SXSW 2011 Review: GREEN
Writer: Sophia Takal
Director: Sophia Takal
Cast: Kate Lyn Sheil, Sophia Takal, Lawrence Michael Levine
A hip young couple moves from Brooklyn to rural farmland to try their hand at sustainable farming. What they encounter is not what they expected – life is not idyllic, and there’s something sinister lurking just beyond their grassy fields. But GREEN is not a horror film with a murderous beast or a creepy family looking to exact some pain on Genevieve (Kate Lyn Sheil) and Sebastian (Lawrence Michael Levine), it’s a horror film abut the murderous beast of one’s own mind.
When we first meet Genevieve and Sebastian, it’s clear that their relationship is not without its issues. Both intelligent and creative folks, the couple seems locked in a competition of one-upmanship, challenging each other even in public places and amongst friends about topics that seem generally trivial (books, artists). They have moved out of the city so that Sebastian can tackle sustainable farming and blog about it, a bourgeois concept if there ever was one, and they are woefully unprepared for what it’s going to take, both physically and emotionally. Genevieve is entirely reliant on Sebastian – for companionship, for support, for stimulation – so when she makes a new friend in local Robin, it appears to be a positive change for both Genevieve as a single entity, and Genevieve and Sebastian as a couple.
As moody and quiet as Genevieve is, Robin (Sophia Takal, who also wrote, directed, and edited the film) is just as gregarious and eager to be involved in things. Not nearly as worldly as her new friends, Robin approaches unknown situations and topics with little thought to just how, well, green she may look in them. But as Robin and Genevieve get closer, involving Sebastian in their small-town excursions (a trip for ice cream, a lunch in the woods), Genevieve begins to question if there is something else going on between her boyfriend and her new friend. Driven by nothing but her own fears and latent jealousy, Genevieve begins to imagine Robin and Sebastian in a number of highly erotic and charged sex scenes. She forces herself to imagine the absolute worst thing, and to imagine it over and over, in different incarnations, until she has cracked and it’s obvious that there is something deeply wrong in her mind.
The film’s disquieting atmosphere and isolated location will inevitably draw comparisons to something like ANTICHRIST, but GREEN is much more restrained. The issues involved in female jealousy and their effect on both outside relationships and the personal psyche is an unsettling and brave topic to tackle, particularly in a first feature. When Takal scripted and lensed the film, she left room for improvisation and subsequent improvement on the loose starts and stops of such a film; because of this, GREEN feels incredibly organic and real. Takal doesn’t go cliché with her film, she goes for emotion, intelligence, and an inherent relatability.
The film is beautifully shot, with a huge emphasis on the wooded locations the three leads move around in. The attention to the outdoors, and just how vast and hard it is to navigate serves as a mirror for the complicated feelings swirling within Genevieve. Much of GREEN’s tension comes from a stunning score by Ernesto Carcamo, in his feature debut. His off-kilter ambient strings and clangs leave the viewer on edge, and as GREEN goes on, we’re left with one question - is something bad going to befall our three leads? It’s up to the viewer to answer that question, as Takal leaves some of the film’s most accomplished and assured scenes open for interpretation as to their deeper meanings and results. A wonderful first feature, GREEN is a film with many layers, a fitting accomplishment for the similarly multi-talented Sophia Takal.
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