Gus Van Sant’s transition from “Finding Forrester” to “Gerry”
marks one of the grossest shifts in filmmaking history. For “Good
Will Hunting” director Van Sant, it is a return to his independent
roots and away from the formula-following, money-loving joke he
became, as seen in Kevin Smith’s “Jay and Silent Bob Strike
Back.”

Zac Peskowitz
Courtesy of Think Film

Few recent films have come close to the challenge “Gerry” puts
on the viewer. It’s like Van Sant invented the perfect test for the
question: Are you a patient man/woman? If you are, then the
wonderfully unique “Gerry” may pay off in the end, but you may also
hate it as there seems to exists only two common reactions to the
film: love it or loathe it. However, a film that can elicit such
passion certainly deserves credit for at least being a distinctive
piece of filmmaking, so directly opposed to convention and
mainstream reception, as illustrated in its diminutive use of
dialogue and the failure to provide either main character’s name
besides the nickname Gerry.

Gerry No. 1 (Matt Damon) and Gerry No. 2 (Casey Affleck) first
appear on-screen silently driving on a desert highway, a gentle
piano accompanying the ride. Their backgrounds and eventual
destination – a desert wilderness trail and the vague “the thing”
representing some type of rock formation – are scarcely discussed,
in avoidance of traditional film backstory. The two Gerries quickly
wander off the path, play a racing game and find themselves lost in
the massive desert that surrounds them.

Here, what you’d expect to happen in a typical film is a lot of
whining and question asking regarding how they could possibly lose
their way so easily and so disastrously. Instead, “Gerry” offers a
sudden realization followed by more quiet hiking, some finger
pointing toward possible directions out and more quiet hiking.
While most films featuring a cast of only two play out like
stage-work, with the leads spitting out hyper-fast dialogue and a
focus on the mind games humans play on each other, Van Sant takes
the opposite approach. The only game being played is survival, with
the desert’s beaming sun taking an increasing toll on the two
friends.

For Van Sant and cinematographer Harris Savides (“Se7en”), the
intended snail’s crawl tempo of actors’ movements and the editing
is vital to the focus on the visuals. Damon and Affleck serve as
simple pawns in front of the camera as the filmmakers repeatedly
utilize long takes of their slow-paced walking or stationary
meditation on their situation. Playing with the ideas of light and
time in a fashion similar to many experimental films, the results
are the most striking images of any film this year. Shot primarily
in California’s Death Valley, the camera patiently captures the
sun’s dance of light on the desert floor and the microscopic feel
of man amid nature’s greatest creations.

From time to time, Van Sant spices up all the film’s pretension
with bits of hilarious dialogue, granting viewers relief from the
seriousness on enough occasions to keep them interested in the
remarkable events of a couple Gerries’ journey.

Rating: 4 Stars

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *