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Gerry (R)
Think Film Company
Official Site
Director: Gus Van Sant
Producer: Dany Wolf
Written by: Gus Van Sant, Casey Affleck, Matt Damon
Cast: Casey Affleck, Matt Damon

Rating: out of 5

In Buddhism there are many questions one must ponder in order to achieve spiritual enlightenment. These questions are very perplexing and seemingly have no real answer, questions like “What did your face look like before you were born?” or “What is the sound of one hand clapping?” Recently added to the list is “What does one make of the film Gerry?” In the latest collaboration between Gus Van Sant, Matt Damon, and Casey Affleck (the better Affleck), sweeping terrain shots and little dialogue leave much to ponder. But one thing is certain; Gerry is a film of pure despair.

Gerry (Damon) and his good friend Gerry (Affleck) are two young men who travel to an undisclosed desert region. Appearing to be on some sort of vacation or trip they begin hiking down a trail searching for what they refer to only as “the thing.” When annoying families start to crowd the trail they decide to veer off for a while, remaining confident that they will reach the thing just as well. When boyish competition takes over both men begin sprinting in an innocent race, but after about 30 seconds their poor athletic condition takes effect and they both nearly pass out. Catching their breath they both succumb to their Generation “Y” laziness and agree, “fuck the thing.” But when they begin to make their way back, doubt about their original path sets in and Gerry and Gerry begin an incredible journey through wasteland after wasteland in search of the way back.

Van Sant, Damon, and Affleck have taken on an intriguing project in Gerry. The film is clearly meant to make you feel what these two young men are feeling as they scour desert and brush over several days, and the filmmakers don’t let up. As a viewer one is almost punished. Van Sant uses incredibly long, one-shot scenes of the Gerrys hiking through the wilderness with little or no dialogue. The most noticeable thing about this film is that of its roughly 105 minutes only maybe 20 to 30 minutes contain any dialogue at all. Most of the time is either spent on long environmental shots or long shots of the two leads. It is cruel, but terribly effective. I could feel the despair that these two young men felt, the hopelessness, the doubt, the uncertainty. And I felt it because I was given absolutely nothing else to feast upon. There is nothing in this film to get distracted with. It is in your face and it is grueling.

Harris Savides ’ cinematography is one thing that stood out in the film (for better or worse). Whereas an IMAX film of nature is meant to make one appreciate the beauty and majesty of our world, the cinematography in Gerry is meant to corrupt whatever positive feelings you had toward mountains or tumbleweed. When you watch the landscapes of Gerry you do not see natural beauty, you see a hopeless wasteland and you think, “Gosh, I would hate to be there.”

Of the short amount of dialogue exchanged in the film there are several somewhat humorous conversations toward the beginning (before all hope is lost). Random chitchat—from recounting old episodes of “Wheel of Fortune” to describing the events that led to the destruction of a video game empire—is quietly exchanged. One scene of particular comedic note takes place when Gerry (Affleck) somehow manages to climb on top of a 20-foot rock, but sees no way to climb down. Watching the two Gerrys bicker and engineer a plan to get him down is both humorous and thought-provoking, forcing you to ponder what you would do in such a situation. Unfortunately, this friendly banter does not exist for long. The rest of the film simply reverberates with the crunch of gravel being walked upon.

Notable mention should be given to another tool that powers the emotional despair of Gerry, Arvo Pärt’s stirring score. It is a simple, haunting piano melody that resonates well within the film’s eerie bleakness.

One of the most glaring parts of Gerry is its complete lack of anything to say. There is no recognizable message to the film as far as I could see. Many indie or artsy movies fall into that same empty category and pull it off with interesting characters or environments, but, while Gerry is almost wonderfully empty, I fear most people will leave this film asking, “What the hell was the point of that?”

Bottom line: Gerry is different, experimental, and draining. While some will appreciate its simplicity, others will chastise its futility (just don’t go in sleepy).

—Corey Herrick


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