throughout the film.

'Beneath The Snow – Piovono Ombre' is an ambitious project that seeks to become something truly interactive. Budgetary constraints aside it remains powerful and engaging across it's long run-time and in terms of presentation evokes the likes of David Lynch's early films such as 'Six Men Getting Sick', 'The Grandmother', and 'Eraserhead', as well as the likes of Darren Aronofsky's 'Pi', and the classic surrealist film 'Un Chien Andalou'.

There isn't really a set genre – a psychological exploration of the subconscious with horror atmospheres would be it's best fit. The dark and sometimes bloody action walks hand-in-hand with an ever present sense of mystery and intrigue. We can't ever be sure of what is transpiring based on it's face values and the decisions we make based on our interpretations of it directly effect its outcome.

Unsettling, claustrophobic, occasionally funny, and always challenging, 'Beneath The Snow – Piovono Ombre' may be a lot to take in for a casual viewer. However fans of avant garde art and cinema, as well as those with a dark surreal outlook on life will find this a very interesting prospect to explore.  

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