Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Review of 'The Wolfpack'

Possibly the weirdest film I have ever seen, and I have seen some weird ones. This is shot and edited with all the visual sense of a family home movie. That's not surprising, since a lot of it appears to be found footage from the family's home movies. Watching it made Ruth feel physically sick as a result of all the handheld camera work and hosepipe pans. Youtube does a better job of stabilising video footage than has been done here.

That's part of the point, of course. This is supposed to look un-mediated, to enhance its authenticity. It is a documentary about a family of six children (now young adults) and their parents who grow up in a tiny apartment in New York city, with the children never ever leaving the apartment. They have grown up with almost no contact with the outside world - they are home educated, so they've not been to school or met other children...or anyone. Their knowledge of the outside world comes mainly from their DVD collection, which contains a lot of classics and quite a lot of horror or near-horror (like Reservoir Dogs). Their father, a South American man, has kept the family shut up in this way to protect them from the corrosive effects of contemporary culture, drugs, violence etc.

So they've grown up with Tarantino as their window on the world. The mother and father met when she was a hippy tourists, and they'd planned to move to Scandinavia where they thought the values were sound, but somehow they'd not made it and ended up stranded in the Lower East Side, high up in a housing project. No TV, no internet, just the DVDs. The children (five boys, one girl, all with Hindu names and long hair down to the base of their spines) amuse themselves by re-making the films with a home video camera and cardboard props; much of the film contains footage of their re-enactments. They seem to have a huge amount of equipment to help them do this. Later the film shows them emerging from the apartment and going outside for short trips - to the beach, to a forest, to the shops - all of which is a powerful experience for them.

All of them seem quite damaged by the experience, but they are not totally alien to me. I can't help thinking that some of the people I've known over the years who have sought to protect their children from the malign influences of the world have been a bit like this; I recognise some of the feeling in myself. The fact that they'd wanted to move to Scandinavia and thought well of its values somehow marks them out as not entirely insane.

Somehow the young adults came into contact with the woman who made this film, and she is almost present in it. It looks like a student project, and yet it must have had some money and some backing, if only for the post-production and the distribution. I would love to have been at the meeting where this was pitched.

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